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Commodore Amiga first steps

We get lots of e-mails and messages regarding the basic use of Commodore Amiga 500, 600, 1200, CD32, and 4000 computers. So we try to summarize the most important things in a few lines.

We warn everybody not to use these computers without restoration. Moreover, collectors who stockpile these computers can be almost certain that they’re already dead…

In the manufacturing history of the Amiga, we basically distinguish two types of technology. One is THT (with a hole) and the other is SMD (mounted on the surface). THT, but Amiga devices made with double-sided motherboard technology are 500, 500+, 1000, 1500, 2000, 3000, and CDTV. The sides of the Amiga 600, 1200, 4000 and CD32 devices were made with double-sided SMD technology. The Amiga 1200 and 4000 computers are SMD double-sided, but four-layered (there are two more conductive layers in the layers of the panel that cannot even be seen with the naked eye) (today PCs are equipped with double-sided but four-layered panels).

For the Amiga 600, 1200, CD32, and 4000 the main problem is the leaking of the electrolyte fluid of the electrolyte capacitor. The electrolyte fluid itself is alkaline and rottens the near tin-lead, pads (solder tab), and traces (conductors). Therefore, it is not enough to just replace these capacitors. This liquid infiltrates under the nearest passive elements (resistors, diodes, ceramic capacitors, etc.), ICs, and Delay, BPF Cuba (RC tag). These must all be disassembled, the spilled electrolyte fluid needs to be neutralized and rebuilt.

In the case of CD32, the things mentioned above are especially dangerous because there are very dense group capacitors with quite a good number.

Many enthusiastic amateurs are replacing these capacitors and are happy that everything’s working fine… Then after a few months, their computer starts with a black screen. In this case, there is only a 50% chance to save the sheet. Otherwise, the rest can be sold for pennies to build a Re-Amiga. My friend, Robi Tihanyi prefers to buy these computers because he finds Re-Amiga building a challenge.

Basically, the damage caused by advanced electrolyte fluid is manifested in no Compozite (Video) and RF (radio frequency C36 channel) signal or in some blurred screen. Perhaps one of the RGB (red, green, blue) colors may be missing. In the worst case, the Power LED is on, but we only get a black image.

In the former case we can put down the deaths of the Delay and BPF cubes (many are starting to replace the encoder IC, meaninglessly), you can read more about this here:
malfunction of Amiga 600, 1200 Delay and BPF
purchasing and replacing Delay and BPF

The Amiga 500+, Amiga 500, and RTC (with a clock) trapdoor RAM expander, Amiga 2000 and 4000 starts with a green, or in the worst case with a black screen. These devices have alkaline batteries that must have been leaked onto the panel. This means it started to burn off the galvanic holes and the trace (conductor). Unfortunately, in this case, only 50% of the devices can be saved.

If the sheet can be saved, instead of a modern battery (which needs to be soldered), we use CR2032 batteries with a converter for restoration. The same items can be found to keep the BIOS setting on desktop PCs. We prefer this because these batteries are easy to replace after a few years and do not require constant soldering. You can read about the battery solution we use, here: exchange of alkaline accumulator for a CR2032 battery

We cannot predict how long these devices, which were designed for a few years in the 80s and 90s and still start today, will work. We can tell that newly installed electrolyte capacitors also need to be replaced every 10 years. However, in return, they do not cause harm. Their drying out can be noticed by visual disturbances or sound defects. All you need to do is replace them and they can be used again.

Unless someone has already taken them off by twisting them with pliers. In this case, the attachment of the pads gets terribly damaged. In these cases, it is a miracle if the pads can be restored, and an even bigger challenge to replace them again… I would warn everyone not to twist them with a plier. We had to say many times that such sheets can only be used as Re-Amiga parts.

Also, a meaningless solution is installing a tantalum capacitor instead of electrolyte capacitors. If our power-supply is not upgraded yet, we can start thinking about why our computer is not working properly. This is because tantalum capacitors are very sensitive to mains derangements (improper filtration). In addition, these tantalum capacitors in our device won’t bring the same result in filtration as capacitors designed with chip pads. Do not use it in our Amiga 500, 500+, 1000, 1500, 2000, and 3000 computers with THT technology at all!

