The biggest depressing factor about actively using retro machines is the knowledge that they have a finite lifespan. At any moment their logic gates could be snuffed out with a zzap and a whiff of electrical burning. In an effort to delay the inevitable, I’ve been replacing the moving and more fragile components of my Amiga 2000.
In this article, I’ll be demonstrating one way to replace aging CRT’s with a modern VGA capable LCD display. To drive the LCD I’ll be adding an Indivision ECS Scan Doubler/Flicker Fixer.
At a really high level this board will:
- Convert display frequencies to greater than 50hz to enable modern displays
- Remove the eye melting interlaced flicker
- and provide greater usable real estate in WorkBench
There’s a few downsides to using and installing the Indivsion board that should be considered when shopping for a display adaptor. First, the board isn’t cheap, I forked out $86 plus shipping from the UK from amigakit.com and secondly, installing it is not for the faint of heart. So let’s get into the gritty details!
The Indivision ECS board sits on top of the motherboard, inside the Denise chip’s socket, then Denise sits on top of the Indivision board. Gaining access to Denise on the A2000, requires removal of the power supply and drive chassis, the way in which the power supply sits above the motherboard is pretty precarious, once the holding screws are removed. One slight nudge and the chassis drops down, potentially snapping off fragile chips and capacitors.
Next, was the removal of the video toaster which was obscuring one side of the Denise chip. Now this chip has been sitting in this same socket for 28 years, it has made it’s self at home and won’t easily be budged. To make matters worse, the plastic chip sockets are old and cheaply made. Removal of Denise requires a delicate and patient hand!
Starting at one end of the chip, slot in a small flat head screw driver between the mount and the chip and twist slightly; to counter the raise on this side, use another screw driver at the other end of the chip. Using alternating leverage, slowly pry the chip out. For me, the PCB was making some god awful sounds of creaking and groaning as the chip came out, I suppose that proves these machines really do have a personality 😉
Next you’ll want to take your Indivision and check your documentation for orientation, then loosely place the board over the socket to check for obstructions like high capacitors etc. Some models, A3000’s and some A2000’s will require caps to be replaced with lower profile versions. At this point I’d recommend adding the grounding wire to the board, you can screw in the loose end of the ground wire once the board is in place.
After double and triple checking all the pins of the board line up in the socket, carefully and evenly push the board into place, skipping a pin could result in irreversible damage.
Next, we need to insert the Denise chip onto the chip socket on top of the Indivision board. If you examine the Denise chip, you’ll notice a notch at one end. Position the chip notch/marker towards the VGA ribbon cable and again, gently, firmly and evenly push the chip into the socket.
Board installation wise, that’s it! This does leave a loose VGA port to be accounted for and this is probably my only criticism of the board. The reach of the ribbon cable is a little shorter than I would have liked; it was necessary with my setup to thread the cable underneath the GVP accelerator board to reach an open backplate near the Zorro slots. If you have an old PC VGA card handy, you can salvage a back plate to secure the port to the outside of the Amiga’s case.
From my experience and research, the Indivision board will work with any contemporary display connected to it. With a few minor adjustment to the monitor settings, the picture quality was 90% complete. The remaining adjustments and fine tuning are achieved by installing the Indivision config utility (http://wiki.icomp.de/w/images/3/39/Indivision_ECS_V101.lha) in Workbench. Any settings created with this utility are stored in the scan doublers onboard flash memory.
Setting Workbench display settings under Prefs depends on your own requirements, my own machine is running in PAL HiRes Interlaced 16 colors, which outputs 752 x 576. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d see a classic Amiga running at that resolution.
In final testing, games run sharp and crisp with vibrant colors and I couldn’t be happier with my investment. For productivity in workbench or even just playing games, the Indivision ECS board is a quality piece of kit that I’m sure you’ll be happy with.
To read an alternate version of my experiences with the Indivision board, head over to Counting Virtual Sheep.