Back in the late 80s and early 90s, when the Amiga was relevant as a technical revolution, I was never able to lay my hands on anything beyond an 68000 with 7.14MHz. Years later, around 1997, I acquired an Amiga 3000 with 25MHz as part of one of my university side gigs of porting software from various UNIXes (in this case SCO Unix) to Linux. But a 040 or even 060 was far out of reach until I was well into my first full time job at SUSE Linux when I got a Cyberstorm MK1 that – as we know – doesn’t fit into the A3000. Long story short, the first time I actually ever ran an Amiga with something faster than the 68030 @ 25 was around …. Christmas 2019.

As life happens, and we sometimes overcompensate for our youth’s desires as we grow older, I added one of Chucky’s A3660 rev 1.1 to my collection, (built by Nicolas Baumgardt who lives in Switzerland, but only few miles from where I grew up and hacked on the Amiga back in 1987) that so far consisted of the A3640 that screamed for pad replacements and recaps.

Along the way I learned that the Amiga CPU local bus is really a 68030 bus, so memory access on everything above a 030 has to be translated and is then slightly slower than with an actual 68030. Ouch.

I also learned that the Zorro III slot is not really all that great. Well, Super Buster is not in its current implementation. While the theoretical maximum of Zorro III beats the first PCI standard, the actual implementation is stuck at 8-10MB/s memory access speed. We need an update Dave Haynie! Then our BigRAM+es could be really super awesome!

But back to … back to the 68060. Once I tasted the sweet excess of the Motorola flagship’s raw CPU power, and when I got my beautiful Hakko soldering station, I had to upgrade my 3640 to a 060 processor as well.

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I have not been keeping up well with this blog in the last few months. Starting a new job definitely does that to this sort of project. I did spend time behind the scenes on some cool things that are in various stages of completion. Some involve 3d printing with the Prusa i3 MK3s that I assembled this summer. Others are following the dream of creating new and exciting Amiga custom chips.

But overall, it has been harder to spend time in the Silicon Valley garage also for one reason: Winter is coming! And spending time out there for projects has become a lot less attractive.

Brace yourself!

Today the solution to keeping the endless stream is ideas flowing has arrived. It will help the atoms dancing and the feet warm during nights of soldering. As the year nears the end, and many projects are waiting to be realized, this will heat up the velocity:

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Or was it “Hyper, hyper!“? Scooter, please help a child of the 80s and 90s out here! This episode is about shuffling hardware, and what it takes to make your Amiga really fast!

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Cyberstorm MK2 card (and I still have all my organs). I almost despaired when I put the card into my Amiga and nothing happened. Turns out, the Amiga wants J100 jumpers to internal despite an oscillator being present on the card. What a shock and what a relief when dummy me was told by the internet to read the manual that came with the card. Who does that anymore these days?

The previous owner parted with this piece of 90s magic with an 68060 revision 1 at the factory frequency of 50MHz.

That’s no fun, thought this silly old lad, and after some journey to the Nightfall Crew and Cosmos’ Blog I felt the best possible thing I could do is to risk destroying another piece of ancient hardware and overclocking a poor 68060 CPU by no less than 100%.

For that I would have to exchange the 68060 rev 1 with the rev 6 from my A3660 (Thank you, Nicolas from Switzerland). But how to get the CPUs out of their sockets without destroying CPUs or boards. With the A3660 I was less nervous. The card is somewhat solid and I had been able to remove the CPU with my Hakko CHP 7-SA tweezers (6.50USD on Amazon, great investment), but the Cyberstorm MK2 just made me a lot more nervous, as it was starting to bend under the pressure. The Cyberstorm is super packed, there is not much room left and right, unlike the 3640/3660 design. So I found these Intel Overdrive chip removers on eBay:

One on each side, and any 68060 will follow your lead easily.

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… and even more obviously, everybody needs a second recap in their quarantined life. After the recap of my A3640 went surprisingly well, and even ripped off pads were replaced and reconnected, I felt confident enough to do a board that’s a little bit bigger and a little bit more involved than that poor little 040 accelerator: My Amiga 4000.

As my Amiga 3640 processor card, the Amiga 4000D board was previously recapped in a job that replaced the SMD capacitors with their through-hole siblings.

