IN THE BEGINNING
In October of 2017 I found a really nice accelerator card on Ebay for my stock Amiga 1000 - the Blizzard Turbo Memory Board. My original thought was I would install it into my 1000 and lose the side-car RAM expansions to regain some valuable desk space. Plus - 8MB? That’s gobs for the work I personally do on my Amigas. It was originally designed for the Amiga 500 or 2000 and additionally gave a modest speed boost of 14 Mhz. From my personal experience, 7 Mhz is plenty for the vast majority of Amiga games and software. However in some rare cases 14, 25 or even 40 Mhz can greatly improve the user experience with some math-intensive games and software. This little board seemed the perfect fit for my 1000’s needs.
I then got to talking to the seller on Ebay who was based in Australia. After a short amount of time I came to learn that he had in his possession an ultra-rare Phoenix board, too. Within a few days, money was exchanged and the Phoenix began its long journey from Australia to Seattle, Washington. What’s a Phoenix board?
I found an old Usenet posting that explains what it is and why it came to be better than I can. I’ve retyped it here for improved formatting on modern displays.
Usenet posting from Nov, 1989, on comp.sys.amiga.tech, which was being passed around various Amiga boards at the time.
At the time, it was deemed a desperate situation to keep the machine relevant, not some retro hardware to be cherished as-is. Today, of course, it’s a completely different situation.********* **** **** ****** ******** ****** **** ***** **** ****
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The Replacement MotherBoard for the Amiga 1000
Commodore have been working on the Enhanced Chip Set (ECS) for months now. You must have heard about it. One megabyte of chip RAM, Blitter operations of up to 32x32K (a 1024 times improvement), a PRODUCTIVITY mode of 512 lines (400 NTSC) non-interlaced, a SUPER-HIRES mode of up to 1280 pixels across the screen on a standard monitor. The software (KickStart 1.4) and hardware to make all this possible is soon to be released. Fantastic, right?
Commodore have now made it official that the Amiga 1000 has been dropped.
The ECS will not work in the 1000. A500/A2000 only. YOU know the 1000 is a great machine, I know the 1000 is a great machine, but Commodore?
So now you are considering your options. One megabyte of chip RAM means you can now run your drawing program in the 640x512 16 colour mode, and still have the undo and alternate page options available to you. 32x32K blits means faster operations in graphics programs, games, and any operations that make use of the Blitter. And the only way all this is possible is if you sell your old, faithful 1000, and buy a 500 or a 2000.
Andrew Wilson, the original developer of the popular Proton memory boards, now making the even more popular 8-meg memory board, has a design plan for a REPLACEMENT Amiga 1000 MotherBoard.
The PHOENIX BOARD will include :
- FULL SUPPORT for the ECS Chip Set.
- The ability to use your existing expansion connector peripherals.
- Up to 2 Megabytes of switchable RAM on the main board.
- Up to 10 megabytes of INTERNAL, switchable auto-configuring RAM using an 8 Meg daughterboard.
- INTERNAL Real Time Clock and Calendar (500/2000 compatible).
- Provision for up to three INTERNAL KickStart ROMs, allowing SWITCHING between KickStart 1.2, 1.3 and 1.4, including provision for INTERNAL KickStart EPROMs allowing customised KickStarts.
- INTERNAL Disk Drive Connector allowing internal fitting of DF1:, DF2:, and DF3: (if fitted in a larger case.)
- Drive swap switch to allow booting off other disk drives.
- A500/2000 style switchable Audio Filter.
- INTERNAL space for a 68881 maths coprocessor.
- FULL B2000 style VIDEO SLOT.
- One Amiga 2000 slot, allowing an 2000 board to be plugged in, or a 2000 type multi-slot backplane to be used. (Only in a bigger case)
- Provision for a SCSI Port for Hard Disk, CD ROM etc.
- BOARD FULLY SOCKETED.
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OTHER FEATURES THAT WILL BE INCLUDED TIME AND SPACE PERMITTING
If you have other features that you think should be included, please write them down and send to the address below. We will not be able to put much more on the board but simple, useful things will be of benefit to all. The expected price of the PHOENIX BOARD is $600 with 1 Meg of RAM. The board will also be available bare if possible. A trade-in on the old A1000 is also a possibility. The A1000 chips such as the 68000 processor, Denise and Paula custom chips and CIAs will be reused to reduce costs, all other chips will be supplied.
- Support for 68020/030 and 32 bit RAM/ROM.
- KickStart in RAM as per existing 1000.
