My second Amiga 1200
Way back in 2008 I bought a second Amiga 1200 on a online auction site. This Amiga came in a D-BOX 1200 tower case by Elbox, and I decided to move all my A1200 gear (Apollo 1240, Mediator, PCI cards etc.) into it. This was because I had up to then been using a modified ATX case, which I wasn't quite satisfied with due to the rather noobish DIY job done on it. After moving everything into the D-BOX, I then had an extra A1200 motherboard + some other parts that I had to figure out what to do with.
So in late 2009 I started working on a custom case for it, where my original plan was to create a simple WHDLoad games system, that was meant to be hooked up to my main TV. While doing this, I also purchased some parts for the project, which included a Hawk 4MB RAM expansion, a slimline optical drive, some Compact Flash cards, and a couple of IDE-CF adapters. As for the floppy drive, I already had a standard PC one + a Kylwalda adapter. I also bought a PCMCIA-CF adapter to be used for transferring files to/from the Amiga.
The case I created was actually my "secret" little project at work, where I used any spare time working on it (if there was nothing else to do). It was made of 3mm aluminium plates (2mm would have been better, but I only had access to 3mm), and all work was done by myself (cutting, bending, welding, grinding, etc.). In total I used approximately one year on this project. After it was done, I brought the cabinet home, and installed all components into it. But since I really didn't had the time to finish it properly, it was put to storage in the end. During the years that followed, I took this Amiga out and did some more work on it every now and then, and I also bought some new parts for it as well. This included a Mini ITX power supply, a Subway USB card, and a Indivision AGA MK2 board (but only the psu was actually mounted). I also replaced the Hawk memory card with my old Apollo 1240/25 accelerator.
A few years went by with this Amiga still in storage, but finally in the summer of 2015 I decided that it was high time to finish the project. And this process can be seen in the pictures below. I would also like to mention that I took a few pictures while actually creating the case as well, but unfortunately it seems like I cannot find those photos anywhere.
Finalizing the Amiga 1200 case
As with most DIY projects, there are just bound to be a couple of fails involved, and my A1200 case is no exception. So here is Fail #1 explained: After cutting all the required holes in the front plate (for the floppy, optical & CF drives + LEDs), I marked where the six screw holes should be. Since there was quite a bit of welding to do on the back of the plate (bays, spacers etc.), I made sure to clamp it down tightly to a thick steel plate first. Otherwise, the heat from the welding would have caused the front plate to warp like crazy. Several clamps were used, which turned out to be successful since the end result was almost no warping at all. But what I didn't think of however, was that all the heat caused the plate to shrink a bit. This in turn meant that the placements of the screw hole markings had now changed. Unaware of this, I drilled the six holes and then made M4 threads in them, and the end result can be seen in Pic 2 & 3 below. Upon making the extra connector holes in the case (described further down), I also used a small round file on the two holes in front so that screws could easily pass through them.
Pic 1: The underside of the case lid. Pic 2: It sure looks a bit messy inside the case. Pic 3: The power supply used. Pic 4: An IDE-Fix 97 card connected to the harddisk port of the A1200, this splitter makes it possible to use up to 4 IDE devices. At the time I had a dual IDE-CF adapter with 2 x 2GB CF cards connected to Port 0, and a front panel IDE-CF adapter + optical drive connected to Port 1.
Pic 1: The PC-Key 1200 adapter by Elbox (makes it possible to use PC keyboards). Pic 2: Terminal blocks used to connect wires from the PSU to the (chopped off) Amiga power cable. Pic 3: Only the PSU left in the case now. Pic 4: The standard A1200 LED board mounted behind the front plate. This picture also better shows some of my welding work, and as you can see, I had to add a spacer for the LED board. Another thing is that I added some small plate bits for the screw holes, this was to give them 6mm of threads instead of just 3mm (making things more robust).
Now that the case was empty, it was time to start modifying it a little. Since I wanted to add a Subway card to this Amiga, I had to create a hole for some USB connectors at the back. Instead of using the standard ones included with the Subway, I bought a dual connector on Ebay instead (making things a bit easier).
