I’d been searching for Greg Tibbs - the creator of The Rejuvenator - for some time as some of you know.
After failing over and over to locate him, I did find a street address that was listed in what I believed to be his local White Papers. On a desperate and last-gasp whim, I crafted a 3-page letter explaining who I was and what my plans were: to try and bring the Rejuvenator back to the little Amiga 1000 market. I realized the chance of the letter finding Greg was a total long shot. I fully expected it to return back to my home after about 2 weeks of being driven across the country and back. But, I put my own contact info in the letter, popped a stamp on it and dropped it in a mail box. If it did return, I told myself, I could at least show the dated and stamped “Return to Sender” if anyone tried to sue me at some stage. I had proof that I had tried to do the right thing.
At the same time I began discussions with a local shop that creates circuit boards and other electrical devices as their main gig. They’d even reverse-engineered computer components and cards for previous clients. Bottom line: these guys know their shiz. I took my Rejuvenator to their offices and let them examine it. The principal owner jotted down the components on the card to research the potential for acquiring new bits.
His key concern revolved around the DRAM, which was as fairly rare type of RAM that was quickly outdated and put to pasture in the early 90s.
His main requests and questions involved the following:
-) Is what we’re doing ethical and/or going to piss anyone off?
-) Do you have the original schematics/artwork/gerber files?
-) If not, can you get them (it would save a TON of time and money)?
I left their office after getting a tour of the shop. Very cool place and people. My to-do was to see if I could locate anything at all at this stage and settle everyone’s fears about the copyright.
Their job was to research the soldered-on components to 1) see if they were available and 2) get a price quote. The shop could not only reverse engineer the board, but also help to sell them as either a DIY kit (to save $) or ever solder up a bunch themselves for a higher price. I like options, don’t you?
A few days passed and early one Friday morning I received an email.
The Sender: “Greg Tibbs”.
The Subject: Rejuvenator
I received your letter today.
Yes, I am the person you are looking for. I designed the Rejuvenator.”
!!! The hairs on my arms stood up as I read on. I couldn't believe it!
Greg went on to go into great detail about the board and “the deal” he had made with Expert Services back in the day. I won’t go into all of the nitty gritty, but it’s safe to say that from Greg’s perspective he got screwed. Pretty badly. He and the two owners of Expert Services parted ways back then and it did not end well.
However, Greg shared some great information on the Rejuvenator along the way:
Unfortuanately:The original A1000 Rejuvenator was a 4 layer board. I wanted all the parts on one side for manufacturing costs. The only issue is there has to be connection to the custom chip sockets and those six rows of pins were hand soldered. I used holes in the board for the pins to go from the motherboard through to the Rejuvenator connectors for the reason the two 40 pin chips could overlap the connectors and save board space and that to add the A2000’s video slot and leave room, it had to fit closer to the motherboard to allow space for the video card. There was only one revision and there was one bug on an internal layer at the video card connector where one of the digital colors was shorted to the ground plane. Once discovered, the pass through hole that was shorted was drilled out and the color signal wire run to the video card pin using a jumper wire.
There was one wire to go from the daughterboard to the motherboard to sync the main timing clocks after a reset. There was a 7474 D latch triggered by the motherboard reset signal.
The DRAM chips used were unpopular in DIP format and were discontinued after a couple years. ZIP ram may be still be available. To prevent ringing, the dram data lines had to have 33 ohm resistors in line.
There was one or two Custom PAL chips to control the timing and the real time clock and the ROM chip. The PAL chips were done on a PC on 5.25 inch floppies, but they are long gone.
The biggest issue was power distribution. The Commodore daughterboard kept areas separate, but Commodore engineer George Robbins told me to merge them into a single power plane in the Rejuvenator. That was bad advice as I used heavier power traces than the motherboard and it created a mild instability The required jumping the motherboard power traces at the CPU to really fix. This showed up most when sidecar devices were connected. The original prototype was hand taped two layer board and it worked better than the fancy 4 layer board.
However:The circuit board was designed on an Amiga using BlackBelt Systems PC board software. All the floppies went bad and there was no other media. I do not have the schematics anymore nor any electronic or written documentation.
Then, at the end, he left his phone number and asked me to call him if I wanted to. If I wanted to?? I was a bit star struck at first and had a touch of phone anxiety, but then collected myself and dialed his number.If you want to reverse engineer it, then go ahead. You have my blessing.
We talked on the phone for an hour.
Greg is a VERY cool guy, very gracious, and still remembers that entire part of his life and the technology with a photographic memory. He related several stories from his time developing the Rejuvenator and other products. Extremely awesome.
In hindsight I wish I’d video interviewed him. I really don’t think he realizes his place and status in Amiga 1000 lore, to be honest.
At the end of our call he recommended I try to find one of the principals of Expert Services. He didn’t have any contact info, but told me to tell him (Scott Bennett) that he was totally cool with my efforts. He suggested I name drop him with Scott and that he'd given his blessing as a means to give me a leg up with Scott, as Greg still feels like he’s owed. It was a cool gesture, and I followed his advice.
I couldn’t find a single trace of Scott anywhere online - just an old address in Kentucky for when the business was still around (it had been shuttered several years ago). Each phone number I found seemed to either be a dead number or someone else’s voicemail (and I left messages on those accounts anyway. Hah!).
And then, via LinkedIn (I think it was mattsoft’s idea?) I found Scott. And he wrote me back!
Scott had unloaded his old shop's storage literally nine months ago. Everything was gone. But he did have one thing that he found in his house: a bare unpopulated Rejuvenator board!
I contacted my local shop with the discovery and they were delighted to say the least. Having a bare board was going to help things quite a bit if the schematics were gone. It also meant my populated Rejuvenator wouldn't need to be disassembled, which is a massive relief!
Where things stand right now:
Scott did one final search this past weekend but unfortunately everything is simply gone to the sands of time. No disks, no files, no artworks. All gone.
However Scott is willing to ship me his bare board; I will have to return it after the analysis is complete, per his request (not sure what he'll do with it but I'll certainly respect his wishes). I should receive it in the next week or so. When I do, I’ll let you all know, of course.
Baby steps, folks. LOTS of baby steps.