In 2019 I bought both my Amiga 500 and Commodore 64C. I never used an Amiga before but always liked the system for different reasons. One being that it was 'the alternative' and another was that for it's time it was a powerful yet affordable machine. Looking back at 1985 with the Amiga 1000 and being able to buy it in the form of an Amiga 500 in 1987 ... graphics, sound and performance all in one. It's easy to forget but remember that VGA came out in 1986 and was very expensive at the time. Sound Blaster? You had to wait until 1990.

I have have set up my Amiga 500 in a spot where I can interchange it easily with the C64 as they both hook up to the 1084 monitor. For the C64 I have bought an Ultimate II+ that makes life a lot easier (don't get me wrong; I still like to use the tape or floppy drive every now and then :)). For the Amiga 500 I had to work with a serial cable for data transfer and I have an additional diskette drive hooked up. And that's it for the Amiga. Until now.

What I wanted- and what I got.


Initially I wanted to buy a Classic 520 that hooks up to the side of the Amiga. A non-invasive option without any modification at all and it has decent specifications. A decent CPU, 8MB of fast RAM and both SD and CF slots that are accessible from the outside of the machine. Unfortunately the production of the Classic 520 is delayed time after time. I have ordered one in late June and kept waiting patiently until I saw that Amigastore.eu had a special offer on the TF534 in late November. I cancelled my order of the Classic 520 (that still isn't available now!) and bought the following:

1. 3.1 Kickstart ROM
2. 4GB CF-card with Workbench 3.1 by Cloanto installed.
3. Terrible Fire 534 at 33MHz.
4. Amiga 500 512KB/2MB expansion with RTC (check if you have the Agnus 8372A chip).
5. A cute Tiny Little Slug mouse-pad :).

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A few items are key in this: the 3.1 ROM is needed to boot from the CF-IDE port. The pre-installed CF-card is a big convenience since I don't have experience setting it all up. 4GB is more than enough for me and I've read that big CF-cards (16GB+) can cause problems (that are solve-able but I'd like going hassle free ;)). The TF534-card is stock, but could've been overclocked to 40MHz and to 50MHz with a ceramic chip. I did not choose for this because the performance jump from the original Amiga 500 is already very high with 33MHz (i.e. 33MHz seems enough for me) and the overclocked parts stress the system and old PSU more. At last the RAM upgrade so I'll be able to use more fast RAM and chip RAM. Especially the latter makes a bigger difference than I initially expected.

Installing it


Installing it is an easy job if you're familiar with computer hardware. Open up your system and remove the inner metal cover. With the hardware that I bought I also got manuals on how and what to install. They are straight forward.

I've first tested the Terrible Fire 534 and was wondering if it will boot up Workbench 1.3 with the original 1.3 ROM. It worked and then I set out to install the 3.1 ROM and install the RAM-upgrade. Of course you can install it all together (which is easier since you don't have to remove the CPU again) but I was just curious if it would work. Eventually I installed the TF534, ROM 3.1 and the 512K/2MB RAM expansion. I did not use the 'mod' to make use of the full 1MB chip RAM instead of 512k because I wanted to experience the difference.

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Booting it up!


The first time I started the machine I thought I had installed something wrong. It took longer for the screen to appear that the ROM was loaded than I anticipated. Also with CF-card installed you can't see any bootlogo's and just have to wait until Workbench is presented on the screen. It doesn't take long, but just after modifying the bits inside your Amiga ... it feels different :P.

Once loaded into Workbench I noticed that the diskette drive is seeking periodically (and infinite like an Amiga is told to do) for a disk. Normally the system expects to see a disk here since that would've been the one you booted from. I've read that there are multiple ways to avoid this (editing the ROM, using a NonClick tool) but so far I've just popped in a disk which works too. However, don't forget to remove the disk temporarily when you boot up your Amiga since it will still boot from FD0 first (and then from the CF).

