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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Aug 30, 2017 10:12 pm

One of the key differences between the “original Amiga”, the Amiga 1000, and all of the other models ever made is its lack of a Kickstart ROM chip. This means that whenever you boot your Amiga 1000 computer, it’s lack of a ROM chip (which essentially holds the system’s firmware for essential tasks and core OS components) requires the Kickstart be loaded via floppy disk. All other Amigas loaded this straight off of a replaceable and upgradable chip that is pressed into a receptacle on the machine’s motherboard.

Everyone knows by now that when the 1000 shipped in 1985 the Kickstart code was still a little rough around the edges and had known bugs. The engineers didn’t want to burn that code onto a ROM chip as they knew the average consumer wouldn’t want to crack open their (very) expensive machine’s case and fiddle with computer chips in the near future. Instead, Commodore opted to have Kickstart read off a floppy disk that loaded into a special place in the onboard 256KB of RAM.

The advantage of this approach is that as new Kickstart "enhancer updates" were released Amiga 1000 users simply needed to get a new floppy disk with the upgraded “firmware”.

The downside, or at least perceived downside, is that every time one turned on their Amiga 1000 and needed to get to Workbench, one had to disk swap: put in the Kickstart disk; wait; take out the Kickstart disk; insert the Worbench disk; wait; then do what you need to do once Workbench loaded. Another issue is that loading Kickstart off of a floppy is inherently slower than off a ROM chip. Que sera sera on that one.

Truth be told, the disk swapping has never bothered me on the 1000. It’s just part of the experience and the history. But whenever you’re used to using Amigas a certain way (and I started on later models with Kickstart ROMs) and encounter a different way, you can’t help but wonder if you can either install a Kickstart ROM or find some other way to eliminate the disk swapping. And then there's that nerdy part of us all that always asks, "How might others have approached this?" Well of course I've got that bug, too.

It is true that you can install a Kickstart ROM adapter, which is a very cool mod, but it requires cutting traces on the 1000’s original motherboard. That’s not something I’m personally interested in doing right now. I only have one Amiga 1000 and I have no intention of doing any permanent destructive mods to the hardware. Maybe at some point in the future, though, if I ever get a spare.

In addition, there is a really amazing piece of kit made by Individual Computers called the ACA 500 plus which inserts into the expansion slot. It not only provides Kickstart ROMs, but pretty much anything else you could ever imagine (CF hard drives, maxed out (8MB) RAM, expansion slots and more). It was really designed for the Amiga 500 in a horizontal fashion and sticks a few inches out of the side of your machine. It's very cool, but that's not really what I'm after at this time. I'm so in love with the look of the classic machine. But the "borg technology" is very cool for those that want to go that route and maybe I will some day.

As I was researching this “issue” a few months ago before I even had a 1000 physically in-house but had one en route I stumbled across some really old forum posts and Usenet archives that mentioned a piece of unusual software written in 1988 called KickWork.

Commodore never allowed the distribution of Kickstart, so KickWork must extract the necessary Kickstart code from memory. This requires a setup to be done to configure the disk, which I’ll explain further below.

A company called Amigos Corporation based out of New York came up with an ingenious idea to take the Kickstart code that got loaded into RAM and copy it to a floppy disk that had a trimmed down version of Workbench on it.

After a bit more research, I was able to determine that the owner of the software (and I believe writer) was a man named Rudolph Loew. He still has a website up to this day. (It has since been updated with more current information since I started this project and learned about Mr. Loew.) Sadly his website seems to have finally been taken offline. If you want his info, you can contact me directly. -- intric8, 21 Oct 2019
Update 2: I am sad to report that I learned today Mr. Loew passed on 11 Sep 2019. His site has moved locations by family and is within a new memorial site, which you can find here. -- intric8, 22 Oct 2019

After finding the site I took a deep breath and sent off an email to Mr. Loew. At the time, I had no idea if he was even still alive, or if his email address that I had found was active.

A few days passed, then “poof!” I suddenly received a response in my Inbox! I couldn’t believe it. Mr. Loew still had the software called KickWork, and in fact it was still for sale for $36 should I want a copy.

I’d finished the payment via PayPal faster than you’ve just read this sentence.

Truth be told, the first ADF Mr. Loew sent me didn’t work. Neither did the second nor the third. You know the KickWork disk probably installed correctly when you see the text "KickWork Installed," after writing Kickstart from RAM. Although I did see that message once and my disk still failed to boot the 1000. With the fourth file I received from Mr. Loew he sent me his “Original” version which was sold by Amigo Corp back in the day. Presumably the other versions he tried to send me prior to that had code fixes and updates. Well, my machine wanted the original version apparently.
When you see this message, chances are pretty good that the disk is now a combined Kickstart AND Workbench combo.

But as soon as I tried the Original everything worked absolutely perfectly. I now only have to use one single disk to boot my Amiga 1000 and land in Workbench.

