3 weeks ago

Turn your Pi into an Amiga

Recapture the glory days of 16-bit computing by turning your Pi into a faithful Amiga emulator

The Commodore Amiga’s top-notch sound and graphics made it one of the most desirable home computers of the ’80s and early ’90s, at a time when your average IBM PC was still plodding along with EGA graphics and an internal beeper. Amiga games from the era have aged incredibly well, and look and play brilliantly on everything from a portable display to a widescreen TV. We’ll take you through turning your Raspberry Pi 3 into a perfect modern-day Amiga emulator. You’ll need a Windows, Mac OS X, or Linux desktop operating system to copy the Amibian Linux distribution to your SD card and unpack the Kickstart ROMs required to make it work smoothly.

The full article can be found in The MagPi 52 and was written by K.G. Orphanides.

You’ll need

Start by downloading the Amibian distro. Format a microSD card, decompress the Amibian RAR file, and use Win32DiskImager or Linux’s dd command to copy the IMG file to the card. A 4GB card should be plenty, as Amibian only occupies around 300MB.

Slot the microSD card into your Pi and power up. It’ll boot directly into the UAE4ARM emulator, but there’s some extra configuration to do before we start playing. Quit UAE4ARM to get to the command line and run:

Select Expand Filesystem, which will give you access to the entirety of the SD card’s capacity for storage, then Exit and select Yes to reboot.
If your Pi won’t output sound via HDMI properly, enter this at the command line:

Make sure the following lines are present and aren’t commented out with a preceding hash (#):

Save and return to raspi-config:

Select Advanced Options > Audio > Force HDMI and then reboot.

Kickstart me up

To run Amiga programs, you’ll need a Kickstart ROM – firmware from the original computers. UAE4ARM comes with the open-source AROS ROM, which can run only some Amiga programs, so we recommend using genuine Amiga Kickstarts for reliability.

The Amiga’s Kickstart ROMs and Workbench GUI are still being maintained, thanks to Italian firm Cloanto. Amiga Forever Plus Edition, priced at €29.95, gets you a complete, legal set of Kickstarts for every Amiga computer and console. Cloanto is still working on a Raspberry Pi edition, so you’ll currently have to install Amiga Forever on a Windows PC or Wine and copy the files onto a USB stick.

There are other ways of obtaining Kickstart ROMs, but most are legal grey areas. You can extract them from an Amiga using a tool such as TransRom or find them on abandonware sites, but we strongly recommend supporting Cloanto’s continued development of Amiga Forever.

Classic Amiga software is even easier to find. You’ll get 50 games with Amiga Forever Plus, while some major publishers have made the Amiga versions of their games available for free (see above).

Many more games are only available online as legally dubious abandonware. They’re easily found using any search engine, but inform yourself of the legal status of such software in your region before you download.

One true path

As Amibian doesn’t include a window manager, it’s easiest to download and copy everything to a USB stick using your operating system of choice. Helpfully, UAE4ARM can read Amiga ADF floppy images even if they’re in a ZIP file.

We recommend copying everything to your microSD card. Fire up your Pi, exit UAE4ARM, and run:

Copy your game files from /media/usb to /root/amiga/floppys, and your Kickstart ROMs, including a Cloanto rom.key file if you have one, to /root/amiga/kickstarts. Quit Midnight Commander and reboot:

In the latest version 1.313 of Amibian, two different versions of UAE4ARM are supplied. If you plan on using two Xbox 360 controllers, button mapping on controller two works best using the ‘old’ version, although the ‘new’ edition generally provides more options. To switch between the two, at the command line type either rpiold or rpinew. The following configuration instructions work with both versions.

Configure UAE4ARM

First, go to the Paths tab and click Rescan ROMs so UAE4ARM knows where to find everything.

The Configurations tab lets you select from several preset hardware emulations, with the default being an A1200 – just select and Load your chosen computer. You can tweak your virtual hardware in the CPU and FPU, Chipset, and RAM tabs.

Your configuration selection doesn’t always set the relevant Kickstart ROM for you, so check the ROM tab, where you can choose Kickstarts from a pull-down menu. Note that many games require a specific ROM or hardware configuration to work properly, depending on which system they were originally released for.

To run most software, you’ll need the Floppy drives tab. Just press the … icon next to drive DF0’s Eject button, select the desired disk image, and click Start.

By default only drive DF0 is active, and most titles expect this configuration. To swap disks when prompted, press F12, eject the disk image in DF0, select the disk image you’re asked for, and click Resume.

F12 will always pause and return you to UAE4ARM’s main interface, so you can create a save state – a stored image of your progress in a game – or give up and load something new. The Reset, Quit, and Start/Resume buttons are always visible in UAE4ARM’s GUI. Reset completely reboots your emulation and Resume returns you to your current game.

UAE4ARM automatically detects Xbox controllers. You can use two controllers for multiplayer gaming – if the second is unresponsive, you may need to press F11 to disable your mouse and switch control to the pad. If you’re running the ‘new’ version of the emulator, first select your controllers from the pull-down Port0 and Port1 menus in the Input settings.

Now you’ve got your Amiga emulator up and running, there’s plenty of scope to build on the project, from setting up virtual hard disks to install Workbench and other software onto, to creating floppy images from your own original Amiga disks and using the Pi’s GPIO to connect a classic ’80s joystick.

  • mark

    If you just want the ROMs, the cheapest way seems to be Amiga Forever Essentials on Google Play – it’s a shame they don’t have that pricing from the web.