I copied a few WHDLoad games using Amiga Explorer and quickly found out that 512K of chip RAM is not enough. Games like Body Blows, Lost Vikings, Chaos Engine, Sink or Swim, Cool Spot, Gods, Turrican ... all need more chip RAM when loaded through WHDLoad.

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This message is going to show itself frequently if you have only 512KB chipram.

So I went back inside the Amiga and did the JP2-modification and soldered a line to the Gary adapter. It requires (very) basic soldering skills and cutting the JP2 line is really cutting a factory soldered line and not a line that lies underneath the coating of the PCB. It can be undone very easily by re-soldering it :).

After booting up I would say that the system feels faster but I guess that's my mind playing tricks on me. Of course the 'graphics mem' is now almost 1MB (a tiny bit is in use already after booting) instead of 500k. Almost all of the WHDLoad games work out of the box now. If I could not do this modification I would almost say that the Terrible Fire 534 isn't worth the money since it WHDLoad is of very little use with just 512k chip RAM. Luckily it's easy to get it up to 1MB :).

Performance


I've found that the I/O performance is good and is a couple of times faster than loading from disk. Workbench also feels faster and SYSINFO 4.4 gives me 6253 dhrystones.
To compare:
- A regular A500 would score 539.
- A HC508 (68HC000) at 50MHz scores 4247
- A Classic 520 should get 5661.
- TF534 at 40MHz will score 7917

Despite that the performance is increased in I/O and basic calculations, not all games run smoother. Games like Zool and Cannon Fodder won't be 100% smooth in all situations (yet still very playable of course). Somewhere I expected that the 90% fluent games on the original Amiga 500 would be 100% fluent with the TF534.

I haven't really tested the graphics-side of the Amiga. I assume that the non-fluent games are already limited by the original Agnus chip and that chip is still the original one :). After all a lot of the graphics in-game are being taken care of by the supporting chips that make an Amiga an Amiga.

Is a TF534 worth it?


It really depends on what you want with your Amiga. If you just want to fiddle around with new stuff you can't go wrong on the TF534. It gives the Amiga a boost and a harddrive which is very convenient. The TF534 has potential but you do need to dive in the Amiga-world to get the most out of it. Be prepared to tackle a few problems with WHDLoad, to install/extract programs via CLI and to install the MMU library.

If you just want to play some of the old games every once in a while then the TF534 might be on the expensive side. To be honest: with a second diskdrive you can play a lot of old games without excessive swapping. The games that you play will still play like they used to. I've found that the CPU-upgrade that the TF534 offers won't speed up all games because the rest of the Amiga (i.e. the blitter chip) stays the same.

If you can't run the extra chipram in your system I would not buy the TF534. It's not that the TF534 fails here but if you run the TF534 with a CF-card you'd probably want to use WHDLoad too and WHDLoad just really needs 1MB chipram. A few games run with just 512KB but you'll be disappointed if half of the games pop-up with a memory error. So check if you have an Agnus 8372A chip.

If you buy the TF534 then keep in mind that your power supply might not be sufficient enough anymore. The regular Amiga 500 power supply should be able to run it if the power-supply was new; but most of them are about 30 years old now. I've bought a decent power supply at iComp.de to avoid problems (which I did experience with the original power supply, flickering in games, instability). If you decide to buy a new PSU then keep in mind that you buy a decent one. The original can provide 4.5A on the 5V rail and I've seen new after market power supplies that provide just 3A. Personally I'd go for at least 4A on the 5V rail.

At last but not least: there is a newer version of the Terrible Fire available under the name TF536. It has improvements: fixed at 50MHz and 64MB RAM. The FPU has been dropped since the FPU is very rarely used in the Amiga 500. If you can find a TF536 then it would be the better choice since it opens up more options due the increases RAM.

31 January 2021 17:55

Hi my email is marty15089 at_gmail.com. when you installed this. How did you put 5he heat sink back on and did you alter it . Sorry for asking .