I also wanted a single USB connector above the PCMCIA slot as well, and this one was also bought on Ebay. In case you are wondering about how I do stuff like this, here is a short explenation: First I start measuring the connector, and then write down this info on paper. The most important values here are the distance between the two screw holes, and the width & height of the actual connector. Then I find the center where I want the main hole to be, and draw a horizontal line with the help of a ruler. Next I mark the locations for the screw holes by measuring from the center, and then draw a rough outline of what the middle hole should look like, I also make some quick dots inside the square (for where to start drilling). After this is done, I use a hammer and a center punch on the dots, which makes some dimples that prevents the drill from "wandering off". But before doing this however, it's best to have something solid on the other side. So I place the side of the case on the corner of a table, with a piece of wood between.
With the dimples in place, it's time to start drilling the holes. Here I like to start off with a small drill first (2 - 3 mm), and then use larger ones later, this is because it helps keeping the drills in the intended center. For the screw holes I stop at 3mm (since M3 screws are used), and gradually use larger ones for the rest, until I can simply rip out the remains with a pair of pliers. Then I remove what's left in the edges by using my "Dremel", and give a final touch with the help of some small files I have (making sure that there's no sharp edges). I also use a countersink on the screw holes. As for the final result, you may notice that the left screw isn't entirely in center, but I do think I'll survive this :-)
Another thing I can mention is the hole for the PCMCIA port, which actually was Fail #2: I did the mistake of just measuring the actual height of this port, without taking into consideration that it would be higher up once the A1200 motherboard was placed inside the case, and this in turn meant that the hole was too small. Since I didn't have my "Dremel" back then, I borrowed a file from work the next day, and spent an evening with frantic filing until the hole was twice as high.
Pic 1: There was still one more modification to do, and that was to make a hole for the DVI connector. I had earlier created a couple of D-SUB like holes, so it was just a matter of making one of them a bit wider. But here I stumbled across a problem: Due to the thickness of the case, the standoff on each side of the connector would protrude too much - thus making it impossible to properly connect a cable. A feeble attempt of reducing the thickness was made by using a countersink, but this turned out to be not enough, so another solution was required. After a bit of research, it turned out that I needed a couple of 4-40 screws to be used instead, so I ordered a pack of 25 from Ebay. Someone was selling packs with 50 screws for only 1 USD more, but I figured that 23 reduntant screws was enough. After they arrived, I found this solution to work much better. Pic 2: Now it was time to remove the spacers at the bottom of the case, and give it a really good cleaning. Pic 3 & 4: The next day I took the case out and spray painted it black, and then I took it inside for it to dry up (lots of birds and stuff outside). Several layers of paint were applied before I was satisfied.
Pic 1: With the paint job done, I started putting everything together again. The first thing I did was to place the motherboard into the case, and draw some lines where the accelerator should go. This was because I had to add some insulation to the bottom, and the lines would give an indication of exactly where to put this. Some 5 cm wide electrical tape was bought for this exact purpose. Pic 2: The two middle spacers, which brings us to Fail # 3: Although putting the A1200 motherboard directly to the bottom of the case worked fine while using the Hawk expansion, the Apollo accelerator was a different story. Because here it would put some strain on the connector, which caused the Apollo to tilt a bit upwards, thus leading to an unstable Amiga. The solution was to use some small metal plates as spacers in order to elevate the motherboard a little, but this again lead to a problem with the PCMCIA hole not being high enough. So a compromise was made, where plates of different thicknesses was used, which in turn causes the A1200 to now be in a slightly tilted position. Not an ideal solution, but it does work. Pic 3 & 4: A closer look at the SkyHigh Tech SH-7030 power supply mounted on a custom holder. It takes 12V DC as input, and is used together with an external 220V AC - 12V DC converter.
Pic 1 & 2: Here's after inserting the power supply + motherboard spacers, and applying the electrical tape. It later turned out that I had to cut some tape away from the location of the expansion connector, since this caused the Apollo to tilt upwards. Pic 3: Now it was time to add some extras to the A1200 motherboard. First I placed it on a flat surface and inserted the Indivision AGA MK2 board over the Lisa chip, then I added the Subway USB controller to the clock port. While doing this, I took my time and carefully read the included documentation, because I really didn't want to mess things up here. I was not sure if the yellow ground cable is needed by the Indi, but I decided to use it anyway.