The PHOENIX BOARD will be a complete drop in replacement for the existing motherboard and will enable you to continue to use your existing external hardware. We will maintain the position of the 68000 chip in relation to the case internal fittings so that internal memory boards should still work but actually trying these will depend on their availability to us. The advantage of retaining the A1000's keyboard, power supply and mouse will be apparent to all who have compared theirs to the 500/2000 setup. There is a possibility of a local installation point in each state, so you will be without your computer for the least possible time if you do not feel confident to install the board yourself. We welcome inquiries from suitably skilled individuals or organisations to do this work. The PHOENIX Board will suit all model Amiga 1000s, not just the NTSC versions, and is a local, AUSTRALIAN MADE product.
There is one hitch. Andrew Wilson currently has over twenty products in development, including an Audio/Video Digitiser, Colour Splitter, FAX Board for the Amiga, SCSI Board, 68020/68881 Board, A500 Internal 2 Meg board, and a Board allowing Workbench in ROM. As well as all this, he is also struggling to keep up with the demand for his 8 megabyte memory boards, hard drives, and other products. At present, Andrew is doing all the work himself, and as a result, development has a low priority. Of course, the PHOENIX BOARD is on the top of the list, but if present trends continue, it could never eventuate. That's why we need YOUR help.
We have formed a company, SPANDUCT PTY. LTD., soon to be renamed PHOENIX MICRO TECHNOLOGIES PTY. LTD., that will employ people to assemble, test and market Andrew's present products, leaving Andrew to work on development. The first project of the company will be the PHOENIX BOARD. Development time for the PHOENIX BOARD is expected to be three to four weeks from commencement. If you would seriously be interested in investing in the PHOENIX BOARD, and increasing the potential of your Amiga 1000 to beyond that of even the Amiga 2000, please consider helping us.
Place a $100 deposit on the board with us, and in less than three months, you could have a new computer sitting on your desk. Of course, if enough people do not place this deposit with us, the board will never eventuate, and the A1000 will fade into insignificance. People placing deposits with the company will receive a 20 percent discount on the price of their PHOENIX BOARD. Orders will be filled in the order in which they are received, ie first come first served. A closing date for deposits has been set at the 30th of November 1989 at which time we will be able to assess demand and make a decision on the viability of continuing with the project. All deposits will be refunded if, due to lack of response, we do not go ahead with the PHOENIX BOARD project. Once work has started no refunds will be possible.
The sooner you place your deposit, the sooner it will all happen.
Please consider helping us. You will really be helping yourself.
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Page 3 was simply contact information for mailing one’s deposit to the Phoenix team. And this note:
TO ENSURE THAT THE AMIGA 1000 SURVIVES INTO THE NEXT DECADE, PLEASE CONSIDER THE ABOVE PROPOSITION. AND PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THIS DOCUMENT AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.
But in 1990 the project was indeed funded. It is difficult to determine how many boards were actually created and sold, but I think it is below 200 total units. Advertising for the boards (and additional further refinements) continued in the USA until 1992. After that, these boards became highly collectible rarities.
From an Ad that was promoted in the USA in 1992:
So the price increased from the original crowd-funded price in November, 1989, of $600 to $850.A1000 UPGRADE
by Phoenix Microtechnologies
Within minutes transform your A1000 into a powerful new Amiga and eliminate compatibility problems forever! Introducing the Phoenix A1000 replacement motherboard.
- 2Mb RAM on board configured as 2Mb Chip RAM. Uses the same 8372B 2meg Agnus chip as the Amiga 3000
- SCSI controller on board supports Rigid Disk Block system
- Mounting kit for hard drive included
- Can be utilized as a complete stand-alone computer
- Multiple switch-selectable Kickstart ROMs (v1.3 supplied. Fully 2.0 compatible)
- Select external drive as DF0
- A2000 video slot and expansion slot
- 8373 new ECS Super Denise upgrade available for a few dollars more
- 8MB internal Phoenix RAM expansion (optional)
- Easy solderless installation
- 68881/68882 math co-processor socket
- User your original A1000 peripherals
- Send for complete literature and specifications
- 12 month warranty
I received the motherboard from Australia in November, 2017 as a pile of parts. Now that I had this interesting bit of Amiga history in my hands, I needed to see if I could actually get it working.
In the box I received the motherboard fully populated with original chips, the front and back plastic case plates and a CPU relocation board (broken). I also received the original manual - an invaluable document I thoroughly used and continue to reference.
