User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Sun Apr 19, 2020 10:44 am



This is a walk-through of the weird and wacky world of Real Time Clocks for the Amiga 1000. It’s not 100% exhaustive, but attempts to demonstrate the diversity of products invented to provide the particular feature of having your computer keep track of time after you shut it off.
collectionRTCs.jpg
Hey, is that the beating drum of Jumanji I hear? Naw...couldn't be.


For many models of Amiga, the Real Time Clock (RTC) ultimately became the death bringer of the machine. This is because over a good deal of time (and lets face it these machines are relatively ancient at this point) the the batteries that were installed in the machines to keep the RTC’s “ticking” would eventually begin to leak highly corrosive acid. The leaking - for those that haven’t ever seen it before - is more like a bizarre slow motion dust storm that emerges from the decaying battery. Eventually, this dust drifts and falls around the battery area, eating right through the delicate motherboard and components. In some cases, depending on how the computer was stored, the dust can drift several inches away from the original source to devastating effect.

This decomposing violence has ultimately wiped out a mind numbingly tragic number of machines, and Commodore Amigas are not unique to this genocide.

Except for the Amiga 1000. At least, the Amiga 1000 has escaped most of this destruction (as well as leaking capacitors, the second most common killer of old computers and electronic equipment).

Commodore never shipped the original Amiga with RTCs in the machines, and as such the “alien blood” issue never became that widespread of a problem like it has with so many of her sisters.

The Amiga 2000, 3000 and 4000 all had batteries soldered right onto the motherboards. In fact, one of the most popular upgrades for the Amiga 500 and 1200 was a trapdoor memory expansion that had batteries soldered right onto them, too. And those beloved expansion cards were pressed into ports right into the motherboard. Fast-forward 30 years and, well… you know the story.

Thankfully for the Amiga 1000, incredibly a ton of the RTCs that 3rd party manufacturers created were designed to be used on the outside of the machines. If there was a port, someone made an RTC to fill it.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Real Time Clocks ever made for the Amiga 1000.


MouseTime
Created by Microbotics (Richardson, TX)
1987, Org. Suggested Retail $49.95
IMG_2378.jpg
IMG_2379.jpg
IMG_2381.jpg
IMG_2382.jpg
IMG_2392.jpg
Normally you would plug it into port 2, not port 1. But I plugged it into port 1 so we could more easily compare it to the Amiga's case.


Almost every external device made by Microbotics is a pinnacle of the best 3rd party product design. Few others come close (GVP comes to mind).

The Microbotics MouseTime RTC plugs into the second Mouse port on the Amiga 1000, right behind the legendary L-connector tank mouse only found on the Amiga 1000. It also offers a pass-through, so a joystick can be inserted into the port so the MouseTime need not be removed.

Its case is made of metal and is beautifully constructed. It is super solid and fits almost ergonomically in the palm of one’s hand. Its paint job matches the Amiga’s case almost perfectly. Microbotics even went so far as to add a small rectangular “puffy” sticker on the inside of the device to create a more solid fit when pressed into the mouse port.

The product designer(s) at Microbotics took the time to create a smooth border radius on the case’s exterior, closely matching the curvature of the Amiga’s top shell. Gorgeous design.

Inside the case, the small circuit board can hold an AAA battery which could last for about 2 years.

It also comes with custom software that, interestingly, is quite possible the same core code used in their Starboard Star Clocks (see below).



A-Time
Created by A.S.D. (Beaumont, TX)
1985/1986, Org. Suggested Retail $49.95
IMG_2383.jpg
IMG_2384.jpg
IMG_2385.jpg
vertical-atime.jpg
With the Revision 3, the A-Time was rotated to point upwards rather than hang down, which would collide with the Commodore Amiga A1300 Genlock. A.S.D. really did do a nice job of color matching the plastic to the Amiga's case, even if it does stick up above the case a tiny bit.


A-Time is one of the earliest Real Time Clocks made for an Amiga. As such, it did go through multiple iterations over the course of its product life. The model shown here is Rev 3.0. Inside the case it uses a replaceable coin battery.

A-Time plugs into the parallel port and comes in a color-matched plastic case. A.S.D. (Akron Systems Design) was proud enough of this fact to include it in its marketing materials. However the original A-Time would hang down below the parallel port, and it actually collided with the Amiga Genlock A1300 when in use.

Rather than change the circuitboard design, A.S.D. flipped the design 180 degrees. As a result, it actually sticks above the Amiga’s case by a centimeter or two. But, since it is in the back of the machine and often behind a monitor, it’s fairly out of sight out of mind.

