Adventures With My Old Amiga 1200

Normally I post about current Part12 Studios news and this is a slight departure from that, sharing some exciting news about the salvaging of old work to be brought to our modern era of technology.  Before I did video games, I was a musician.  You can get a good taste of the kind of stuff i was doing roughly through a good portion of the 90’s and 00’s.  I was part of a group we called New Atlantis Sound House which explored everything from noise to soundtracks and lots of other stuff.  Eventually I moved to music for games and over time decided to move into game development.

So I’ve been around technology for awhile.  My first computing experiences started in late high school with my Amiga 500 starting roughly around 1990.  I’d dabbled with a sinclair 1000 before that in the 4th grade, but it was not exactly a joy to type using microwave style buttons for a keyboard.  Thanks to my pal, Russ Hofer, he blew my mind back in the day with what games could play on the Amiga.  Games like Awesome, James Pond 2 and Out of this World …  blew my mind.  Not to mention the Demo scene like Enigma and Burning Chrome…   Sadly these videos while capturing the spirit of the videos, don’t do the demos justice because when you saw them live you were seeing 60fps video.. flawless and smooth.  You just had to be there to get the full effect.

I was an avid NES player working on games like Ninja Gaiden by contrast to what I was seeing coming from the Amiga or even playing games on the Apple 2e like Wasteland and even my experience of that was monochrome green. So it was clear that I needed to get into this hardware and AmigaDOS.

So yea I was a die hard Amiga fan and user through most of the 90’s even when other friends were (understandably) ditching the amiga for PC’s.  I did a lot of music and other creative things with my Amiga throughout my military years when another good friend Tracy Peterson gave me his Amiga 1200 in circa 1994.  I wore that thing out but it kept on going.  I still have it and a lot of work that remains on it.  This was unfortunate because even though I did keep it in my music studio making it a midi instrument instead of a midi sequencer.  I had used my trusty old GVP DSS8 sampler for recording sounds.  Amiga with its cutting edge 4 voice 8 bit sound chip I was able to mix midi and samples together.   However i’d managed to accumulate a lot of samples on the amiga’s massive 300mb hard drive which still has a lot of room left on it, that I couldn’t get off.

Along came a program I managed to get working (i’ve long since forgotten much of what Amiga smarts I had) called MutliDOS, a program that allowed the amigas unique 880kb floppy drive to read PC formwated 720kb disks effectively letting me transfer files back and forth albeit, small ones, but most, like virtually all, of the files i care about should all be under 720kb.

Now this would have been done years ago, but at some point both my internal and external 3.5″ drives seemed to malfunction preventing MultiDOS from doing it’s job.  I bought a Flash Card reader from Ebay thinking this would work, but it didn’t and my faded Amiga chops left me pretty much certain that I’d never be able to get it to work without some serious guru help which is pretty much all but gone other than some distant forums which are good, but my amiga was plagued with other quirks from my constant tweaking and customizing.

So I decided to look to Ebay and see what I could find.  I decided that since neither of my drives would form, I see about replacing the drive.  This was tough to find and what i could find looked pretty pricy..  $100 or so for just a drive.  I shopped around and found an external hard drive for the Amiga 1000, that would still work with the 1200 so I decided to shoot for that.  It came to about $70 with shipping.  I didn’t know if this would really work, but I had to do something.  Thankfully it did!  The new drive works and will format drives.  It responded to the MultiDOS Mout All command and now I can read/write!

The biggest archive of things I wanted to salvage were the vast audio samples I had taken over the years.  Sure they are gritty, old and 8bit, but it’s nostalgic and I know I’ll find ways to incorporate those sounds into future music.  The other big thing I wanted to salvage is various short stories and dream journals I had kept using Prowrite.  I haven’t found an elegant way to deal with this, however MS Office for Mac does a decent job of opening the data and other than some font chatter and a few odd characters, most of the documents to seem in good shape, with a little cleaning up.

For audio conversion, I found a nice online service that does AIFF amiga audio format conversion to wav and keeps the sample rate integrity in tact.  http://www.online-convert.com/ they do much more than AIFF, but I found that one service to definitely work well.  I was dabbling with Sound Forge, which would open the file, but required I tell it what sample rate, which varied tremendously from sample to sample.

I’m happy to say my amiga is rigged up to my current music studio, but it’s great to know that I am now able to also migrate raw data files from that aging machine and if that nearly 17 year old hard drive decided to die (and I wouldn’t blame it) some personal history and good materials and ideas to draw from would be gone forever.

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About Caleb

Game Producer at Part12 Studios here in greater Boston area. Caleb loves game design and the execution of game development. He is also a semi-serious old school skater and a married father of two wonderful boys.