A couple of years ago I made some videos where I showed my favorite Amiga 1000 setup at that time. It had two main hardware super powers that made it my daily driver.
First, a fly-by of a glorious Rejuvenator board, designed by the late Greg Tibbs out of Ohio (RIP Greg). A local good friend of mine here in Seattle named Christian Stich helped me upgrade that board to utilize a rare A3000 Agnus I found that can use 2MB of Chip RAM, which he custom built adapters for it to use. It also has a Kickstart 1.3 ROM chip to accelerate the boot up process and lose the typical Kickstart floppy.
Christian here is removing the old DRAMs, which were eight 256Kx4 in DIP format. He then installed four custom 1Mx4 in SOJ format DRAMs with an adapter board that converts them to DIP format.
The second thing was a hardware combo where I used a Microbotics Starboard expansion made back in 1987 that provided both extra fast RAM (in this case 1Mb), a real-time clock, and a SCSI module called the StarDrive which allowed me to use an Iomega SCSI Zip as an external 100 MB hard drive. It used a custom Workbench boot disk that would pass control from the floppy over to the Zip drive and essentially turn the Zip into a semi-autobooting hard drive, which was a total game changer for that system. For all intents and purposes, that Amiga 1000 became one of my favorite, most treasured systems in my entire Amiga collection.
A1000 equipped Starboard with SCSI Zip 100 as a hard drive
Fast-forward to today, as I made the difficult decision to remove the Starboard and Zip drive and replace it with a brand new device called the Amiga Parceiro. (Parceiro in Portuguese means “partner”.) So it’s the Friend Partner.
The Amiga Parceiro was invented over the course of the past year by an Amiga hobbyist named David Dunklee who resides in a small town outside of Colorado Springs, CO.
As Dunklee puts it:
Fun Trivia: Mr Dunklee, now retired, was the CIO of the United States Space Force, as well as an Air Force base commander. You heard that right, Number One.
So let’s take a look at Mr. Dunklee’s new device for the Amiga 1000 and see what it can do.
At a high level, the Parceiro can do everything my Starboard & Zip combo could do except in a very tidy, modern package. And it can do it all faster and better.
The Parceiro (sounds like par-say-ro) attaches to the side expansion port of the Amiga and is about the size of a harmonica that’s been run over by a steam roller as it’s only about 1/3 of an inch thick.
It provides the following features:
- 8MB of Autoconfig Fast RAM. It is a single 8MB of SRAM versus DRAM, so it really and truly is indeed fast with zero wait states.
- Coin-cell battery backed Real Time Clock (RTC), which comes with its own clock software that gets put into your startup sequence.
- SD Card Reader with 2GB MicroSD. It comes pre-formatted with the FAT32 file system and is readable on any PC as a result. This way you can quickly set up your new SD-based hard drive.
It’s worth mentioning that this is running on period correct Amiga OS 1.3, too.
Possibly the best unseen feature is the silkscreen prints Dunklee put around the various chips and resistors on the board. It’s a complete sci-fi treasure trove of labelling, from Back to the Future to Battlestar Galactica.
For his fantastic creativity on the silkscreen, I half-jokingly suggested to Mr. Dunklee a future 3D printed case in clear acrylic so I could totally nerd out with his hilarious labels. And I think he might actually take me up on that idea some day!
The Parceiro comes with instructions for creating your own KickWork disk to quickly boot up your machine and install all of the necessary software to run the device. This includes the necessary updates to your Mountlist, Startup-Sequence, adding fat95 drivers as well as the sd.device drivers.
The KickWork disk idea is based off a product developed in 1988 by Mr. Rudolph Loew (RIP). This is where a Kickstart disk is combined with a stripped down Workbench disk for faster machine boot ups off a single floppy rather than 2.
With the Parceiro, Dunklee provides six pages of detailed instructions for getting you up and running in no time. The idea here is the modified KickWork (or Workbench) disk will begin the machine’s boot up process like normal then hand over total control to the SD card like a full-fledged autobooting hard drive. It’s not 100% autobooting, but it’s pretty danged close. And once the machine fully boots you just pop out the boot floppy disk and set it to the side. Mr Dunklee confided with me that in a distant hardware update he might take the next logical step and integrate an FPGA for a true autobooting experience.
Since my machine is equipped with a Rejuvenator board, I didn’t need a KickWork disk. So I made a customized Workbench boot disk making the necessary adjustments following Mr Dunklee’s instructions for the RTC software, the SD card device driver and adding the FAT file system library.
In the Amiga world, this is about as close to plug-and-play for a device with this many features that I’ve ever come across that doesn’t completely take over your machine and its identity like a Vampire, or some might argue even the ACA500+ (which basically uses the A1000's power to mostly take over). The Parceiro installation was absolutely seamless and I got it up and running without a hitch.
Now some of you might be wondering how long it takes to boot this 2GB equipped Amiga. For example, on my Amiga 2000 I have a 40 MB mechanical boot drive, but I also have a SCSI2SD card with 2GB MicroSD for all of my software and data storage. When that machine boots it can sit on a gray screen for about 20 -25 seconds while the large drive is being validated. Once that process is done the A2K snaps to life and I’m on my way.
With the Parceiro it’s a very different - and better - experience than I’m used to. The Parceiro still needs to validate the empty space on the drive, but instead it does it in the background. So the Amiga 1000 boots up without that normal long pause. While the background validation is going on, the volume is set to READ ONLY. I can still run programs but I simply can’t write to the drive while the validation is going on. To be honest I wouldn’t even know about this had it not been noted in the instructions, as I’m virtually never writing to the drive the moment I boot it up. And within a few seconds the little Cylon red LED light stops flickering and I know then it’s job is complete (which didn’t directly affect me anyway).
Very, very cool!
Now, this device is currently in extremely short supply. In fact, I happened to get S/N #1 and I know S/N #2 was sold a few hours after I got mine. At that stage the inventory was sold out. But several more will eventually get made over time so if you’re an Amiga 1000 fan that means you're patient by default. I’d highly recommend you keep this on your radar and try to snag one of them for yourself. It’s simply bad ass and it didn’t require me to upgrade my OS beyond adding new drivers - or really change anything - like a lot of modern upgrades often do.
The Parceiro is a fantastic device, made in the USA, and is a very worthy successor to the Microbotics and Supra offerings from BITD. It is one of the few modern devices that is 100% designed for the Amiga 1000 for a change. And how cool and refreshing is that?
If you’d like to pre-order one of these little technological marvels for yourself at a nearly 20% discounted rate at $195, simply email [email protected] to declare your interest and mention AmigaLove sent you. You will still need to cover expenses for shipping, of course, but you’ll get in line for your very own Parceiro. David Dunklee will manage the rest from there!