You can store them in a bag (they don’t need to be hermetically sealed), in their boxes, or in a closet. Unheated rooms, attics, garages, and basements are out of the question. They will certainly not survive there. Remember to turn on your computer every month, but at least every few months. This is not a guarantee of long-term operation, but we’ve noticed that devices stored like this, have fewer faults.

connecting to TV
Amiga computers also have analog RGB output, so we need to buy a cable that is an Amiga DB23 and TV SCART cable. The Amiga 500 and 500+ also have a monochrome video output with an RCA (red) connector, but I don’t think anyone wants to use that anymore. You can buy such analog RGB SCART cable here: RGB SCART cable purchase

If we’re lucky, our Amiga 500, and 500+ computer has an A520 Video-RF modulator. This allows us to connect our device to a TV with an RCA connector.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga első lépések
Commodore Amiga A520 modulator and a common audio cable
The RCA bottom above is the Video output, the upper right RCA is the RF output, the lower right RCA is the Audio common for RF.

For the Amiga 600, 1200, and CDTV, in addition to the basic RGB output, there is also RCA (yellow) Composite (Video) and RF (radio frequency C36 channel) output. These can be connected directly to the inputs of TVs.

For CD32 there is RCA Video-Audio and S-Video (4-pin) output.

We don’t have much to do with the sound, by default each computer has a red and a white RCA Audio jack. This must be connected to the Audio RCA port on our TV. The RGB SCART cable is Video and Audio cable in one.

For the A520, if you want to connect your computer to the TV via RF, a black RCA Y Audio cable is also included. This is used to mix the sound into to RF signal, of course, this cable makes stereo signal mono, and so only a mono Audio signal gets into the RF modulator. The two separate ends of the black Audio cable should be plugged into the Amiga Audio R and L RCA jacks, while the common single-connector RCA plug should be plugged into the 520 Audio connector.

The RGB output of our Amiga computer can be connected to a CRT EGA and CRT/LCD VGA display that can go down to 15kHz. For this, we need an Amiga RGB – VGA display adapter. Unfortunately, many dealers have realized this and they sell 10-year-old LCD – VGA displays worth 10.000 HUF for around 50.000 HUF. If you’re not sure that your VGA display can go down to 15kHz, feel free to connect your computer to it. All that happens is that the image does not appear. In the case of an LCD display, a text appears on the display: not proper aspect ratio. You can buy an Amiga RGB – VGA display adapter from here:
buying Amiga RGB – VGA display adapter

turning on
Before turning on your Amiga computer, use a simple, cheap multimeter to measure the voltages of your power-supply. Feel free to plug it in, turn it on and hold the Amiga plug for example between your legs, then touch the black test lead to GND, then measure the +5V DC, +12V DC, and -12V DC with the red test lead. A few tenths of difference is no problem. If we accidentally swap colors, the polarity of the values above will be reversed, which is not a problem.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500, 500+, 600, 1200 tápegységdugó feszültségek mérése (PSU pinout)
Commodore Amiga 500, 500+, 600 and 1200 power-supply plug voltage measurements (PSU pinout)
The power-supply plug can be plugged into a Commodore 128 computer, BUT DO NOT try to! Otherwise, the Commodore 128 will be completely spoiled.

We ask for this because a lot of Amiga power-supplies die these days and they also take Amiga devices with them. You can more about this here:
Commodore Amiga 500, 500+, 600, and 1200 are today's modern power-supplies

Important! If you are using an external floppy drive, connect it before turning it on. Also, note that these external floppy drives have an off/on switch on the back.

After turning on, the screen should flash a good few times and you should see a grey image while flashing, and then the home screen should appear. If the flashes stop with a color screen, it indicates that the self-test has stopped with an error. Of course, each color has an error code.

Do not disassemble the computer. Because the computer won’t improve if we take a look at the inside. No, not a single cable has been dropped which prevents it from starting… In this case, please bring in the computer or send it by post and we will tell you exactly what is wrong with it.

