It was rainy day, I was driving my family to some party when I got a call from my friend who told me that there is one Amiga 500 on second-hand market. Something like that never happens in my city. I left my family on parking and start running. There it was, in the middle of the junk, Amiga 500 under heavy rain, dirty. It was so sad to see that. I took it into my hands trying to find a seller. Finally he approached and told me 10Eur. It is mine! Well, he could put any price I would still take it but he didn't know that. Later that day I got home and after some cleaning and drying powered the machine and it started to work without any problems. There is a question I dare to ask. Do you think that your modern phone or PC would be working after 27 years? Think not!
This Amiga 500 was used for creating Vampire 500 as we know it.
Amiga 500 S/N: 2169035 build in 1991.
Two days ago after more than 800 Vampire 500 V2 cards tested this machine finally died.
I was so sad but after brief investigation I found out that only DIP64 socket is broken and that all electrolytic capacitors needs to be replaced. So not huge task you may say but problem was to find original DIP64 socket and I had to use original one because of proper alignment of headers used in Vampire cards. Luckily I had some DIP sockets with different pitch but with same metal connectors inside. So I just took those replacing broken ones inside DIP64 socket.
Capacitors were another story. I live in the place where is very hard to find anything so most of the time you have to order online and patiently wait for 2 months to get the package. Often after so much waiting you realize that you didn't get what you paid for so you have to start all over again. Trick is to think in front what part you will need for some project you will be doing next year.
Over the weekend I found 2 shops in my country who could have what I need. One of them was in my city and another about 100Km away. I woke up early and visited my local shop who was closed at the time they should be working. Right about when I decided to have road trip they showed and sold me capacitors. Yes, they had them. I was lucky and persistent waited for over 2 hours for them to open the store.
Most of the capacitors on the motherboard were nice looking not showing any traces of damage. However measuring revealed that they should be replaced. Over the time capacitance and ESR values changed a lot.
On the left side of the picture above is original capacitor from motherboard rated at 100uF, 16V. Capacitance was lower and ESR value more than two times bigger than it should be. Right side of the picture shows replacement capacitor rated at 100uF, 25V with ESR 0.78OHM like it should be according to shown chart. In total 17 capacitors needed to be replaced.
Purpose of this article was to write down serial number of this Amiga because this is the machine who took so many beatings over past three years. It is the machine who gave us Vampire accelerator and bright future to the Amiga. It still lives and I hope that it will live for next 27 years.
Each Vampire card have its own Unique ID, serial number that is integrated inside chip. For better support and future core updates who will be UID dependent please register your card by filling the form provided HERE.
Thanks to IDVORSKY LABORATORIES from Belgrade, Serbia and our team member CRVENI we were able to enter one of the latest stages of this project. EMC testings on Vampire cards are done in 150 kHz - 30 MHz - 2.7 GHz range in this specialized laboratory funded by EU. Complete test records are available upon authority request.
More pictures in Read More, Pictures, Files... section of this article.
I have informed that there are several people on various places claiming that they will be official sales representatives of the Apollo-team. Yes, there was some discussion about that matter but so far no serious agreement with anyone. So please watch out if someone asks you for money, pre-orders or anything similar. Sales are handled by me and kipper2k and only from APOLLO-ACCELERATORS.COM
March 14, 2017.:::UPDATE: Recently I have send about 10 mails to the people from our list to pay to our manager Sandy and not directly to me and send transaction details with pictures to my mail. This is done to save time and to avoid paying PayPal fees two times. Sandy will handle parts for us and I m creating some kind of fund on hers account to speedup parts delivery.
As much I don't like to write about myself and publish any pictures this time I had to. To this day this video had more than 10K views on youtube so I think that is OK to post more information's now. Yeah, you may say 10K views is nothing, but this is different crowd so number is huge.
I went to Novi Sad, Serbia on September 10, 2016 to visit BalCCon2k16, Balkan Computer Congress organized by LUGoNS, oldest Hackers community in Serbia. I was invited by Once Upon a Byte and 8bitchip retro communities and this is the best way to thank them for invitation, nice pictures they took and awesome video they have done. In the video itself I m talking nonsense most of the time, living in a dream, or am I :)
Plan was to talk more about Apollo-team and Vampire 500 accelerator. You may ask why video isn't on English, because when I started to talk with some man from USA I just froze, couldn't say any single word on English. Why, I have no idea. That's the main reason why there are only few people in the room because most of the visitors were from English speaking territories and complete plan was that everyone who present something there should talk on English. Simply I couldn't. Anyway, people who invited me there were very friendly and we talked about lot of subjects. What I liked the most, hm don't get me wrong but girl at the bar was awesome, sorry I didn't took any pictures but she is still in my mind :P
More pictures in Read More, Pictures, Files... section of this article.