The installation process is as follows:
  1. Write the KickWork disk image file to an 880K floppy disk. Do not write-protect it.
  2. Turn off your Amiga 1000, if on.
  3. Insert your Kickstart 1.3 Disk.
  4. Turn on your Amiga 1000.
  5. When the computer prompts for a Workbench disk, insert the KickWork disk you created.
  6. If no errors occurred, it should display "KickWork Installed" on the screen.
  7. Turn off your Amiga 1000, then turn it back on - with your KickWord disk in the drive.
If all goes well, you should simply watch your screen flash a few times then eventually start to load Workbench. Your new Workbench will show a KickWork disk icon and “Amigo KickWork 1.x” in the upper left-corner of your screen.
A KickWork icon from Amigo Corporation replaces your Workbench floppy disk icon. But double-clicking it gets you to your expected Workbench tools and utilities. And your "Workbench" is replaced with Amigo in the upper-left corner of the screen. But it's just a thin coat of paint, really. If you right-click, the Amigo text swaps out with "Workbench".

At this stage you can customize your KickWork Disk as needed. Just be careful not to put more on the disk than it can take. Optionally, you can write protect the KickWork floppy disk and just leave it be.

Should you decide to buy and install KickWork yourself, Mr. Loew includes a ReadMe file with notes about special files and customization tips.

A lot of software written in the 80s actually just needed the KickStart to be loaded (which only takes a few seconds off a ROM) and would then launch directly if inserted in the floppy drive bypassing Workbench altogether and saving precious resources. But plenty of other software did, or could be, launched from Workbench. And with the fine work by Mr. Loew on KickWork there’s one less disk to be swapped to get to the program you’re wanting to run.

KickWork is a very cool boot-up option, in my opinion, with not a bit of destructive hardware mods required. If you happen to have an Amiga 1000 and are still running floppies you might want to give KickWork a look, too. I love it.

Once again, here’s a link to my accompanying video for this Amiga 1000 project. If you've tried KickWork before, or have any questions, let me know!


From Mr. Rudolph Loew:
The company's name was Amigo Business Computers [I said Amigos in the video]
Kickstart is loaded into a separate 256MB RAM, not the 256MB/512MB that you see. It is not counted in the Product Specification.

I am an Independent Software Developer. I wrote KickWork and gave an exclusive License to Amigo Business Computers. I developed a number of products that they marketed.

I was trying to remove the Amigo branding in those first ADFs I sent you. After all these years I couldn't find my builder software and my A1000 was not available to test.

Unlike the Kickbench that is mentioned in one of the Comments to your Post, KickWork does not write to the Floppy in normal use, so it can be write protected. This makes it suitable for unattended operation where an unexpected power glitch could disable a Kickbench setup. Unattended operation was probably the most important selling point at the time.

It may be of some interest that I made a experimental Kickwork 2.0 and 3.0 for the A1000.

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Posted Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:32 am

Thanks for sharing. As an original A1000 user back in the day I used to use a PD program called kickbench from Fish Disk 37 to do something similar. See Kickbench here.

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:58 am

That is very cool, thanks Andrew.

And holy smoke - that is a phenomenal archive! I'm going to have to spend some serious time over there. Like, right now.

Update: This is the shiz right here to get to the entire disks more easily. But the site you highlighted is also very cool as it describes each and every program on each disk.

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New Jersey, USA

Posted Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:23 pm

Somewhat related to the Fish Disks: over on the Internet Archive, you can download almost every single Fish Disk CD collection made, along with a whole bunch of other PD software collections. :)

Search query is here!

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:35 pm

Mr. Rudolph Loew contacted me to day with a few updates and corrections. I've added these above at the end of the OP.

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Posted Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:58 am

Wow, great work intric8! That's fascinating. It's great to connect with an original developer too.

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Surrey, BC, Canada

Posted Wed Sep 06, 2017 5:46 am

Did i missed something. How can i buy the adf file ..can't seem to find the link. Thanks. I remember this in the early days. Yes, there was kickbench but I'd like revisit how to go about doing the process. Thanks .

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Sep 06, 2017 9:00 am

Hey RizThomas

In order to get the ADF you'll need to contact Mr. Loew via email. His email address is found on his website. [This is no longer true. Sadly Mr. Loew passed away, but Kickwork may be found on his memorial site that his son put up, here. Kickwork, and his many other programs, are now all available and free.]

If I remember correctly I paid him $36 via PayPal for the software.

He'll then email you the ADF, which you'll need to transfer to a floppy disk. Once you get it on a floppy you'll go through the installation process I describe in the OP.

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Surrey, BC, Canada

Posted Wed Sep 06, 2017 8:32 pm

Thank you Sir!

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Zippy Zapp

Posted Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:53 am

Cool. I never heard of this way back when. Of course I was an A500 user for most of my Amiga years.

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