For the Amiga 1200, if it doesn’t have a CF card or HDD, with v3.0 Kickstart it will take 20 seconds, with v3.1 Kickstart it will take 60 seconds for the home screen to appear. No need to be scared, this is not an error.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500 v1.2 boot screen  Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500 v1.3 boot screen
Commodore Amiga 500 v1.2 and 1.3 boot screen

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500+ v2.04 boot screen  Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 1200 v3.1 boot screen
Commodore Amiga 500+ v2.04 and 1200 v3.1 boot screen

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga első lépések
Commodore Amiga 1200 3.1 Workbench (from HDD)

floppy disk
When the home screen appears, you may hear a regular click sound from the floppy drive. That’s half the battle. This is due to the floppy drive, waiting for the floppy disk, it will start immediately after inserting the disk.

Most of the time, our computer stops here. This is because 90% of floppy drives will be faulty. It can’t be fixed before you ask. We tried to fix them before, but after a few days or a few months, more and more errors occured. So we gave up their reparation. Many times it can load a few disks and not more, or it doesn’t read the disks from the next day. Unfortunately, this is the result of decades…

We have two options.

On the one hand, you can look for a PC floppy drive modified for Amigas for sale on the internet, with which you get 3D printed release buttons too. This is because the release buttons on PC drives are not the same as on Amiga floppy drives. We want you to not carve out the casing for PC drives… you can read about such PC floppy drives here: Amiga belső FDD kiváltása PC-s FDD-vel

On the other hand, we can put a modern GOTEK device in place of the floppy drive. This allows us to download games from a endrive. You can read more about this here: internal GOTEK

There is a third solution, when our internal drive works, but we also want GOTEK, in this case, we can make an external GOTEK drive by converting an external floppy drive. It has only one downside. Many will not start from DEMO DF1. If we want to DEMO a lot, we prefer to stay by internal GOTEK. You can read more about this here: external GOTEK

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga első lépések
The Chaos Engine on Amiga 1200 computer

512kB, 1MB, 2MB RAM – Chip and Fast/Slow RAM
Our Amiga 500 computer comes with 512kB RAM by default. We can add an additional 512Kb of trapdoor RAM. This is important because a lot of games start with 1MB of RAM. Well, here’s the dog buried!

The above two RAM space appears in our computer as 512kB Chip RAM (this is on the motherboard) and 512kB Fast/Slow RAM for trapdoor RAM. This is together 1MB of RAM. In this case, the games decide themselves which RAM space to use or if they want to use it combined.

On the other hand, there are computers like the Amiga 500+ which have 1MB of Chip RAM by default (on the motherboard) and we can expand it with 512kB or 1MB of RAM in the trapdoor. This makes together 1,5MB or 2MB of RAM.

Now comes the point that many of us have forgotten. Back then, when they started writing games for Amiga, they made a logical error when checking RAM, while loading. This logical error is due to the fact that the game program checks if there is a 512kB Chip RAM available or not. If we have a 500+ computer, that we know has 1MB of Chip RAM or an Amiga 500 in which the Chip RAM and Fast/Slow RAM were combined into a 1MB Chip RAM, it won’t start. Because it is no longer a 512kB Chip RAM. Of course, it would make sense to check the minimum 512kb of Chip RAM, but that’s now how the codes were written. The problem with this was that this logical type was copied in a lot of games.

Ergo, a lot of games will start with 512kB of Chip RAM, it won’t if we have 1MB or more of Chip RAM.

Once they realised this and the Amiga 500+ was released, the games were written to start with only 1MB of RAM. In this case, the basic Amiga 500, which only has 512kB of Chip RAM, the games won’t start. Therefore, we need to put into these basic 500 computers 512kB of RAM. So it is nevermind to the game if there is 1MB of Chip RAM, 512kB of Chip, and 512kB of Fast/Slow RAM in the background.

