18 October 2006

Amiga Revisited

An old friend, V.M., wrote me a paper letter recently. I know her from the days I helped run the local Amiga computer club in New York. I never met her as she lived in New Mexico. She painted, made animations, crafted 3D models, and composed music, all on the the Amiga computer, of course. She sent the computer club many diskettes containing her works of art and I tried my best to showcase them to the club. By the time I got to know her, the Amiga computer wasn't that hot anymore and not that many people attended the club meetings, but I still plowed on. I asked her for her permission to post her works on the club web site and she agreed, but I never got around to doing the actual work. It's been a few years now since I last had the Amiga 3000 computer powered. In the letter, V.M. waxed nostalgia about the great old days, and I thought of finally bringing my Amiga up and running again. Today, I finally had the chance, with the excuse being my son's wish to play something with the Suncom Tac 50 joystick.

What a pleasant surprise it was that the Amiga still managed to boot up. I am sure in the inside there must be lots of dust bunnies. The floppy drive has no swinging door to cover its gaping mouth. At first it was a bit awkward, but shortly afterward lots of things started to come back to me. Many of the games I have for the Amiga work off 3.5-inch 1.88-MB floppy diskettes, so I had to boot the computer from the floppy drive. Amazingly, I still remember that to get to the boot menu I would have to hold down the two mouse buttons. At the boot menu, select Options, then df0: (dee eff zero colon), that's A: drive for you Windoze crowd, and click boot, or something to that effect. To restart the computer, press Ctrl + Right Amiga + Left Amiga. You better be sure you really want to reboot, because the computer will do so without asking for confirmation. The only keyboard shortcut that I couldn't recall was the one to switch program. I was sure it was Left Amiga + M, but that didn't do it.

FYI, my Amiga 3000 has 8 MB of memory, an 80-MB hard drive (yes, megabytes, NOT gigabytes), and the CPU runs at the blazing speed of 16 MHz or something like that. Its GUI, the Workbench, is modified with MagicWorkbench to show 8-color icons; the default would be just four. The OS is version 3.1 or something in the neighborhood. I still recall the scary moments when I upgraded the chips and put it in the wrong way. Luckily, some helpful posts on Usenet pointed me in the right direction.

It'll be an arduous task to transfer V.M.'s paintings etc. from the Amiga to the PowerBook. The built-in means is the lowly floppy. My Amiga has been outfitted with CrossDOS to read MS-DOS 1.44-MB disks, even though the Amiga natively formats diskettes to 1.88-MB, I think. Its OS is simply leaner than DOS, or even today's Windoze. Anyway, anything leaving the Amiga will have to be via an MS-DOS diskette. From there, I can either use an old PeeCee to read the diskette and transfer the data to a USB flash drive. I can also do that on my old Wall Street PowerBook, as it has an Imation SuperDrive that can double as a slooow floppy drive. Since the SuperDrive isn't that super at reading DOS diskettes, I will stick to the lowly 386 PeeCee. Collect enough pictures in iPhoto and I'll have plenty of options to put the work on the web. For now, I'll most likely use Galerie, but I recently signed up with Google's Picasa Web Album. This may be the perfect opportunity to put Picasa Web Album through its pace.

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