If you’re an Amiga 1000 owner, you are in a special club of sorts. You’re blessed with the “Original Amiga” and the one many consider the “only” Amiga from a historical perspective (it’s not fair, but people talk like that sometimes). You have a machine that shook the tech world to its core, that was embraced by pop culture heavy-weights like Andy Warhol and Debbie Harry, and brought professional-level creative computing into people’s homes. It’s like Doc Brown brought the 1000 back with him in his Delorean and left it on our doorsteps.
But you also have a machine that, while drop-dead gorgeous and a pleasure to use, has built-in “handicaps” that have always kept it from keeping pace with its younger siblings. Most notably: .5 MB chip RAM maximum cap, a floppy-based Kickstart, and no auto-booting hard drive by default.
By 1990, Commodore had discontinued the Amiga 1000 and moved on. Some hard-core fans weren’t ready to let go, however. And a couple of ambitious third-party hardware projects emerged that kept the 1000 in the race with her sisters the 500 and 2000, and soon-to-be 3000.
In late 1989 the first really eye-popping project was a fully-fledged motherboard replacement called the Phoenix. The Phoenix was the first crowd-funded hardware project in Amiga history. After receiving orders from around the world, the boards began to ship in 1990/91.
A dream-child from engineering wizard Andrew Wilson out of Australia, the Phoenix required you swap out your existing motherboard, move some of your chips over, then add a few new ones that were being placed in contemporary Amigas. Now why the hell would you do that?
First it pushed the Amiga 1000 from a semi-sleepy 256KB of chip RAM (expandable to .5MB) to a full 1 MB. Pushing the 1000’s .5 MB chip RAM barrier is a holy grail achievement. This alone was a major and very noticeable performance boost.
Secondly, it offered a built-in internal SCSI controller so you could not only tuck a hard drive in your A1000, but you could actually auto-boot off of it.
Third, it offered 4 separate Kickstart ROM bays, so you could launch your machine into any environment you really wanted (or needed) to, for maximum compatibility with literally all software ever made for the Amiga.
In addition, the Phoenix has a hardware jumper that can instantly flip it into PAL or NTSC mode. Flip! It’s just perfect.
The Phoenix offered a lot more odds and ends, but for me personally the upgrades previously mentioned were massive and enough on their own.
It did require pretty major surgery, however, by entirely removing your motherboard. So you had to get over that (you could still save your untouched, unharmed stock motherboard, though, in case you ever wanted...less). And it required modifications to your disk drive bracket and heat shield. But the benefits were obvious.
To my knowledge, less than 200 of these boards were ever made. There was a very small run done several years later, but IIRC that was only about 10 boards. The Phoenix could have been named the Unicorn, frankly. I am lucky enough to have found one, and got it working exactly the way I’ve always wanted an A1000 to be expanded. It’s just so much fun to use.
Now, around the same timeframe a second hardware project of note also pushed Amiga 1000 machines into the present (for the times). It was announced in 1990 and named The Rejuvenator.
This piece of hardware is a very clever non-destructive hardware mod that only replaces the A1000’s internal daughterboard. It doesn’t go as far as the Phoenix in terms of a checklist of features, but it goes pretty far and in many ways feels more “pure”. To many, it is the best single upgrade for “purists” and one of the greatest retro mods ever created for the A1000. It requires no soldering, no cutting of motherboard traces, and there are no “gotchas” like with the Phoenix (which is very finicky, and a total drama queen diva to get working at times). As such, you can continue to use your expansion ports with other add-ons as if the Rejuvenator were simply “the way things were” as they shipped from the factory in Pennsylvania.
The machine feels like it has the power of the A500/A2000 lines, but delivers in the A1000 package. Of course, finding a Rejuvenator after all these years is extremely difficult. That’s something I’d like to change; more on that in a moment.
What is the Rejuvenator?
Most importantly, it allows the use of a Fat Agnus or Obese Agnus. So if you have the DRAM, it can push 1 or 2 MB of chip, blasting the 1000 onto sacred ground only ever walked upon by her younger sisters.
The Rejuvenator also provides one Kickstart ROM bay - no more disk swapping just to boot up your machine. In addition it provides the ability to add a switch that allows you to flip back to a floppy-based Kickstart boot-up if you need to. So if you want to put Kickstart 1.3 in the “Rejuve” but still load 2.04 in your floppy, go for it.
It also comes equipped with a battery backed up clock and an A2000 video slot for some very specific flicker fixers.
And the best part? You don’t have to modify your original motherboard in any way whatsoever. You still lack an internal hard drive solution, but that’s a fixable problem if you perceive it to be one.
But this one little board can give A1000 users most of what they always wanted, and the Agnus/Chip RAM is something no other retro upgrade ever delivered. Plus, it doesn’t prevent using any of the other original ports so all of your additional mods or upgrades simply work as they should.
At a high level you need to remove your daughterboard and ultimately your motherboard from its case. You simply can’t even begin to perform this operation any other way. This means the floppy drive needs to come out, too. But hey - now you can dust the inside of your case - which is so much fun, right?
Once everything is out, you will need to pull your Paula, Agnus and Denise from your A1000 - the long and skinny chips that all lay side by side. Paula and Denise then get moved over to the Rejuvenator. Other than that, you’re pretty much ready to go assuming you have a 1MB (or 2MB) Agnus installed with the appropriate DRAM. (4 chips = 1 MB, 8 chips = 2 MB) in the Rejuvenator.
Then you just have to install the Rejuvenator board on top of the gold pins that used to support the daughterboard. The pins each have plastic guides that must be pushed all the way down the motherboard level. Pushing them down is a rather tiresome and tedious task, but it’s not too bad.
The Golden Pins of hell. They will mock you, and laugh at you. You will break, not they.