In the process of making Vampire 1200 I have found only one problem. Card edge connectors with 150 pins are extremely hard to find. Fujitsu made them and then discontinued in 2000. Now they don't have replacement part. Original part number is: FCN-225J150-G/A. Connector itself is right angled with 1.27mm pitch and two separated sides. One side consists of 2x25 pins and another from 2X50 pins. Even building footprint for it was challenging. As I see it here we have only two options either we search for NOS or we manufacture those connectors. So far I have sent anywhere between 200-300 mails and made lot of phone calls with every person who had in his hands connector at least similar to what we need here. Searched over old newsgroups, tracked down people who owned Amiga shops 20 years ago, talked with every card edge manufacturer or reseller in the World. Even talked to Fujitsu directly. Most challenging was to read Japanese and Chinese web pages to be able to search their NOS. So far result is like this. In the existence there are 174 NOS connectors with insane prices and tooling fees with Sullins and Taiwan companies are huge for Amiga hobby projects. What can we say about connector itself. It is not even standard connector as Fujitsu sees it, it is not even listed in their datasheet where all versions of FCN-225J were listed. This decision Commodore made created pure nightmare for any potential hardware developer. Even back then, when Amiga 1200 was designed official proposal was to use two connectors, one with 50 and one with 100 pins, but even that is not an option now because also those are hard to find at normal prices. I keep asking myself after one week of constant searching for those connectors why did they make decision like that when lot of those pins are unused and any card edge connector with 120 pins could be used. Those connectors was standard then and they are standard now and probably they will be standard type of connectors in next 30 years. Another question is why they didn't put just simple 2.54mm pitch male header. All of this only tells me that someone tried to play monopoly game on the market, to create distance from other projects but like history teach us in some areas this is not smart to do. In reality put whatever you want inside box but for talking to outside world use exactly what everyone else uses. Talking about that makes no sense now, what is done it's done. I don't want to use PCI connectors and cut them because that won't look professional and it is time consuming if you consider that we will probably need to make at least 1000 Vampire 1200 cards. It would be also too stupid to have DDR3 on board and in the same time connector who is butchered and then glued. I ll probably find a way how to solve this problem like I solved many others in past years but situation where you need to pay for a connector same price as you are paying FPGA is not an option for now simply because makes no sense. IMHO those connectors shouldn't cost more than 5USD. Quantity we have now is enough to do one small series of cards but what happens later? Some drawings done by kipper2k and actual connector picture, datashet can be found in in Read More, Pictures, Files... section of this article.
Next logical step was to send few cards to other developers inside Apollo development team. This will speed things up lot more because so far I was the only one in the team who had actual hardware. Working in the dark for other developers was nightmare and I was stuck with constant testings and bug hunting with the Apollo core itself. With my limited knowledge I was able to help to some point but I was frustrated because I didn't had much time left for other things, like finishing final version of the Vampire 600 V2 board. Now, when they received their packages team can work properly and I can focus on sending latest design into production. I have sent boards to BigGun, ceiach, ShK and cgugl. Just to mention that this board will never enter serial production. It will be used only for development purpose.
Board sent to cgugl.
Board sent to ShK.
But this article is really about something else :) Kipper2k man from cold, cold Canada done some amazing work with current design in just two days. After me sending him design files I was so surprised to see how fast he is in soldering and getting everything running. IMHO best soldering skills that I have ever seen. From now on he will be sending more Vampire boards to the other developers.
So question is why we will succeed where everyone else failed? Because we are united in one goal to present something new and innovative to Amiga community. We are all from different parts of the world working as a perfect team for more than 15 hours each day. The same time we are acting more like family sharing our everyday stories and our experiences in various projects that's why makes it so fun. All of that with perfect guidance of BigGun and ceiach, developers who are able to motivate rest of us to learn more and contribute properly to this project.
Few months ago I was informed that there is another way to solder PCB, much faster way. Before that I didn't know that there is difference between soldering paste and flux or that such things as a PCB stencils exists. To tell you the truth I was completely unaware that there are some other methods of soldering than regular one. On the video below is my first attempt to solder PCB using stencil done yesterday.
Tools & Parts used: PCB
Soldering paste (Sn63/Pb37)
Solder paste spreader
IRDA soldering station
Selecting stencil: After reading a lot about various stencils I have decided to order each and every version that's available, also considered doing homemade version but eventually that was removed as an option because PCB is way too complex. So basically you can order stainless steel or stencil based on polyimide films (mylar or kapton). In the table below you can see my impressions regarding each of them.
~100Eur, in some cases more
Medium, stencil is not so flexible
Medium, one stencil can be used for building about 200 PCB
My vote goes definitely for polyimide film based stencils. Not just because the price is lower but because it is really tricky to apply soldering paste on stainless steel stencil where FPGA should be placed. Because low flexibility you will end up with too much paste there once you remove stencil. With polyimide stencils that is not the case. They bend nicely under solder paste spreader so you will have proper quantity of paste placed on components pads each and every time.
Soldering: Only important thing here is temperature profile you must follow if you don't want to destroy components. Each manufacturer states maximum temperature values that we can't exceed. What we need is temperature values who will solder component and not overheat it and that's something done over defined period of time. Also In each component we can find moisture so if we heat component too much or too fast component will crack. This is temperature profile I m using.