The plastic case has some unusual grooves and the actual metal ports protrude beyond the plastic casing, giving it a slightly janky and less polished aesthetic. I have two of these things and they both look identical - it’s just they way they were made. But the color-matched case, and hiding behind the machine, make those types of considerations less important.


Timesaver
Created by C-Ltd (Wichita, Kansas)
1987, Org. Suggested Retail $95
IMG_2376.jpg
The packaging for the Timesaver is really pretty cool at the end of the day. Maybe the only device I've ever acquired that came in a tube. This particular specimen was originally purchased by someone attending the AmiExpo. Ah, those were the days...

IMG_2377.jpg
The manual is quite thick, if permanently curled.

IMG_2378.jpg
You put the Timesaver device between the A1000's keyboard and the machine. It utilizes telephone handset cables (remember those?) just like the keyboard.

IMG_2379.jpg
Assuming you aren't using an Amiga Genlock (pretty safe assumption) you can tuck the Timesaver under the Amiga back behind the support bar and keep it totally hidden.

The Timesaver is a very unique entry in the realm of Amiga 1000 RTCs.

First of all, it doesn’t cannibalize a port. It actually goes in-between the keyboard’s cable and the computer. As a result, if you aren’t using an A1300 Amiga Genlock, you can place the device under the machine behind the support bar and it will be virtually invisible.

In addition to being a clock, however, the Timesaver comes with 8-bit microprocessor, 8K of RAM as well as a custom EPROM. The EPROM holds a bunch of pre-defined Macros for power users. You can also set a special password to “lock” the keyboard unless the proper password is entered. (The max password is 4 characters long.) It could also hold the command history for up to 1000 characters, which is pretty cool.

Bonus: No special software is required to use this thing. It runs right off the Amiga’s DOS Date command. A couple of keystrokes and you can set and read the time. Help + F4 sets the clock; Help + F5 reads the current time.

Pretty sweet, right? I can see why this device cost twice as much as a typical RTC. The Timesaver also runs off an easily replaceable coin battery. And all of its chips are socketed. In 2020, that can be a pretty big deal for the soldering challenged, of which I include myself in that group.


StarClock via Multi-Function Module or SCSI Module
Created by Microbotics (Richardson, TX)
1986, Org. $99
Requires a Starboard, from $495 (.5MB RAM), $595 (1MB RAM), $879 (2 MB RAM). A 2MB RAM Starboard 2 with pre-installed MultiFunction Module cost $959, at a slight discount.
IMG_2386.JPG
IMG_2387.JPG
IMG_2389.JPG

This is probably my favorite clock option simply because it’s so much more than just a clock. But before we get there we have to start at the beginning.

First, you need a Starboard 2.

Before we get into the nitty gritty, I have to point out the name of this thing. It’s both cheeky and descriptive. It took me a while to “get it.” Remember the MouseTime? It was called that because it literally used the mouse port. The Starboard? Well, it’s… on the right, or starboard. Starboard in navy terms means the right side of the boat. But to my geeky mind, when I first encountered the thing years ago I instantly assumed it was referring to space. Like, Star Trek: The Star Board. OK, let’s keep going because it gets better.

At it’s most basic a Starboard 2 is a RAM expansion that uses the Amiga’s side expansion port. Flavors came in half-meg, 1MB and 2MB. In fact, you could even buy a Starboard with no RAM at all, but in a design pattern to eventually upgrade to 1 or 2MB in the future when you had the funds.

When it launched in 1986 a 2MB Starboard 2 retailed for a staggering $879. In today’s economy, that’s the equivalent of $2,070. The things we take for granted today… This was a very expensive device.

In addition to RAM, you could upgrade a Starboard even further by selecting one of two options.

A MultiFunction Module could be added to the Starboard 2 for an additional $99 ($233). Or, you could get the StarDrive in 1988 - aka the SCSI Module - instead (you could only use one expansion module per Starboard 2) for $129.99 (or $290 in 2020).
mfm.jpg
Both the Multi-Function Module (MFM) and the StarDrive came with RTCs. And upon close inspection, the clock and software appears to be quite possibly the same or a very close revision of the MouseTime.

So, what is the Multifunction Module, you might be asking yourself?

It’s an incredible daughter board for the Starboard 2 that offers 3 key features.
1. Real Time Clock
2. (Optional) Motorola 68881 math chip FPU.
3. “Sticky Disk” which is a battery powered RAM Disk, where you won’t lose what’s in its RAM on warm reboots. It provides hardware write protection, which turns the entire Starboard 2 into a solid state, super speed disk. It’s a lot like the C64’s CMD RAM Disk, except the CMD RAM Disk has the advantage of being fully powered so it can even keep data when you turn the machine completely off. The MFM doesn’t do that, but it’s still pretty spectacular. Instant on, instant load. Soft reboot, still there. Magic!

