The Sequel: Memory, Clock, Storage and Kickstart MAGIC
In December of 2020 US-based Amiga fanatic and inventor David Dunklee surprised the Amiga world by releasing a hardware product designed specifically for the Amiga 1000. He called it the Parceiro.
The Parceiro gave an intentional nod to the Amiga’s hardware of the past while updating the experience with modern internals wrapped in an elegant form factor.
It brought a whopping (and truly fast) 8MB of contemporary auto-config SRAM - a large step up from old DRAM.
It also delivered a new clock with an easy-to-change and long-lasting coin-cell battery. A few Amiga 1000 fans were already wiping away tears of joy at that point.
Finally, and most importantly, the Parceiro opened the door to large modern hard drives in the form of a removable micro SD Card with storage up to 4GB.
The one caveat: Parceiro required a boot disk just like hard drive solutions from the 1980s. Owners needed to create a KickWork disk that would pass control over to the Parceiro’s SD card during boot-up. Once done, the disk could be popped out and placed to the side. The Parceiro’s micro SD was just infinitely quieter, smaller, cooler, used very little energy and could hold gobs more storage.
We should also take a moment to appreciate the Parceiro’s ingenious form-factor. Most Amiga SD or Compact Flash solutions are hidden inside a computer’s case, thus making them a challenge to quickly and easily access. The Parceiro was designed from the beginning for easier file transfers between modern PCs and Mac computers without taking up any additional space on your desk.
The original Parceiro was like something a new Artificial Intelligence art program created after being fed prompts for an Amiga storage solution. It was that bizarre, and that amazing.
The fact is that the chips required to build the Parceiro are no longer available. The Parceiro is officially unobtanium tech now and already a thing of the past as of December, 2022.
However, Mr. Dunklee has been very busy over the past year… working on Parceiro II.
And while it lacks a pass-thru connector, most folks won’t miss it.
And the SD card is REMOVABLE. The device driver is 8KB in size and is stored within a 2MB user-flashable ROM. The driver (parceiro.device) is automatically loaded at boot by the Amiga. You can actually pop the SD out after the Amiga has booted if you want to (Note: The SD’s connector, which hasn’t been perfected, can cause the Amiga to guru. Don’t do this if you have un-saved data.)
This is where the real magic happens. Parceiro 2 can provide multiple Kickstarts via its flahsable ROM chip. Users can now use a physical switch to choose their Kickstart of choice! This means I can boot off 3 different “hard drives” and each one can be a unique Workbench experience with multiple partitions. Mine is configured to boot 1.3, 2.0 or 3.1 depending on my needs. And each version of Workbench is broken into multiple drives. There is even a 4th global drive that each Workbench can see that I can use for file transfers between my modern computer and the Parceiro’s multiple platforms. It’s amazing.
The I/O is very peppy now. The CPLD allows us to go from an 8-bit interface to a 16-bit interface for the SD read transactions. The Parceiro II is Rigid-Disk-Block-aware. It will load all file systems from the RDB and mount and boot Partitions automatically. (See "Performance" section below for more details)
This custom software tool written by Dunklee is an OS 1.3-compatible hard drive partitioning tool similar to Commodore Amiga’s Kickstart 2.x+ HDToolBox. It is specifically designed to partition MicroSD cards used by the Parceiro II and can easily work with large (>4GB) SD Cards. It also provides the means to set up the RDB (and an MBR to allow FAT partitions to be viewable on MAC/PC).
There’s a notch on the back to keep the Parceiro from being inserted upside down, which would be bad. There is also a horizontal stabilizer brace on the back now, too.
The CPLD is still just 16-bit (the 68000’s bus is only 16-bit). And the original Amiga driver was 32-bit. But the Parceiro II is NSD/TD64 compliant. That means its driver is now 64-bit! (Just like your phone!) It can access 2^64 = 16 PetaBytes. However, the MicroSD standard is capable of up to 2TB. The largest MicroSD on the market today is a “puny” 1TB right now. The DATA: partition on my Parceiro’s SD is 11GB, for example, and uses PFS3… on KS1.3!
SYSINFO just does a direct & sequential read to a device in question. The real truth is how well a device can handle directories and files that are spread around a disk… possibly fragmented all over the place.
Dunklee wrote 2 small programs that put a device through its paces and then measures that instead. Why? Because he cares about real-world measurable facts, not just numbers on a screen. We all use SYSINFO numbers to compare this to that, and it is a helpful tool. But the numbers aren’t a true reflection of a given device’s actual performance.
SDWorkout writes 200 files 16KB files and then reads those 200 files using the file system routines to manage the files like in the real world. SDWorkout2 does the same thing but in 64KB chunks.
The programs delete the files when the tests are complete after the results are shown.
A real apples-to-apples comparison would use the same SD card brand and size with identical data on all devices, but that was not possible for me to do at this time.
It looks like we’re as fast as we can go as far as interface is concerned. Not much you can do on a 7MHz / 16-bit bus.
The rest is going to be determined by file system, drive heads, and rotational speed.
And… here’s another thing to look at. Is the SCSI formatted as FFS. FFS uses write-behind cacheing and stores its entire directory in memory; while PFS3 doesn’t. It reads each piece of the directory as needed.
And… which OS? My tests were all vanilla 1.3. If you’re using 3.1 you’ll get even better results. If you add a mild accelerator or even a 68010 you can increase the already excellent I/O by 10-20%. And that's noticeable.
Hardware Modification Requirements
Option 1: NO Rejuvenator
In order for the Parceiro 2 to provide Kickstart ROM to the A1000, two Programmable Array Logic (PAL) chips (not to be confused with the video standard, Phase Alternating Line, which shares the same acronym) must be replaced and a wire must be added.
This modification is possible to be performed to either NTSC machines with a Daughterboard or non-NTSC machines that lack them. Everyone wins!
Option 2: WITH a Rejuvenator
If you have a Rejuvenator installed in your Amiga 1000, at a minimum you enjoy 1 or 2MB of Chip RAM and a KS ROM.
If you were to acquire a Parceiro II, the only thing you’d have to do is remove the original KS ROM chip and check your jumpers. That’s it!
The only issue I ran into with the Parceiro 2 was with the combination of my 14Mhz AdSpeed accelerator. For some reason it would lock my system up, which is strange because some other AdSpeed users have no issues at all. Something about the timing is just slightly cranky. However, if I were to upgrade to a 68010, I could increase my already stellar I/O reads and writes from 10-20%. It’s an option…The Parceiro 2’s capabilities are a perfect complement to the Rejuvenator.
The Parceiro is a hobby. There are no current plans to produce these in large volumes. Parts are difficult to acquire and time is limited. The fun from David’s perspective is the journey itself. However, if you keep all of this in mind, inquires should be sent to amiga.parceiro [at] outlook.com.For me, it’s still about my personal understanding/learning and nostalgia. I’ve learned a TON over the last year. And got to relive some good moments with some new friends. If I were to sum up the differences between Parceiro 1 and Parceiro 2 it’s the addition of Autoboot, Speed, and better fit/function. For those willing to make a modification to the internals of the Amiga, you also get 3-user-selectable/flashable Kickstarts in ROM.