DECODING AMIGA FLOPPY DISKS

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When I was a kid back in the 90’s I was lucky enough to have a Commodore Amiga (first an Amiga 600 and then later an Amiga 1200) and whilst PC’s were slowly becoming the dominant platform, the Amiga maintained a hardcore of enthusiastic end-users until it finally slipped into obscurity in the late 90’s. It was a great machine and certainly helped me forge an early interest in computing.

Fast-forward to today and whilst recently rummaging I happened to stumble across a bunch of my old Amiga disks that seemed to indicate my early creative excursions into tools such as Deluxe Paint were stored upon them. Well, I confess that a wave of nostalgia washed over me and I had to make every effort to try and access what was stored on this ancient storage media but I had an issue (or several issues in fact).

My physical Amiga’s had long since gone to the great recycling centre in the sky, my modern PC did not have a disk drive, and even if it did, it is not possible to read Amiga disks using a standard PC floppy drive controller. And so after researching the various options I came to the conclusion that the best and easiest method of recovering my early artistic masterpieces was probably to use Jim Drew’s Supercard Pro.

This is a bespoke disk controller that can enable a standard PC disk drive to low-level read practically any disk format and so with my order placed direct from CMBSTUFF.COM in the USA I hopped onto eBay and tracked down a standard 1.44MB floppy drive along with the required 34-pin ribbon cable. I already had a USB Mini cable and managed to cobble together power for the drive using a couple of Molex-splitters. A nice design feature of the Supercard Pro is that the USB cable can power the board and also an attached drive which meant I didn’t have to open my case and hook into the PSU.

The supplied software is pretty easy to use with an interface similar to old Amiga disk copying software such as D-Copy and X-Copy so I made sure my first disk was write protected to prevent accidental mashing and then took it for a test spin. Despite the age of the media it worked nicely with each track lighting up a cube as it was read and the drive emitting a satisfying mechanical clunk as it worked its way across the disk. After completion, the software spat out an Amiga Disk File (ADF) for use in an emulator and with my virtual disk now created I fired up WinUAE, inserted the ADF file, and on a shiny copy of Amiga Workbench 3.1 there sat my terrible animations from nearly 30 years ago. Amazing.

Amiga Workbench
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