I had the pleasure of corresponding with Greg Tibbs - the designer and inventor of the Rejuvenator upgrade board for Amiga 1000 computers - for about a year and a half.
But first, I had to actually find him. And he was one of those folks who was very intentionally "off the grid" - no Facebook, no Twitter, no LinkedIn. Nada. I combed through multiple State business records, contacted Eric Schwartz and the Dayton Amiga Users Group members, Ben Williams of Black Belt Systems (Greg used Ben's software to draw the Rejuvenator schematics on his Amiga 1000) and even Scott Bennett of Expert Services - the original manufacturer and retailer of the board.
After several months of intense searching I finally found a name with an address on a very sketchy looking "white papers-styled" website.
Resigned to failure, my last recourse of action was to write all of my intentions down to reverse engineer the board in a letter (remember those?) and put it in an envelope. I then mailed it to the address I'd found online. I assumed it would be undeliverable and bounce back to me in a week or two stamped, "Return to Sender." My thought was I'd keep that sealed envelope in case I was ever later sued over the project so I could unseal it in open court showing that I'd tried my best. That was my legal defense.
In the email at the very end I left my phone number and one of my personal email addresses.
About a week went by.
Then, on May 11, 2018, at 2:34 PM PT I received the following email, which gave me chills and made the hair on my arms stand straight up:
I received your letter today.
Yes, I am the person you are looking for. I designed the Rejuvenator.
I quit designing Amiga products after getting stiffed by two companies. That was a long time ago. I threw away my last unpopulated Rejuvenator circuit board about a year ago. Scott Bennet (formerly of Expert Services, which I believe is defunct) held on to the master artwork. The last time I talked to him, about 2000, he was going to try to get someone else to manufacture it. Expert services put all the money into their retail store account against my wishes and they spent it on store stuff and all I got was an A3000 for my efforts ( on a 50-50 profit split deal. They owed me over $50K. So there was no need or desire to stay in contact with them. I designed the original HAM-E for Blackbelt Sysatems and they quit paying royalty payments after it hit the market. I got rid of my A1000 in the early 2000s. 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. If you want to reverse engineer it, then go ahead. You have my blessing.
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.
Another issue is where to get the two custom chips needed, Fat Agnus and ECS Denise. Without FA, at least, there is no Rejuvenator.
If you want to talk, I can be reached at 937-xxx-xxxx.
The fact he remembered all of those tiny details 30 years later tells you something about his keen intellect.
I called him later that day and we spoke on the phone for an hour.
And that was the beginning of our correspondence. The public release
of all of the files last weekend of his Rejuvenator kind of hit me funny. Part of me was so excited to have hit this incredible milestone after three years of trying. And another part of me felt like looking back; like, I wasn't ready to entirely let go. I just wish he'd been here to see this.
I had originally planned on getting on an airplane when this day arrived so I could meet him in-person somewhere in Ohio and buy him dinner and listen to his Amiga stories. He was only in the community for a little while, but while he was there he was Fast and Furious.
I have at least one more story of his I'll share next time if you all like this kind of thing.