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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Wed Jul 29, 2020 11:00 pm

Last year when I found my own A500 Chickenlips masterpiece, I actually purchased something else along with it at the same time I never mentioned (and even one more thing, but that's a story for another day).

I got a very minty Commodore Amiga A590 side-expansion for it, packed with 2MB of RAM (I think). Horrifically, yet all too common an occurrence, the seller simply put it in a box with almost zero padding. As such, it came to me with a stomach-churning BRAND NEW unnecessary divot on its front face, where the case plastic was mashed into a bead of sorts from some sharp angled brute force jostling.

Regardless, it's still a beautiful specimen.

In fact, I can't look at the thing and not see the lines of an Original Star Trek shuttlecraft. Take a look.

That little crunch on the left edge just kills my soul. But maybe there's a fix of some sort.

Screen Shot 2020-07-29 at 11.05.03 PM.png
Need I say more?

You can never go wrong with a relief logo.

The back-end case design does a nice job of mimicking the 500's case grille.

The A590 sidecar provides the following:
  • Both SCSI and XT IDE hard drive controller modes, which can work simultaneously
  • autoboot ROM - autobooting requires at least Kickstart 1.3
  • autoboot disable switch
  • time-out switch for drives which spin up slower than 30 seconds
  • 50 pin internal SCSI header
  • internal 40 pin XT IDE header (8 bit only). BBoAH: "The XT Controller is the very old 8 bit IDE standard (not to be confused with ST506, or the 16-bit AT/IDE type). Whilst it uses the same 40pin IDE cable that more modern 16-bit IDE controllers use, you cannot use modern IDE drives with the XT controller because they are 16 bit. You must use XT hard drives. These were only ever made up to about 80MB in size."
  • DB25 external SCSI connector
  • Supported by Linux (!)
  • A-Max II driver (scsi.amhd)
It can also use 0, .5, 1 or 2MB of fast RAM. Any time you can get RAM alongside a hard drive controller, you want to go for it as it makes the whole data transfer situation that much more bad ass.

While the A590 is massive, it actually has an external "brick" PSU, too, that is essentially the same thing as the Commodore 1541-II floppy disk drive's. Thus, it's possible to get a more modern, smaller footprint these days relatively easily.

The only real complaint from a design perspective is the A590 doesn't match the A500 case's downward sloping angles. Also:
There are several versions of the ROMs for the A590, Version 6 ROMs only allow hard drives up to 512MB in capacity. Version 6.6 and 7.0 ROMs have been reported to work successfully with drive sizes up to 9GB but you will need at least OS3.5 or Amiga OS 3.1.4 to use drives over 4GB.
And then there is the offering from GVP, simply one of the greatest third-party hardware manufactures for Amiga computers ever. That being said, their naming convention could be a bit wordy at times.

Presenting [deep breath] the IMPACT Series II A500-HD8+.

And I just acquired one, boxed and complete. Check it out.

This is actually the first time I've ever seen the original box.

This thing has probably been used, but it sure doesn't look like it. I guess I'll find out soon enough (assuming it still works). Would you just LOOK at that size of that dang blasted PSU!!

Have to say, that "light switch" design is kind of adorable.

The HD8+ provides the following:
  • SCSI 2 DMA controller
  • 3.58 MB/s transfer speed
  • FaaasT ROM SCSI driver (gvpscsi.device) - autobooting requires at least Kickstart 1.3
  • 50 pin internal header
  • DB25 external connector
  • supported by Linux (!)
  • A-Max II driver (gvpscsi.amhd)
One of the things I've always loved about GVP's hardware is, actually, their software. The software/driver side is as good or better than Commodore made for their own kits.

Also, it can go all the way to a staggering 8MB of RAM. For the 1990 timeframe, 8MB for an Amiga HDD expansion option was fan-freaking-tastic. The A2000 had some GVP products that provided more, but most folks never tapped into those godly RAM numbers even if they had it all. 8MB, even in 2020, is the sweet spot for the vast majority of Amigas still in commission, let's be honest.

Anyhoo, I plan on testing them both out here in the near future with my Chickenlips A500. Which one is your favorite (if you ever owned one, or both)? They both look great, although the GVP option almost looks more Commodore-y to me than the Commodore option. It certainly pays deeper respect to the case angles. I do like the look of both, though, while the 8MB siren call of the HD8+ is very strong and hard to ignore.

The hardest part of all of this today is just figuring out the desk logistics, ya know?

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Detroit, MI, USA

Posted Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:32 am

Shuttlecraft is a good comparison. As I've said before, best investment I ever made for any of my classic systems. I'm still proudest of my MT-32 for the DOS computer, but my GVP has still given me the most enjoyment. I had to think on it for a long time, as I do for any old hardware; I don't get jealous of those with limitless hardware, I nearly gag at the hoarding. So for myself I've got to wonder about it, research it heavily, and then forget about it. If after a year I'm still wanting it, that's when I get it.