Luckily I had a spare Amiga 1000 case, PSU and keyboard waiting to be used. There was no removing of a good Amiga 1000 motherboard for this project. The original Amiga 1000’s motherboard had previously been dead for years and removed to an anti-static bag for chip preservation.
One of the most unique characteristics about his motherboard - beyond all of the techie goodness - is the heady and artsy bent Andrew Wilson applied to it. Beyond etching his own signature on the board like his Amiga mentors before him did to the underside of the Amiga 1000’s top case, he went a step further and had the entire poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann printed on the motherboard in two separate sections. Desiderata means "desired things" in Latin. TRIVIA
The poem was written in 1948 by Max Ehrmann.
However, as stated in Wikipedia:
Under the poem on the motherboard, it says - incorrectly - “Found on a church pew in Old Saint Paul’s Church, Baltimore ; Dated 1692."In 1956, the Reverend Frederick Kates, rector of Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore, Maryland, included Desiderata in a compilation of devotional materials for his congregation. The compilation included the church's foundation date: "Old Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore AD 1692". Consequently, the date of the text's authorship was (and still is) widely mistaken as 1692, the year of the church's foundation.
When I first installed the Phoenix into its new case and flipped on the power, I got a flashing green monitor and blinking LED power light. I mashed all the chips back in with my fingers and the power off. Twice. Many creaked and popped after the travel from AUS. On the second attempt, the LED light stayed solid!
But then no video.
I removed the floppy drive to reseat the KS ROM, but simply removing the floppy made the machine snap to life! The drive appeared to be grounding out the MB. But I was so stoked to get it working! There is one oddity where the screen won’t stretch entirely to fill my monitor. I also couldn’t get it to work with a 1080; it made the monitor vertically flip over and over without stopping. But the 1084S was able to display the picture just fine. I also noticed that my original FDD is too tall for this motherboard. Due to the location of the KickStart ROMs being directly below the floppy drive, and the Amiga 1000’s FDD drive is simply the tallest out of any Amiga ever made. it’s at least 1.5-2 centimeters higher than an internal FDD from an Amiga 2000 or 500. So it not only presses the KS ROMs (which makes the motherboard not power up) but the rotating motor below the FDD can’t spin because of the contact, too. So, a near-term future project will to remove the A1000 FDD from the housing bracket (and save it for my fully restored and stock 1000) and put in a new shorter FDD from a 500 or 2000.
I moved the machine off the floor where I was originally working and up to my desk. After doing that, the floppy stopped working again. No matter what I did I could not get the floppy to work. It was receiving power, but it simply would not read any disks. Fearing I’d somehow shorted out the drive somehow, I swapped it with a spare FDD that I salvaged from a spare parts 2000 machine. Incredibly to my surprise, I got the same results. You know that sinking feeling you get when you’re working on a hardware project and you don’t even know where to start? Yeah - that was where I was at. After ensuring the chips were reseated (for the third time) and testing them all to see if any became hot to the touch (they didn’t) I was at my wits end. Had I somehow shorted out a critical component on the motherboard? Or the floppy drive? Running out of ideas, I swapped the FDD’s controller cable. Still nothing.
Then I noticed that where the FDD’s ribbon cable connects to the motherboard there was a small homemade wire that lead to a custom switch on the back of the case. I was never informed what this switch might be for and it wasn’t immediately obvious. But out of blind desperation I flipped it and turned on the machine.
The floppy drive sprang back to life instantly!
After contacting the original owner, I learned that this switch is to flip between the internal/external floppy boot....If you use the internal floppy bay for a CD drive (for example) then you can use an external drive as an internal - like with the CDTV! I’ll probably never do that, but holy crap that’s really amazing. And whew! I’m so glad I figured out what was wrong. NEXT UP
First I need to get the FDD sorted out (I did, see here for that project). This means hacking a smaller drive into the bracket to gain back much-needed clearance. It will also mean I’ll need to solder the LED light on after I figure out the floppy swap-a-roo. I am leaning towards using a refurbished Amiga 500 drive.
Once that’s done I should be able to button everything back up again. After that I’ll be looking into installing the SCSI2SD card and getting some hard drives going (I did this, too - see here)! And then installing WB 1.3 to the HDD. And playing some games! I think I’ll finally play a couple PAL games that always gave me trouble in the past. Those days are over!
Installing a new floppy drive that fits within the case properly (required modding the bracket)
Installing an internal scsi hdd of the scsi2sd variety (256mb)