We know this is a bit complicated at first reading.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga A501 trapdoor RAM 512KB  Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga A501 Plus trapdoor RAM 1MB
A501 512kB for the Commodore Amiga 500, and A501 Plus 1MB trapdoor RAM expander for the 500+

So if someone wants to play with the Amiga 500, it is worth keeping 2 models. A plain Amiga 500 with 1.3KS and 512 – 512kB of RAM and an Amiga 500+ with 2.04KS and 1MB – 1MB of RAM. In this case, there will be no problems with starting the game.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga Kickstart PROMs
Commodore Amiga Kickstart PROMs
bottom left to top: Amiga 500 v1.2, v1.3, 500+ v2.04, 600 v2.06 (HD)
bottom right to top: Amiga 1200 v3.0 and v3.1

By the way, there is a really good solution to this problem. The problem with this is that it is quite expensive and we can expect annual production, this the so-called ACA500+. The point is that the normal Amiga 500 with 512kB of RAM is enough. You can also use the card to set RAM space, quaintities, and KS type. Plus it’s a dual CF-card system, one card of which is in Amiga format (boots from this), while the other is in PC format. Thus with the help of the latter card, we can easily transform files to Amiga from our PC. Of course, this card know a lot more than this, you can read about it here: ACA500+

Basically the result of decades: the CD reading error. More than half of the computers have this error.

In the case of CDTVs, the aging and crumbling of the head outlet ribbon cable is the defect that cannot be repaired. There is no way (use, storing) to prevent it from aging. The other is the malfunction of the CD reader panel, which cannot really be repaired. We tried to fix it at a time, but after a few days, other electronic errors occurred. At one time, there was a PC CD reader (caddy), of which the panel was identical and interchangeable. However, I haven’t seen a similar PC CD reader for years. So the CD reader of the CDTV should be used as long as it lasts.

In the case of CD32, the head is usually the one that goes wrong, you can still get complete mechanics for this, so it is possible to replace it. But how long you can get these…

Be sure to check these CD readers at the time of the purchase. In the case of CDTV, it is still risky because the ribbon cable can snap any time for example while shipping.

In the case of CD32, we often find that there is no power-supply. The CD32 is fully compatible with the power-supply of the Commodore 1541/II floppy drive, but use the +5V DC 1A power-supply from it (for testing). Games will start with it, but if we put any accessories on it, it won’t. Basically, the factory power-supply is 2A on +5V DC, note this. Aftermarket power-supplies are also available.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga CDTV
Commodore Amiga CDTV
extras: +8MB RAM, SCSI card és HDD, boot selector

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga CD32
Commodore Amiga CD32

This is a very good topic, as you wouldn’t think, but only 50% of the keyboards work properly. Always what doesn’t work? RETURN, SPACE, ALT, and Amiga buttons. So we can’t for example reset from the keyboard…

The Amiga 500, 500+, 2000, 3000, and 4000 use the same foil, you just need to pay attention if it is for English or German keyboards. In many cases, these foils are manufactured separately. On the other hand, there is an Amiga 500 keyboard (red power LED) with Samsung foil that has a two-wire foil contact terminal. Unfortunately, there is no foil production for this keyboard.

For the Amiga 1000 and 1500, the keyboard is not foily, but clicky. We rarely see such a solution in the Amiga 500. They do not contain keyboard foil. It is difficult to bring these contacts to life, but wouldn’t say that it will last long.

In the case of the Amiga 600, two types of foils were manufactured, blue and green in common language. From the outside, it is not possible to determine which one the keyboard has, it is only visible after removing the cover. If it turns out, it’s already easy to buy. Only the color needs to be taken into account when purchasing.

Interestingly, if our Amiga 500 computer is untouched and the POWER LED is red, it means that it has Rev. 3,5 board in it. If the POWER LED is green, it is equipped with a Rev. 6,8 board.

In the case of the Amiga 500, distinguish two keyboards, one is made by Samsung, it has a keyboard foil with two terminals (dual-layered), and the other is by Mitsumi, of which keyboard foil has only one terminal. Samsung foils aren’t manufactured, so is if it’s bad, you can say goodbye to your keyboard because even the keys aren’t compatible with the Samsung keyboard. It’s possible to replace the Samsung foil with a Mitsumi, but in this case, you will also need to get a Mitsumi electronics for it. By the way, most Amiga 500s, the 500+, 1200, 2000, 3000, and 4000 are equipped with Mitsumi foil.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 1000, 1500 mechanikus billentyűzet  Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500 mechanikus billentyűzet
Commodore Amiga chickenlips or space invader (mechanic) 1000, 1500 keyboard on the left (non-foil) and Amiga 500 keyboard (non-foil) on the right

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500 billentyűzet  Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga 500, 2000, 3000, 4000 billentyűzet
The Commodore Amiga 500 SAMSUNG keyboard (with a foil, but not manufactured) on the left and 500, 2000, 3000, 4000 MITSUMI keyboard (with a foil, manufactured) on the right.

