So, I’m a lucky retro computing loving boy!
I happen to own a sweet ass Amiga 1200 (in the cool CD32 limited edition case from A1200.Net) as you will see from the photo’s on the site.
I’ve had an accelerator in this machine for many years (way before the cool CD32 case) and what I had was a Blizzard MkIV 68030 running at 50Mhz and 32Mb RAM. This would have been eye wateringly expensive in 1995 when it was released at 299DM and probably out of reach for the average Amiga fan (especially when to get proper use from it you would have had to have owned a hard drive too). My lovely Blizzard served a purpose for years and is probably still the best “Old school” accelerator for the Amiga 1200 (bang for buck). Excellent for running Workbench from my Compact Flash HD and subsequently WHDLoad games worked a treat. Of course being a straight up 68030 accelerator – it’s very compatible with all the software available. Here’s a wee picture of what it looked like.
After visiting Amiga 32 in Neuss (Germany) and seeing the Vampire running and then seeing my friend Mike’s experience with the A600 version, I signed up for the A1200 version once it was announced and after the usual wait (probably 6 to 8 months) I got the Opportunity to buy one and subsequently parted with approx. 450 Euros as I really wanted to try that out on my own machine.
It finally arrived – and here is what it looked like (I later got the Amikit Vampire CF for it too):
After a few months of ownership, I have to say I simply wasn’t happy with it. Initially the firmware allowed the IDE interface to run the CF Hard Drive at very fast speeds but I soon realised it disabled the PCMCIA (which I used regularly to transfer stuff from my PC to my Amiga!). A new firmware was released that fixed the PCMCIA, but disabled the onboard IDE!! I moved my CF back to the Amiga’s own controller and thankfully, yes I could use the PCMCIA again. I observed slower access speeds on the CF HD but still quicker than it was when using the Blizzard so it wasn’t such a hardship. I discovered that lots of WHDLoad games would crash with the “Software error” splash screen or just not run at all, and then there was the issue that any games or demos not developed for RTG would not appear on my LCD screen but flipped back to my CRT. The sound was also still coming from my CRT irrespective of where the image was but I think the main thing that didn’t sit right with me was that the Vampire “replaced” the core Amiga system and in doing so lost the Spirit and nostalgia of using the machine. It feels weird to talk about technology in emotional terms – but that’s what I was feeling. It just felt a bit wrong…
It was fast enough – sure – way faster than anything else on an Amiga – but I don’t need that on an Amiga – I’ve got a very capable PC for those things anyway. Here’s the benchmark so you can see for yourselves:
I decided to sell it on and that was that.
Fortunately… one of my friends is Stephen Leary who created the well respected “Terrible Fire” range of accelerators, most notably for the CD32 (which I also have one for my own CD32 and it’s awesome!). Stephen had been working on a prototype Terrible Fire for the A1200 (the TF1260) and I was very lucky to be offered an early release version to try out on my A1200 (see – this is what I mean about being a lucky retro computer loving boy!).
Stephen’s TF1260 is simply awesome! It’s much faster than my old Blizzard but gives me the same feeling of my Amiga 1200 still being very much part of the experience and not replaced – but enhanced, and enhanced significantly! Gone are the compatibility issues from the Vampire and because I can only run it on my CRT (where it should be!) there are no issues with flipping between screens. This is a very modern take on an old school requirement. Here’s what it looks like inside my A1200:
And here is a wee benchmark:
Interestingly when I still had the Vampire I was doing a test on it and comparing real world performance with the Terrible Fire and as we Amigans do, I filmed a comparison with the Frontier Elite intro (because we all know, the faster your Amiga is, the smoother the intro looks) and I was astonished to see how poorly it performed on the Vampire compared to the Terrible Fire. Here’s the link to the comparison that my friend John pulled together – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZK8Xin1A38&list=LL&index=5&t=34s
So – what have I learned with my accelerator journey of the recent months?
I’ve learned that I don’t want to “replace” my hardware with something new. I’ve learned that enhancing it is the way to go and I’ve learned that I can spend an awful lot of money on something that will give me a poorer experience than what I had before, but ultimately I’ve learned that through good friends and their ability to create I have something way better than what I had in the first place and the Vampire experience was simply a bump in my Amiga journey!