The StarDrive (SCSI Module) offers the following:
1. Access to Macintosh-style SCSI drives of the day, or in my case, an Iomega ZIP 100 Drive.
2. Real Time Clock.
IMG_4741.jpg
Behold the StarDrive, allowing your Amiga 1000 to semi-autoboot workbench from a disk, where it passes control from the disk to the hard drive. Pretty cool thing to watch.


I’ve not tried this yet, but in theory I could stack 2 Starboard 2 boards into each other and have my Amiga 1000 use both simultaneously. It would have 4 MB of fast RAM plus all of the features listed above.

My god, why haven’t I tried that yet? Excuse me, will you?



And remember, guys. Keep that Amiga Love flowin’.

For a lot more photos, angles and views of these devices, you can check out this video.

User avatar
BatteMan
France
Website

Posted Sun Apr 19, 2020 11:58 am

It's just incredible !
I'm trying to make an Arexx script to set the clock at each boot of the 1000 ('cause there is no RTC on the Classic 520 and I can't find a software to do it) and you make this video !

Now, I want one of those pieces of hardware! ;)

[EDIT]
My script, named date.rx, is now working ! :o
Arexx-script.jpg
I put a new line in my user-startup, after launching REXXMast :
"REXX:rx REXX:date.rx"

And I now display hour in the title bar of my Workbench MSClock (with free chip and free fast), an another great little piece of software !

Important and interesting information : if you want to use Arexx on 1.3, you can take Arexx files from 3.1, because it's the 1987 1.15 Arexx version from mister William S. Hawes made for Workbench 1.3!
[/EDIT]

User avatar
A1-X1000
Toronto, Canada
Website

Posted Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:52 am

I actually bought a little RTC dongle called Turbotech clock cartridge that goes into the 'DiskDrive' port but didn't realize back then that it required OS2.1 and I was die hard fine with 1.3 so it sat in my bookshelf drawer since 91/92....I recently found it by fluke while cleaning up and it's working happily in my A500 with ACA500+ <3

User avatar
A1-X1000
Toronto, Canada
Website

Posted Mon Apr 20, 2020 11:55 am

@ intric8

sweet that Microbiotics Starboard 2 <3

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Mon Apr 20, 2020 12:56 pm

Turbotech clock cartridge that goes into the 'DiskDrive' port
Can you please take a photo of that and share it with me? I'd love to learn more about it.

User avatar
BatteMan
France
Website

Posted Mon Apr 20, 2020 1:33 pm

Amiga Resource has a little page for this Turbotech Clock Cartridge (with only one photo and the single page documentation)

But I can't find anything on Big Book Of Amiga Hardware... strange... (BBOAH doesn't have anything about the mouse port clock from Microbotics too...)

User avatar
A1-X1000
Toronto, Canada
Website

Posted Tue Apr 21, 2020 9:29 am

BatteMan wrote:
Mon Apr 20, 2020 1:33 pm
Amiga Resource has a little page for this Turbotech Clock Cartridge (with only one photo and the single page documentation)

But I can't find anything on Big Book Of Amiga Hardware... strange... (BBOAH doesn't have anything about the mouse port clock from Microbotics too...)
yup thats it...came with 1 page doc and a disk

User avatar
nonarkitten

Posted Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:48 pm

I have a 68K Clockport adapter. Wonder if that would work...

User avatar
McTrinsic

Posted Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:16 pm

Well... it’s a clock port... ;)

Technically it should work. The clockport mainly works by providing access to some memory areas.

... and by throwing around unhealthy voltages, that’s why So many expansions got fried.

So the only question is the driver. Some drivers check for the presence of the pcmcia, as the only Original Amigas with a CP were the A600 and A1200. If you’re lucky you can easily mod the driver but don’t count on it.

User avatar
nonarkitten

Posted Fri Apr 24, 2020 7:53 am

McTrinsic wrote:
Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:16 pm
Well... it’s a clock port... ;)

Technically it should work. The clockport mainly works by providing access to some memory areas.

... and by throwing around unhealthy voltages, that’s why So many expansions got fried.

So the only question is the driver. Some drivers check for the presence of the pcmcia, as the only Original Amigas with a CP were the A600 and A1200. If you’re lucky you can easily mod the driver but don’t count on it.
Maybe run the Amiga 600 ROM in the 1000?





Return to “Hardware”