I know, I know, another recap story, REALLY? Haven’t we heard enough of that already? Let’s just twist the caps off, the recap trolls on Facebook will tell you. Come on, folks. You are lucky enough to have the chance to operate some 30 plus year old machinery. Think about it for a second. What else that you have today will still be good in thirty years from now? Your iPhone or Android phone? Certainly not. Your MacBook? Your Chromebook? This stuff is going to be in the landfill and long forgotten in much less time. So PLEASE, treat these machines carefully. They are witnesses of a very different time, when reality consisted of the cold war and 1200 baud modems. If you have doubt about what to do, let someone help you. There is a friendly community of folks keeping these machines alive. And if you want to do it yourself, practice with something else first. Something that is ok to break. I heard there are a lot of cheap Ataris out there (just kidding!!)

It’s not visible in the picture, but many of the legs of these caps were not attached to the board anymore

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… When I have been playing my overclocking games, I was sourcing a lot of oscillators from eBay. One thing I noticed was that there are a lot more choices for modern SMD oscillators than for the old DIP14 tin cans. As a matter of fact, I found 50 and 100MHz oscillators in all sizes quite easily, but what if you want to go up gradually, say 105 or 108 MHz? Maybe I looked in the wrong places, but I was out of luck.

A solution had to be found, and that was to put a rock under the clock to make it fit. And of course I was just looking for a project simple enough to try and build something with KiCad.

The rock: oscillator adapter board

Being a hardware developer in 2020 is almost as easy as being a software developer in 1980. You basically need a computer and a lot of patience.  Once my KiCad design was done, the first version was quickly uploaded to OSHPARK. This place is fabulous. Want to try some hardware really quickly? Get three boards of decent build quality and great looks for two bucks in the mail, with no delivery fees. It’s almost paradise.

The order process is simple and small design are not discouraged by 15 dollar delivery fees

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The heat wave has hit Mountain View these last few days and caused a power outage for the better part of the weekend, so between 40C/105F and no electricity to power a soldering iron we enjoyed mango ice instead of working on all the projects.

Delicious mango shaved ice and jelly noodle shaved ice from Meet Fresh

None the less, after laborious project cat Katze (カツ)  dropped all static charges to climb into a box and help me unpack my latest Digikey order, I couldn’t just sit around.

Katze survived. Even though we all looked.

A while ago I ordered one of Edu Arana’s A4000DB daughter boards at These are an easy way to lower the temperature in the already hot Amiga 4000D case and the power consumption a little bit. Plus, as Guillaume pointed out, I’m an arananet fan boy.

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A few days ago I did some temperature measurements with my zz9000 graphics card from MNT GmbH in Germany, which turned out to be surprisingly hot. It started out as a test of the CPU temperature of my freshly overclocked MC68060RC50 (rev6) running at 100MHz, when I noticed that the graphics card seemed to run hotter than the CPU.

Particularly the FPGA and the two capacitors C154 and C155 were transforming a lot of electricity into hot air.

A cheap IR temperature tool is super useful

One day later, after installing Linux/m68k from scratch over night, the Amiga 4000 didn’t boot anymore. Of course I thought that I killed the CPU. 100% overclocking can’t be good, right?

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I’ve heard of the whole Chinese relabeling industry, but in the past I have always been lucky with my eBay purchases. Until this last time.

Harmless looking and the correct part on the picture

I kept ordering a number of times from the same folks on eBay, but it seems that they ran out of genuine AMD 27C400-120s and decided to ship relabeled Toshiba -150 parts instead.

My “Made in Germany” fiber glass pen to the rescue

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What happens to long lived electrical engineers? They diode!

I have had trouble with the Amiga 4000’s serial port since I got the machine. At first I got a few bytes through every now and then, but it was pretty much unusable, even at 9600 bps.

When “learning online” about all the magic of open source in GitHub, I stubbled about Keir Fraser’s Amiga Test Kit, John Hertell’s DiagROM and SukkoPera’s Parallel / Serial port tester for the two.

Of course it’s not worth just ordering a single one of anything in the electronics world, and so I ended up joining the market of dongle builders. If you need one, let me know.

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My keyboard is missing a key. There’s no escape!

Well actually it wasn’t escape that was broken on my nice click-a-dee-clack Amiga 4000 keyboard, but CAPS LOCK! And bit even the key itself, it was the LED that just wouldn’t show the status. No problem, let’s take it apart

So many screws!

At first I thought the LED might have died after my recent diode intermezzo on the Amiga board. But measuring with my multimeter I see that the LED is just not getting any power. Let’s look at the membrane.

It seems I forgot the before picture

There was a piece of the trace missing. It seems it had corroded away. The previous owner probably spilled Coke on it. My first approach was to scratch the green cover of the existing trace so I can connect to it.

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