The PiStorm for the Amiga is one of those wonderful and fascinating modifications you can make to a Commodore Amiga where you can affordably give your computer a dramatic CPU boost in performance.
PiStorm is an adapter you connect to your Amiga’s CPU socket and then, armed with a Raspberry Pi board, you can use the CPU power of the Raspberry Pi to push your Amiga’s speed to a whole new level. Even with this mod, the Amiga still feels authentic (just) as the famous custom hardware remains fully utilised to create those lush graphics and expressive sounds.
One of the nice features of using a Raspberry Pi is that you can use the HDMI output of the Pi for a high resolution operating system representation, far beyond what the original hardware would be capable with alone. The Amiga’s custom chips are still used and you will notice this as soon as you run an Amiga game. You can run PiStorm and your Raspberry Pi through this more traditional route too, but you lose the benefits of the higher resolutions and number of colours if you want to use any of the fancier modern operating systems that are available for the Amiga. This means, the HDMI port on the Raspberry Pi is rather essential if you want all the bells and whistles…
Sadly, this means you have a HDMI cable running from inside your Amiga case and needing a way out to your HDMI compatible TV or monitor. There is a detachable port on the left of my Amiga A500, but then this isn’t that pretty or practical, imagine a cable sticking out of the side wobbling around. The risk of catching the HDMI cable and damaging not just the Raspberry Pi, but the PiStorm and CPU socket too was just too much of a risk.
I therefore desired a solution that would allow a HDMI port on the back of the Amiga, without drilling any holes into my precious retro hardware. A pop on and pop off solution to cater for my mood of either pure authentic retro nostalgia or instead the opposite end of the spectrum for when I craved something with a fast, modern and indeed convenient twist.
I came across a rather neat solution that allows you to 3D print a part that sits on top of the Amiga’s air vent grill, also hooking onto the back and with a suitably thin HDMI cable, I would have a more permanent solution for everyday use that can still be removed if I want to return to the original Amiga state. Originally, this 3D print was designed for a different mod entirely, however it’s a similar principle so nothing to worry about there.
Sourcing the HDMI lead, male and female HDMI ports was a fairly simple process on Ali Express with many listings selling essentially the same parts. The HDMI cable needs to be almost paper thin so it can fit through the air vent on the top of the Amiga case, where a normal HDMI cable would have absolutely no chance of succeeding without some rather nasty drilling.
The idea is to have a female HDMI connector that will sit within the 3D printed part for your standard HDMI cable to connect to, a thin HDMI cable to be fed through to the inside of the Amiga and a male HDMI connector to plug into the Raspberry Pi.
After waiting for the items to arrive I ended the day quite confused that the connection wasn’t working! Every other full-width HDMI cable was working correctly from the HDMI out of the Raspberry Pi to the HDMI input on my monitor, except this thin variant I had received no signal at all even when connected to other devices. A refund was issued and I feared that this whole idea of mine was going to fail. So, I found another thin HDMI cable listing from another source on Ali Express, waiting again for the delivery and eureka! This one worked with no fuss at all. Relief and much Cannon Fodder followed.
Handily a work colleague owns a 3D printer and kindly offered to assist in printing this part for me, the part itself which I found at Printables.
My 3D printed component has a little tinge of black in it in places, the result of the previous black filament used in their printer before the white was then used for my own part, however handily this is around the back of the Amiga anyway so not an issue.
It’s a really tidy solution that works well and although I had some issues acquiring a thin HDMI cable that worked, the effort was rewarded.
So now my Raspberry Pi CPU powered Amiga A500, with the HDMI output plugged into a monitor for the operating system (of which I am using Caffeine OS currently) and the traditional RGB output for games running into my 14″ CRT television.