PiStorm and Emu68

Having been a member of the Amiga community since 1989, I’ve seen a lot of enhancements arrive on the scene. Some come and go, some are open source, while others are closed source (which is a shame). Others turn out to be vaporware and take money, yet never deliver.

Raspberry Pi Zero 2W attached to PiStorm. The PiStorm is mounted to an Amiga 2000 CPU Slot Adapter.

Recently, theres a new project, fully open source that really has taken the classic Amiga to the next level. No, I’m not talking about the Vampire. I talking about PiStorm. PiStorm is an amazingly inexpensive piece of hardware that will take your 68000 Amiga to the next level.

What is PiStorm?

The PiStorm accelerator add-on costs as little as $13 fully-assembled, and only needs a Raspberry Pi single-board computer adding to the top in order to bring classic Amiga hardware bang up-to-date.

PiStorm Hardware

The PiStorm is designed to upgrade an Amiga — primarily the 500, 500 Plus, and 2000, though with the potential for other models and even alternative 68000-based machines in future updates, offering hope for those looking to take a classic Mac up a notch or two — at as low a cost as possible. The four-layer board itself is extremely simple, combining a few bus switches and flip-flops with an Intel Altera MAX II complex programmable logic device (CPLD) — plus pin headers, a regulator, and a few passives.

The CPLD is there to act as glue logic between the Amiga and a Raspberry Pi single-board computer which mates into the top of the PiStorm via its GPIO header. No other wiring is required: Remove the 68000 from the socket, insert the PiStorm in its place, add the Raspberry Pi and microSD card, and you’re ready to start configuring your soon-to-be-much-faster Amiga. (Hackster.io)

What is Emu68?

Emu68 Boot Screen

Emu68 was created by Michal Schulz. Emu68 is a “bare metal” application that runs on the Raspberry Pi. There is no operating system, so installation is very easy. Because there is no operating system, full control of the Pi is possible and improves overall performance. Emu68 defaults as a 68040 CPU. Virtual SCSI and Re-Targetable Graphics (RTG) is possible with Emu68. As of this writing, network connectivity isn’t possible, but is in work.

Emu68 will run the Raspberry Pi 3a+, 3B and the Zero 2 W. Supposedly, work as begun on a version that will run on the Raspberry Pi 4. This will make it possible for the Amiga 1200, 3000 and 4000 computers take advantage of Pistorm and Emu68.

What is CaffeineOS?

CaffeineOS running on PiStorm/Emu68

CaffeineOS is an all-inclusive Amiga operating system distribution based on Directory Opus 5.8.2 Workbench replacement. It includes many software packages, graphics, games, emulators, videos, etc… It’s available for download directly from the author via Discord. (I will not provide the link here)

My Setup

PiStorm enhanced Amiga 2000HD

I’m currently running an Amiga 2000, Rev 6.2. This particular machine was sporting a stock 68000, A2091 SCSI card with 2MB of RAM, a SupraRAM with 2MB and am A2088 Bridgeboard. This particular A2000 was actually free. I picked it up from a user in Oklahoma that no longer wanted it. I was very surprised it was in such good condition.

I picked up a PiStorm from a seller on eBay. I didn’t need to buy a Raspberry Pi as I have multiple Pi’s sitting around. The Raspberry Pi, in and of itself , is a fantastic piece of hard that could have pages upon pages in a blog.

My PiStorm sat for almost two months until I watched a YouTube video by Chris Edwards on how to setup PiStorm and Emu68. If you haven’t checked out his channel, I recommend you do so. Chris’ video goes step by step on how to get Emu68 installed and running a basic AmigaOS setup. See it here: https://youtu.be/tw6IG1cOxWc

Installation on my A2000 was straight forward. I removed the 68000 CPU. I installed the PiStorm into a CPU slot adapter and then plugged the Pi Zero 2W into the PiStorm. Once this was complete, I inserted the assembly into the A2000 CPU slot. It is important that you remove the 68000 from it’s socket. Unlike classic A2000 accelerators which both processors can coexist, the PiStorm and 68000 cannot. It has to be removed.

For the Amiga 2000, the PiStorm can be installed in the CPU socket. I didn’t like the clearance between the Pi and the drive cage.

Also available is an CPU Slot specific version of the PiStorm. It can be found here: https://www.tindie.com/products/retrofletch/pistorm-2k-for-a2000-flashed-and-tested-amiga-2000/

PiStorm 2k

As I mentioned above, I opted for the CaffeineOS installation. It has everything setup for the end user. Using BelenaEtcher, you write the image to a 32gb or larger SD card. Once complete, you can remove the card from your PC/Mac and plug it into the Raspberry Pi and boot you computer. You’ll be surprised at how fast the Amiga boots.

Out of curiosity, I removed my Indivision Buddha IDE from my other A2000 system and plugged it in to the PiStorm A2000. To my surprise, the machine booted from the PiStorm and mounted the Disk On Module installed in the Buddha IDE. It even mounted the CF card inserted in the CF card reader attached as well! I made no changes to the scsi.device line. It just worked.

Of course the floppy and Gotek drive worked as expected with no issues noted in performance or reading a disk or USB inserted.

As of now, there is no network connectivity in Emu68. Connectivity is made using plipbox.device and plipbox hardware. I have a Gurunet, which is a more refined version of the plipbox. I haven’t tried using the Gurunet to connect to the internet, but will in time. I don’t know if Indivision’s X-Surf zorro card works with Emu68.

Final Thoughts

Prior to discovering Emu68 and CaffeineOS, I was seriously considering getting a a Vampire. There has been some new developments with that line of accelerators, but they’re pricey. With that said, I was going to make the jump to Vampire. Now that I have discovered this, the Vampire line isn’t even an option. Off the table is the Terriblefire accelerators, overpriced C= and GVP accelerators and other recent accelerator iterations.

The seriously overpriced RTG card market is essentially out of the picture as well since Emu68 offers RTG with a Picasso 96 driver. Keep in mind, native Amiga modes still output through native Denise video. If you don’t have a monitor capable of 15 KHz, this can be remedied with either the RGB2HDMI interface or Indivision ECS. If you are using an Amiga 2000, you can use the mentioned about interfaces or a flicker fixer in the video slot.

I can’t recommend PiStorm enough. As of this writing, the on going chip shortage has made acquiring the parts to assemble the hardware difficult. Raspberry Pi’s are in short supply as well, especially the 3a+ model. The Zero 2W is currently available, but finding one is difficult and with the demand of Raspberry Pi hardware in general, prices are high. In time, the situation will improve, but for now, it’s just the way it is.

My suggestion is to keep looking on eBay, the various Amiga Facebook groups, discussion boards on the web and the PiStorm Discord server. They are available, although they’re a bit higher than the $35 component price, but compare a $75 PiStorm to a $599 vintage GVP 68030 board that has no where near the capability. It’s a bargain!

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