Connecting an Amiga to the world in 2019

An Amiga Workbench desktop with this article being written in a text editor

Having decided that I'm unlikely to get the Aston Martin DB5 in Gunmetal grey I wanted as a kid, I got the next best thing and bought an Amiga 4000. Normally when I tell people this, I get one of two reactions:

For those who've never experienced the Amiga first-hand, number 2 is understandable. Most people who have are in the first camp.

For those in the 2nd camp, the Amiga 4000 is the final set of models in the classic Amiga series. This is the Amiga equivalent of a Ferrari F40. Sleek, spectacular, crazy expensive to run for what it is, and entirely impractical. There are some mildly insane design choices, bugs and because Commodore cheaped out at the last minute, several pretty fatal things that can happen to it if it's not taken care of exceptionally well over it's lifetime.

Owning an Amiga 4000 is not like owning an Amiga 1200 or 500. This isn't a machine built for gaming. After all, I can game just fine with near perfect emulation thanks to WHDLoad, and a Raspberry Pi is pretty much the fastest gaming Amiga you can get.

I'm using the Amiga 4000 for productivity, mostly creative. Yes, you read that right. No, I'm not insane. It's 2019, and I've bought an Amiga to use for actual day to day creative things. As shown in the screenshot above, this article was even written on the Amiga.

To be creative I need to move files back and forth. The Amiga 4000 is the only regularly used device I have with a floppy drive, so that's out as a medium.

Thankfully the Amiga 4000 has a DVD-rewriter. Transferring files over DVD/CD works well. The Amiga uses the Joliet, not UDF filesystem, and has some slight preferences for odd CD writing configurations. On the whole, it works.

Burning CDs for small amounts of data gets old after a while though, and I'd prefer some sort of network connectivity, at least till the MNT ZZ9000 comes online. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is with an X-Surf 100, an Ethernet card available for around 100 Euro. As I won't have a use for the X-Surf after my ZZ9000 arrives, I'm trying a serial link to a Raspberry Pi instead. Here's how it's set up.

Hardware

First you'll need some hardware. Some of this you can build yourself or you could buy the parts and salvage things lying around like I did. You will need:

Stage 1, Basic Connectivity

To start, connect the Raspberry Pi to the USB cable, the USB cable to the 25 pin adapter, and the 25 pin adapter to the Amiga. Congrats, your Amiga is now physically linked to the Pi!

I'm using Term v4.8 from Aminet to get basic terminal emulation running. You'll want to configure serial settings as follows:

Amiga Term configured for 115200 xfer with 8/n1 and no flow control.

You'll be asked about enabling RTS/CTS, things seem to work fine with it switched off.

Note: Term needs paths defined (Settings –> Paths from the Menu) or your files won't be saved. Also make sure that you save your settings from the pulldown Settings menu.

On the Raspberry Pi you'll need to install screen via apt-get. In a console, enter the following:

screen /dev/ttyUSB0 115200

The device name might vary dependent upon the USB-Serial converter you're using or how you're connected. It could be /dev/ttyAMA0 or /dev/ttyACM0 in some cases. Check dmesg and the contents of /dev/ if you get stuck.

Hello From the Amiga on the PC

If you type in the screen window, you should see the text echoed in the Term session on the Amiga. If you type on the Amiga you should see text show up on the screen session on the Pi.

Hello from the PC on the Amiga

It'd be a little boring if this was all you could do. Lets transfer some files. I downloaded Delitracker and the update to 2.34 onto the Raspberry Pi with wget. In the screen session, I pressed Ctrl-A and typed in the following:

: exec sz -b delitracker232.lha

The Term session should spring to life and start receiving a file, which will be saved in the path you specified earlier. Extract delitracker, run the installer and repeat with the update file. Of course, now you have a mod music player, it's only fair that you should go to UnExoticA and get some tunes to play.

Sending files back.

Sending files back to the Raspberry Pi is pretty easy, getting screen to receive them is only slightly more involved. Drag and drop the file you want to send onto Term's “term Upload queue” icon. On the Raspberry Pi's screen session, press Ctrl-A and enter : exec !! rz.

Transfer config on the Amiga side

The Amiga's term window will ask you about the file you're about to send. Set it to binary transfer and it'll land in the directory where you originally launched screen.

PC Receiving a file

Going further

You could run a full login terminal on the Raspberry Pi over serial and use that to log into the Pi via Term. While it's certainly cute, it reduces a very expensive Amiga 4000 to a dumb terminal. Instead I plan on using the Pi as a support system for the Amiga, where it does things that are menial, boring or just too slow for the Amiga to take care of. The next thing for me to do is to get TCP/IP networking via PPP, which I'll cover in another post.

In the meantime, here's the Amiga in it's home, on the right of this picture.

My Battlestation setup, with the Amiga on the right