Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Amiga plug and play TV joystick closer than ever

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Commodore 64, Sega Megadrive, Atari 2600 and various arcade systems have been lovingly shoe-horned into handheld TV devices and marketed to the masses. Regrettably there's no Amiga equivalent in existence. This is predominantly because much of the hardware architecture is undocumented and so must be reverse engineered before it can be recreated; not an impossible task, but one that is tantamount to hiking up Mount Kilimanjaro sporting a rucksack laden with bricks and wearing Mafia-fodder concrete boots.

A handful of dedicated Amigan hobbyists have attempted similar projects, though none have come as close to realising this remarkable feat as Dutch hardware engineer, Dennis van Weeren. Working single-handedly since last January, Dennis has managed to transform a digital semi-conductor known as an FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) into a functioning Amiga 500 capable of running Workbench and a small selection of games. When complete, the souped-up device will load ADF (Amiga Disk File) images from a standard, FAT16-formatted, MMC flash card by way of a simple overlayed menu system, which will be manipulated using a mouse or joystick.

Dennis says he was able to progress this far through a combination of "calculated guessing", poring over hardware reference manuals and scrutinising the nuts and bolts of Amiga emulators, WinUAE and Winfellow. It's not yet known if his device will be snapped up by a major toy retailer (Dennis has already received 7 offers!), shared freely with the open source community or kept under wraps for personal use owing to licensing complications. In any case such considerations are probably not at the top of Dennis' agenda at present as he slogs away squishing bugs in preparation for the unveiling of his MiniMig prototype on 18th February before the Dutch HCC Commodore User group in Maarssen.

If you can't wait until then to find out more, you can track this thread on the Amiga.org forum where Dennis can be spotted posting regular updates and answering the questions of gob-smacked onlookers.


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