• Type: Home computer
  • Released: April 1987
  • Introductory price: US$699, £499 (US$1500, 2017 equivalent)
  • Discontinued : 1991
  • Operating system: AmigaOS 1.2 - 1.3
  • CPU: Motorola 68000 @ 7.16 MHz (NTSC), 7.09 MHz (PAL)
  • Memory: 512 KB (9 MB maximum)
  • Built in media: 880 KB floppy drive
  • Screenmodes: 736×567i 4-bpp PAL, 368×567i 6 bpp PAL
  • Palette: 4096 colors (4096 on-screen colors in "HAM" mode)
  • Sound: 4x 8-bit channels, 28 kHz stereo
  • Predecessor: Amiga 1000
  • Successor: Amiga 500 Plus

Released 1987: The Amiga 500, also known as the A500, is the first low-end Commodore Amiga 16/32-bit multimedia personal computer. It was announced at the winter Consumer Electronics Show in January 1987 – at the same time as the high-end Amiga 2000 – and competed directly against the Atari 520ST. At delivery in October 1987, Commodore announced that the Amiga 500 would carry a US$699/£499 list price.

The Amiga 500 represents a return to Commodore’s roots by being sold in the same mass retail outlets as the Commodore 64 – to which it was a spiritual successor – as opposed to the computer-store-only Amiga 1000, as well as being another computer where the main unit is integrated in the keyboard.

The original Amiga 500 proved to be Commodore’s best-selling Amiga model, enjoying particular success in Europe. Although popular with hobbyists, arguably its most widespread use was as a gaming machine, where its advanced graphics and sound were of significant benefit. Amiga 500 eventually sold around 4 million units worldwide.

My Amiga 500, repairs and upgrades
In the spring of 1991 I finally had saved enough money to buy a second hand Amiga 500, including the Commodore 1084S monitor. It was amazing. My previous computer was the 8-bit Commodore 64. This was a dream come true. At that time, Amiga 500 was extremely popular, it was the most awesome thing to have. Later, I upgraded the CPU with 68030 @ 33 Mhz accelerator card, 52 MB SCSI harddrive and more memory. It was a very expandable machine. A  few years later, I sold it in favor of the Amiga 4000EC/030. Today I got two Amiga 500’s in my collection with some official expansions. The A590 harddrive, which also adds 2 MB RAM to the machine. A prototype A690 CDROM (relabeled A570 when in retail), that turns the Amiga 500 into an Commodore CDTV compatible system. External floppy drives, the internal 512 KB RAM expansion (A501) and more.

It’s important to remove or replace the RTC “realtime clock” battery on the “trap door” 512 KB RAM expansion cards. Due to age, battery will crack open and leak strong “base” onto the circuit, this will damage traces, causing malfunctions. The trap door RAM will work fine without a battery. Luckily, Amiga 500 got no battery on the mainboard itself. Be aware, the successor “Amiga 500 plus” do got a battery on the mainboard, which often causes significant damage.

One machine of mine got a faulty floppy drive, I first cleaned the read head without any success. Ended up replaced it with another second hand floppy drive. It now works fine.

A690/A570 CDROM: I got the A690 which is a working prototype of the A570 CD ROM sidecard expansion. The A690 was sent to developer houses, when released, it was relabeled the A570. It got a CDTV ROM that is merged with the Amiga 500 Kickstart ROM and turns the Amiga 500 into a “Commodore CDTV”, with the included driver from floppy, it can also be accessed as a normal single speed CDROM from within the Amiga OS.

The  A690 was really beaten up when I got it and not working at all. After inspecting, I found out in opposite to the retail A570, this version got a battery on the PCB. The battery had leaked and damaged two very tiny traces. I repaired the traces with wire wraps on the underside, and made it work again. I also had to replace the power and read LED’s, as the pins had snapped off.

A590 harddrive: I traded away a few Amiga CD32, floppy and C64 tape games to get this. It booted the Amiga OS and seemed to work, however, after a while, the system  froze do to harddrive suddenly turned off and on. I replaced the harddrive with a 2 GB SCSI II Ultra. It was a 50 pin and snapped right on the same cable. To setup on my Workbench 1.3 Amiga 500, I had to enter the values manually, after some struggle, I manage to get two 500 MB partitions formatted, more than enough. (With the original firmware ROM on the controller, its possible to mount 2×980 MB partitions). This harddrive is really noisy, its probably a server disk, but it works very well. I got around 1 MB/sec raw read speed which is good for this system. I disconnected the internal fan, to reduce the noise level just a little bit.

Modify to 1 MB chip RAM: The motherboard can be modified to relocate the trap-door RAM. This RAM is mapped as “slow RAM” (pseudo fast RAM) by default. “Slow-RAM” shares the memory bus for the co-processors, but only CPU can access it. Its possible to relocate this into the chip RAM (multipurpose RAM/graphics RAM) memory pool, provided a compatible “Agnus” chip is fitted on the motherboard. Luckily, one of my two Amiga 500 (1.3 Kickstart) had the latest revision of the motherboard which have the “Fat Agnus”, so I didn’t had to get another Agnus chip. The modification is only to cut traces in two places and solder in one place. My Amiga 500 now got 1 MB chip RAM.

Amiga 500

Remi Jakobsen

I'm collecting classic computers and video games, stretching from the 70's into the 90's. Restoration, history, usage ...

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