Pic 1 - 3: Then it was time to put the motherboard back into the case. Here it really helped with all the pictures I had taken earlier, which shows where various stuff is meant to go. Pic 4: The backside of my Amiga 1200 has the following extras (from left to right): Power input + a simple power swith underneath, DVI connector attached with 4-40 screws, keyboard connector, screw holding the Indi ground cable (inside), dual USB inputs, a "just in case" hole, and finally the cable that powers the motherboard. NB! Yes I know, my table was a real mess here :-)
Pic 1: With the left side USB connector, I decided to use some black plastic screws since I thought this would look better. Pic 2 & 3: Now it was time to hook up the A1200 to my TV for a quick test, where I used one of its HDMI inputs (via adapter). Pic 4: Fortunately everything worked fine, and my old AmigaOS 3.1 install booted up. Next up was installing the front plate with the drives.
Pic 1 & 2: Some years ago I purchased a RGB - S-Video adapter from AmigaManiac, and due to the time it took for him to send it, I also got this PC floppy drive adapter as an extra free bonus. My plan was to use this device with my A1200, but unfortunately I couldn't get it to work. The reason for this might be compatibility issues with either the PC floppy drive or my Escom era Amiga. Pic 3: This in turn meant that I had to continue using my good old Kylwalda adapter instead. I had also bought a new shorter floppy cable, but could not get this to work either, so it was back to using the old loong one.
While doing the final work on this A1200, I wanted to replace one of the 2GB Compact Flash cards with a 8GB one, but no matter what I did, I could not get it to work.properly. I tried several 8GB cards, both as stand-alone and together with the other 2GB card, but to no avail. One of them kinda worked though, but it still had some issues with IDEfix (patched). So I finally gave up, and decided to continue using the dual 2GB setup for the time being. Another thing is that I dropped using the front side CF adapter, since it really was impossible getting it to co-exist with the optical drive (only one of them could be recognized by the system).
Other than that, my Amiga seemed to work just fine, so I tucked all cables into the case, made sure that the dual CF card adapter was securely placed in a plastic bag (for insulation), and finally closed the lid. Then I put it on my desk with a monitor on top.
Seven months later
Although this really isn't my primary Amiga, it has worked just fine whenever it has been used. But I quickly discovered however, that nothing can be attached to the floppy drive power connector on the motherboard, since this makes the Apollo 1240 somewhat unstable. I also had to disconnect the DVD drive, because the Amiga would sometimes refuse to boot properly with it in use. My theory is that it's due to power issues, since things worked just fine before adding the Subway and Indivision AGA MK2 boards. I guess the extra hardware quite simply was too much for the PSU. Regarding the Indivision, I also had to configure its settings so that the aspect ratio would look correct on my display. You can read more about this on the Indivision AGA MK2 - Forcing 4:3 modes page.
As for the software, it boots straight into my custom AmigaOS 3.1 setup, but I have also installed OS 3.9 as well. My plan is to make it possible to choose between them by pressing a key upon booting (like I have done with my A600). Other than that, I have installed a lot of WHDLoad games.
What to do in the future
I'm not entirely pleased with my Amiga quite yet, so there are still some things to do in the future. This includes the following:
• Buy six black washers for the screws located in the front of the case (things look a bit ugly at the moment).
• Try using the front CF card adapter with a 4 or 8 GB card instead of the dual one inside the case. This will allow me to easily swap cards to boot from, which can be useful for just testing stuff.
• Replace the DVD drive with an older CD-ROM drive, since I think it will use less power. Here I will buy a really old one in the hope that it's hard-coded to be Slave instead of Cable Select. If this attempt fails, I will find something else to put in the CD bay instead.
• Clean up the cable mess that's currently in the case. This involves buying shorter IDE and floppy drive cables, and removing all reduntant power cables (like chopping off wires from the PSU that's not needed).
• Drill some holes in the bottom of the case for better ventilation (where the Apollo 1240 sits).
• Maybe replace the floppy drive with a Gotek.
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