The hard part, though, is aligning the Rejuve onto the motherboard’s pins. There are no guides on the underside of the Rejuve, and you can’t see what you’re doing at all. If a golden pin (and there are a bunch of them) is 1/100th of a millimeter out of alignment, chances are you’re not going to get things to fit. After two and a half hours of trying, I’m still out of luck. But I won’t give up as the reward is so close!
Good luck. You're going to need it.
It occurred to me that this board is so special, yet so rare, we should try and change that. I can’t imagine how many A1000 owners out there would die for a chance to own their own Rejuvenator boards, but it’s almost impossible.
So it is my current intention to bring the Rejuvenator back to the Amiga community. More on this below.
Trying to find Greg Tibbs
I got it into my head that, before such a project should emerge, it would be important and cool to have the original creator give us his blessing at the very least. It seems the ethical and moral thing to do. As such, I went on a mission to find the creator of the Rejuvenator: Greg B. Tibbs.
Greg B. Tibbs, creator of the Rejuvenator (1990).
The history I uncovered while searching for Greg is a tad convoluted, but it goes something like this.
Greg Tibbs designed and created the Rejuvenator and was based in or near the Dayton, Ohio, area.
Greg had a company (probably a private LLC sole-proprietorship) called Dayton Logic Designs. However, the Rejuvenator was branded (and apparently funded) by a company called Expert Services, based out of nearby Florence, Kentucky.
Expert Services was originally an Amiga dealer and retail/repair shop that eventually sold all brands of computers. It was owned by two brothers, and after extensive research Expert Services appears to have finally folded around 2011. That’s at least when the company’s business license registration expired in Kentucky according to publicly available state records.
I have a theory that the Expert Services guys in Kentucky had crossed the river to the Dayton user group at some stage and met Greg.
This is the same user group that included Eric W. Schwartz - the creator of the Sabrina Online comics, Amy the Squirrel and other furry risqué woodland creatures that he drew and animated using Amiga computers. I reached out to Eric Schwartz and he was cool enough to respond and let me know he’d lost touch with Greg over ten years ago.
Greg had used some software made by Black Belt Systems, owned by Ben Williams, called Board Master. He literally created his Rejuvenator design for Amigas on an Amiga!
Example image of a circuit board designed using Board Master for Amiga.
I contacted Ben Williams but he had also lost contact with Greg over the years. A couple of people in the massive Facebook Amiga Group either knew Greg or knew of the shop Expert Services, but everyone had lost touch ages ago.
Greg, to this day, is still nowhere to be found (by me, anyway). I do believe he still lives in the Dayton, Ohio, area but he does not seem to have any online presence whatsoever.
I even contacted the records department for the Kentucky Secretary of State, but they had no record of Dayton Logic Designs. I still need to follow up with Ohio… If it was a sole proprietorship, I’ll have to go county by county, but a good bet would be to start in Montgomery County.
I’ve tried to find Greg. So far I’ve tried and failed. However…
Rejuvenating the Rejuvenator
“It’s such an obviously superior mod, it seems like something we should try to bring back to the community. Don’t you think?“
I do now have in my possession an actual Rejuvenator.
With the help of some passionate Amiga community members, the goal is to bring the Rejuvenator back to the community.
I am in contact with a local company that is working with me to analyze the original board and see about reverse-engineering it (non-destructively). If successful, we’ll be able to recreate brand new Rejuvenator boards.
A long-term dream would be to take the newly created schematics and files and ultimately modify and improve them even further. (I’m going to beg for a built-in SCSI controller… assuming we can get scsi.device to work with it!).
It’s a real long shot, but it might just happen. As soon as I get a quote on the costs, I will likely create a GoFundMe to try and raise money to get the initial stages built. The company I’ve been talking to went so far as to suggest they could even source the components and sell the board as a kit. Or, even further, build completely assembled boards (they would not be cheap). But one step at a time. . .
To be clear, I would be doing this for NO PROFIT whatsoever. The costs would be break-even for those of us involved (and some would probably be charity, too, when you add the GoFundMe portion). But this isn’t a business. It’s a hobby and a passion and it’s all about having fun, right? That’s our view at least, as novel as it might be in 2018.
Stay tuned for more details soon as they develop as thing are happening pretty fast.
I wanted one back in the day but couldn't do it then. I still have a stock Amiga 1000 to upgrade. I am interested as well.
BTW I also have another Amiga 1000 that came from a dealer in Kent, WA with 1.3 Kickstart eproms installed. A 3rd Amiga 1000 with a Flicker Free Video installed, a Spirit Tech 1.5 meg inboard, "Mkl" 68K IDE board and a "DJBase" Kickstart 3.1 daughter card. Any one of them will run my A1060 Sidecar.
I just signed up here to offer my support for this project. Our poor 1000s need love and I’m on board for any sort of non-destructive internal upgrade such as this. I was familiar with the Phoenix (coming from my home city of Adelaide) but only had limited knowledge of the Rejuvenator, so many thanks for the enlightening article!
Saw this on YouTube and a1k.org, totally awesome and always drooled over it in magazines back in the day but could never get my hands on one so goes without saying...I'm all in for this new Rejuvenator board
Be aware that there were issues with the PAL chips on the Rejuvenator. I had to get a set from Expert Services with alternate timing compared to the stock chips in order to get my hard drive controller working off the expansion bus.
That being said, at it's peak, my A1000 with 2 MB Agnus was also running a Flicker Fixer, DataFlyer SCSI/IDE/8meg, Derringer 68030 with 32 megs of 32 bit RAM, ROM switcher and probably other bits I don't remember.
A crochet hook worked nicely to delicately move those nasty gold pins in line with their matching holes.