01 February 2021 14:38

Hello Marty,

I have the version without heatsink. When they are clocked at 33MHz they don't need a heatsink. The metal shielding that is inside the Amiga 500 and covers the motherboard will fit, however it will be a tight fit. You can try to fit it back by fastening all the screws except those at the sidecar expansion port; fasten them when you have the others finished. Basically your Amiga should run fine without the metal shielding but for originality purposes I'd prefer to stick it back rather than leaving it out and worry about storing the metal shield somewhere else :).

When you do have the need for a heatsink (i.e. in hot environments or when your chip is overclocked to 40MHz) then you have to leave out the metal shielding or modify it by cutting out a piece for the heatsink to go through.

This reply has been editted 1 time.

16 May 2021 16:26

Hi Marty, I have exactly the same setup as your article.
The a500 has the 1 meg chip ram mod and kick start 3.1.4
Unfortunately when I power up the 500 all I get is a blinking red light - no kickstart screen.
If I remove the TF534 and pop the 68000 back in all is good.
Does anyone know what could be the issue? Do I have a faulty 534?
Any help would be much appreciated!

20 May 2021 08:46

Could be a multitude of things. To start: please check if the pins on the CPU relocator board are straight and properly seated. Check carefully since these pins are a bit thinner and thus more fragile. If you are sure that the relocator is 100% seated correctly then insert the TF534 in the relocator and make sure that the pins are 100% straight and align up.

If you have the right tools (a PGA extractor) you can try reseating the FPU on the TF534.

Make sure you have the jumper installed correctly on the TF534. It should be installed onto the pins that are closest to the pins that insert into the relocator. In other words: the single pin closest to the FPU should not be connected.

I've also found that a decent PSU is important. The TF534 is more power-hungry than the original 68k chip. I bought a PSU at iComp.de just to make sure that the 5V rail supplies decent power.

Do you have the CF-card installed? Is pin 1 on the PATA/IDE cable aligning up?

At last but not least: be careful with ESD. It's best to be earthed all the time using a wrist-band. If you don't have this then make sure you never touch the pins (on both the PCB as the pins on the chips). I always pick-up chips and PCB's on the edges to avoid touching pins.

25 May 2021 17:57

Thank you Thandor,

Yes I've reseated both the relocator and the TF534 several times with the same effect. I'm not using the CF-card. It's a rev6a A500. I've tried a kick rom 3.1.4 and a latest kick 3.* Same issue.

As a test, interestingly if I put the TF534 into my rev5 A500 (kick 1.3) it boots, detects the 030 but not the additional onboard memory.

I'm wondering if it is a power issue...

27 May 2021 09:48

So to some extend the TF534 does actually work :). If the Rev5 machine does boot with the TF534 it's an indication that the power supply is sufficient. I assume you've used the same power supply for both the Rev5 and Rev6 machines?

Did you also reseat all the chips on the Rev6 Amiga including the (PLCC) Agnus chip?

Also make sure that the Rev6 Amiga is in 100% working order. Try running the Amiga Test Kit to verify.

Does the TF534 work in the Rev6 machine with Kickstart 1.3 ROM installed?

27 May 2021 13:32

I've tested on the Rev6a with it's original power supply and the one from the Rev5 and an a1200 power supply. All those tests produced the flashing red power led.

I've not reseated the Agnus on the 6a - it works fine if I pop the 68000 back in.

I'm pretty sure the 6a is in full working order. I will run the Amiga test kit.

A good point regarding testing the TF534 on the 6a with kick 1.3, I will test that too and report back!

03 June 2021 22:01

And we're you able to get the 6a with Kickstart 1.3?

In the meantime I have sent back my TF534. I encountered problems along the way with stability, too. Especially on the memory-side which Amiga Test Kit confirmed. I've requested an RMA and it turned out that there was residue between the pins of the chips. Apparently it wasn't cleaned properly (enough) after assembly so they've cleaned it using an ultrasonic cleaner. If I knew this beforehand I would probably cleaned it myself using a (pressurized) can of brake cleaner and let it dry for a good bit :).