For Amigas, a so-called „tank mouse” was given by default. This mouse looks exactly like a mouse for the Commodore 1531 64, 128 computers. Of course, they won’t work with other computers if we switch them up. However, they won’t fail if we do so. This tank mouse is a real mechanical roller mouse, so we need to clean the roller sometimes.

There are USB mouse converters for Amigas, but you need to know that they have PS2 protocols. Such USB mice were the PC mice manufactured at an early stage. Of course, I haven’t come across a USB mouse where this PS2 protocol would be marked. So, it will be quite difficult to find such a mouse, but it is not impossible. You can buy a USB mouse converter here: Amiga USB egérátalakító

We basically prefer the original Amiga tank mouse. Anyway, with a mouse pad, they have nothing wrong.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga tankegér
The Commodore Amiga tank mouse and a stylish mouse pad

All Commodore joysticks are compatible with all Commodore computers. It doesn’t matter if we want to use it with e. g. 16, 64 or Amiga, they can be used with every computer. Unfortunately, these joysticks are no longer manufactured. Newly manufactured „Arcade controller and fire button” joysticks are still available. They work perfectly well, you only have to get used to their shape and grip.

Among the joysticks, we distinguish two implementations that work on two basic principles, one is the mechanical (has soft movements), and the other is the sprung one (makes clicky sounds). Parts are no longer manufactured to repair them, so parts can only be extracted from broken joysticks.

One of the defects of the mechanical joystick is that the small board (which we press down every time) cracks, so it loses its flexibility and makes less contact. In the case of the one with springs, the spring (which we press) stretches or snaps. In the case of the latter, it is also a problem that the metallization is worn on the moving part of the contact board that moves the spring, so it loses its conductivity. Therefore, we find that our joystick makes clicking sounds, but it still doesn’t go in any direction, or the fire button is not working. It can be fixed by replacing the complete direction or fire unit, but it is a question, how will the replaced part work?

We only recommend buying a joystick if you take a computer with you and test the joystick with it. Otherwise, the purchase will only be a waste of money, and then we can argue with the seller… the term „untested” has also spread in such ads, which in many cases match with not working. But it can be sold for a good amount of money.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore joystick -ok
Commodore joysticks

The DF0/DF1 switch (internal DF0, external DF1 floppy drive) actually serves to boot an external floppy drive. This is required for the 1.2 and 1.3 Kickstart ROMs. With a higher version number, a boot selector is not required. You can read more about this here: Amiga 500/2000 DF0/DF1 switch

We don’t see the point of the 1.3/3.0 Kickstart switch. This is because the Amiga 500 has 1MB ie 512kB Chip and 512kB Fast/Slow RAM. For 3.0KS games require 1MB of Chip RAM. Since we only have 512kB of Chip RAM, we don’t really use it. A KS switch in an Amiga 500+ brings the opposite result. In the case of 1.3KS, we need 512 Chip RAM, otherwise, a lot of games will not start, especially not that the 500+ computers have 1MB Chip RAM installed by default. You can read more about this here:1.3/3.1 Kickstart ROM váltó

GOTEK, we have already written about this above, you can read about the details here:
internal GOTEK
external GOTEK

There are a lot of accelerator cards, HDD replacements, memory expanders, and e. g. HDMI output solutions on the Internet. Everyone can read about them using the search engine.

Commodore Service and Restorer Hungary | Commodore Amiga első lépések

entries, posts
pencil graphitization of keyboards?!
aging of rubber feet
Magyarization of Plus 4
death of Amiga 3,5" DS-DD disks
Commodore 5 1/4" DS-DD disks
how to use DS-HD floppy disks in Commodore Floppy drives
condition of Amiga factory floppy disks
1541, 1541C floppy drive head-error
1571, 128D, 128DCR floppy drive head-error
malfunction of Amiga 600, 1200 Delay and BPF
purchasing and replacing Delay and BPF
exchange of alkaline accumulator for CR2032 battery
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