I wanted that GVP drive. And it cost a pretty penny, it was not shipped the greatest, came to me chipped and missing some screws... But still the best thing I ever did for my love of the Amiga. 8mb of RAM, of which I actually do use quite frequently, transferring zip and lha files of 5-7 mbs regularly to the RAM disk for speed. Installing games to that sucker, but the original way, leaving room for my continued love of floppies by not going the WHD way.

Pimping out my Workbench and making it a wonderful go-to environment on startup. I looked into several of them, including a 590 and many others. The GVP had some of those extras and simply looked the best. I'm deathly afraid of making the old computers look as if they're on life support, connected to all kinds of crap, and the GVP looked as if it belonged...Well other than a yellowing that no matter how much I clean it can never quite match my 500's color. It still hulks the thing out, I had it suspended off a small table for years because there was not enough room for the thing. But now its quite at home on a wooden desk.

What someone liked the most will certainly be whatever they happened to choose provided it didn't have horror stories. The vast majority of Amiga owners, even in the United States, simply never got a hard drive, it was a major investment. GVP made more money than Commodore not because they sold as much, but because enough lovers of the machine saw the benefits of paying the cost of another computer to them. Can't imagine all that many had multiple hard drives from multiple manufactures. You love what you chose. As long as they do their job and don't look too terrible while doing it, then I could not recommend a hard drive to those 500 owners more. They make up most of the Amiga market and would also have the smallest chances of a hard drive, and probably the least desire for one if they're just in it for games... But never could I see somebody regretting the purchase of a hard drive, even an expensive one, for their Amiga.

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Zippy Zapp

Posted Sat Aug 01, 2020 9:10 pm

The GVP for sure looks better to me. I had a Supra Drive 500XP when I had my 500 and it was also on the somewhat plain side. GVP hit the nail on the head with the design. That said GVP had an annoying habit of using non-standard RAM modules that cost a lot more than the comparable standard RAM module. But that isn't an issue now.

Cool write up. Keep them coming, I enjoy reading the look back at this type of tech.
Last edited by Zippy Zapp on Mon Aug 03, 2020 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Posted Mon Aug 03, 2020 8:22 am

I enjoy this topic and was pleased to see this come up on Amiga Love.. Shot97 nice commentary I enjoyed that. Few things come to mind..

I agree the GVP is more visually appealing than the A590. That said for some odd reason I have learned to enjoy the "less appealing" look of the A590. In fact as of today I prefer it. Actually the Star Trek shuttle craft reference above pushed me further that way. I have the GVP but I have not been able to make it function so maybe that's why I sway that way today. I just love the retro ugly vibe of the A590 now for some reason. Its like that ugly mut of a dog you found along the road but was so loyal and the best dog you ever had. Me being a mut myself can relate.

In regards to build.. I feel the build quality of the A590 is much "sturdier" than the GVP as well especially when you take it apart.

Specs.. Always learning and Intrinsic posted about AMAX and simultaneous use of the IDE with SCSI. so now I have new things to investigate. In regards to ROMS.. I upgraded mine to the 7.0 and it did in fact work with a 4gb hard drive but I had frequent guru issues. Now it could have been the hard drives themselves so take this with grain of salt but I found going back to around a 500mb quantum drive seems to be just more stable. 500mb plenty for my 1.3 setup.

RAM - GVP has it A590 bested here but my 2mb along with the ICD I have in trap door get me to like 4mb or something and I have the 1mb chip ram MOD going so pretty good.

SCSI - both have this but I note that after some pain I was able to make a Iomega ZIP run off the SCSI port on the A590. I use for extra storage and I backup my hard drive using quarterback.

WHDLoad.. I love WHDLOAD and any game I can work off regular hard drive install or via WHDLOAD is preferred. Now on a 1.3 setup without a 68030 or something doesn't run WHDLOAD or so I thought. BUT I encourage anyone who cares to try a no longer supported program called "JST" that will run a good amount of WHDLOAD slaves (this deserves a write up in itself). MOST of the games I care about at this stage run either JST or traditional hard drive install.. Just a few that have to have floppy (TV Sports Football and Deuterous for example).. I do pair the drive with a supra turbo 28mhz accelerator (also ugly and on the side) with a disable switch so your mileage may vary compared to mine. Seriously check out JST folks...

I attached a picture of my WB 1.3 setup. I made my first icon to try and look like the A590. You guys like it? be honest.. Please make improvements and share if you like.. I was wondering how I could make 3D or top down view..

Your right Shot.. Desk space is a mother with this stuff hanging off the side...

Now I need a Star Trek shuttle craft to set on top! How about an AT-AT walker? Nah not really.... So cool...

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Posted Mon Jan 31, 2022 6:53 pm

I just picked up one of these for my 500 but no manual or driver disk. Any place they might be archived I can get them?

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Seattle, WA, USA

Posted Mon Jan 31, 2022 7:53 pm

@sundance do you mean the A590 or the GVP A500-HD+?

You can find the installation disks for each via the links above.

Also, a quick Google search pulled up both manuals as well.

Here is the A590 manual. I had to download and move the GVP manual here, as the link was buried under 3 levels of... click crap.

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