Before I sent my TF534 back I've inspected it visually but couldn't see residue. Perhaps it's not that much visible or the residue was sitting underneath the soldered 68030 chip.

This reply has been editted 1 time.

14 June 2021 13:36

Yes I've reseated both the relocator and the TF534 several times with the same effect. I'm not using the CF-card. It's a rev6a A500. I've tried a kick rom 3.1.4 and a latest kick 3.* Same issue.

Today I received my TF534 back from RMA and I tested it without the CF-card attached. I turns out that my system doesn't boot when the CF-card (+PCB +cable) is not attached.

16 June 2021 17:15

Interesting!. When you say "doesn't boot" do you mean you get just a blank screen and/or flashing LED?

I've not had a chance to test 6a with Kickstart 1.3 but I'll also get hold of an IDE to CF adapter and test mine with a CF card connected.

This reply has been editted 2 times.

16 June 2021 22:28

Without the CF-card (and without PCB that houses the CF-card and without cable) it doesn't start at all. I get a steady red power-on light but no disk drive activity nor anything on the screen. The system appears to be completely dead.

With the adapter connected it boots up in a few seconds :).

Not sure if all the TF534's are this way. I can't find much information about the requirement of having the IDE port populated but in my case I'm required to have the CF-card fitted.

Let's hope it will be the same with your Amiga so you can finally use the TF534!

17 June 2021 12:16

Yes that's exactly the same symptoms I have been having.

I have an IDE to CF adapter and CF card on order which should arrive in the next few days so we'll find out for definate then!.

22 June 2021 09:38

Ok I've finally got the TF534 working!.

Turns out there were two issues preventing it's operation.

1. The jumper on the Garry chip that enables the additional 512k of chipram was on the wrong setting. This is the jumper closest to disk drive (right side of the Garry chip). Since it was incorrectly set to the '512' setting and i'd made the solder mod to JP2 it was somehow preventing the TF534 from operating. It's worth noting that in this configuration with the Garry jumper set to '512' and the 68000 chip installed the A500 operated normally.

2. As you hinted at in your last message I installed an IDE -> CF card adapter on the TF534 and once this and the Garry chip jumper was set correctly it booted to kickstart!.

I then plugged in my modded GVP A500 HD+ 8MB (it has a SCSI -> Micro SD adapter conversion) and bingo all working now.

Picture links below:
https://www.kellys-heroes.eu/files/amiga/a500-03.jpg
https://www.kellys-heroes.eu/files/amiga/a500-01.jpg
https://www.kellys-heroes.eu/files/amiga/a500-02.jpg

Many thanks for your help and advise Thandor :)

This reply has been editted 2 times.

22 June 2021 12:45

Glad to hear that it works! Thanks for the follow-up on how it all turned out and good to see that it all fits together now. It's a pity that the nice looking 50MHz ceramic CPU with gold-top is going to be covered under plastic ;).

Does the RAM of the GVP A500 HD+ 8MB also add up on the total amount of fast RAM?

This reply has been editted 1 time.

22 June 2021 15:00

I know I love that gold CPU, something I only dreamed of owning back in 1990!. Yes I was worried the GVP A500 HD+ 8MB fastram might conflict with the TF534 fastram addressing but it all works just fine including the 1.5mb trap door fastram!

I have a few more projects planned including some for my A1200 so if I have time I might write a similar blog on those. Its been nice to have the inspriation that your blog has given me to delve back into these machines after 30+ years...

23 June 2021 21:20

Good to know that the 8MB doesn’t conflict :).

The Amiga (and C64) is interesting to dive back into. Not only because of the good old games but also for the new hard- and software that is being released all the time. A lot of new and good creativity within the borders of limited hardware :).

Looking forward to read about your A1200 project!

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