ScuzzBlog: Diaries January 2024

Entry 4th January 2024: Post 1: Amiga 600 - What is there not to like?

Amiga 600 - What is there not to like?

Having acquired two Amiga 1200 machines in the early nineties plus
an Amiga 500 computer, I decided to add to the collection an Amiga
600. The computer came with a monitor which in truth is why I
purchased the machine. I did try to make use of the A600 and bought
a 1MB RAM card but in truth with 2 A1200 machines and an A500 I
couldn't find any use for it and so it stayed in its box.

The A600 is either loved or just plain ignored. It kinda falls
between two stools, the serious enthusiast and the mad Amiga gamer.
Trouble is it never quite fits either bill and so is generally
obtained as a cheap option or some project for a dedicated fan.
Personally, whilst I have nothing against the Amiga 600 I really
have never been able to put it to any good use. My other Amigas
do all that I need from the platform and the 600 just doesn't add
anything meaningful to my Amiga world.

So what is there not to like ... ?

The Amiga 600 released in March 1992 came out on the back of the
ill-fated Amiga 500 Plus. The A500 Plus had lasted just six months
as the new kid on the block before Commodore managed to piss off
its A500 fan base by cancelling the old wedge shape in favour of
the more compact and for the most part socket-less A600.

Originally the A600 was dubbed the A300 and confused most with a
machine that many viewed as an Amiga that wasn't needed. Being a
redesigned A500 Plus ECS machine with a 2MB AGNUS chip and 4096
colours it was a replacement that truly killed off all the various
expansions and peripherals designed for use on the A500. What was
truly backward thinking is at the very launch of the Amiga 570
CD side car they cancelled the only computers that could use it
and launched the A600 which was incompatible. Amazingly the A570
was originally incorrectly badged the A670 suggesting an A600 use.

The Amiga 600 has the 68000 processor and so no upgrade on the
A500. It has a new ROM to support the 2.05 Workbench though being
of the 2.0 ROM family. RAM was 1MB expandable to 10MB with 2MB
available through a 1MB trapdoor expansion.

The primary two changes on the Plus was the PCMCIA slot and the
internal hard drive port for a 2.5" laptop style drive. Note that
the very original A600s could not support internal hard drives.

The remainder of the facilities were generally the same though
main omissions were the side expansion port and the num-pad from
the keyboard.

So what is not to like ... ? First up this machine was designed
very much with TV video players in mind. I recall visiting my
local Jessops shop and these sat atop video players and kitted
out with Gen-Locks were being used for home video editing. This
was very popular in the day and the A600 was well suited. However
the machine had little grunt to handle actual video work, and
little facility to expand to give any meaningful power.

The trapdoor was really only big enough for the 1MB memory upgrade
and inside there was just about enough space for the 2.5" drive.
External expansion could be attained via a Squirrel off the side
PCMCIA but many of these devices were released after Commodore
had gone bust.

The PCMCIA could also be used for a Fast RAM card though these
were slow and still didn't boost any real acceleration needed
for modern applications.

The computer was an ECS machine trapped between OCS and the vast
library of A500 games and the newer AGA 1200 machines and the far
superior expansion capabilities. So why would you buy an A600 ?
The computer was first marketed as a cheaper option to the A500
Plus but eventually sold for the same price. By the time the 1200
was released there was little reason to buy the 600. It really
had the feel of a lower standard machine.

So what can you do today with an A600. First thing would be to
get it recapped before you invested much. Next I guess would be a
Gotek drive to replace the internal floppy. A suitable accelerator
with a better processor and more Fast RAM plus a CF card. Using
a suitable video adaptor I guess you have the bones of a reasonably
powerful Amiga though with all that upgrading it still makes more
sense to buy an A1200... in my view.

The Amiga 600 has a small form factor and you pay for that with a
cramped machine that just about permits modern upgrades. But it
remains surface mounted ECS with all the possible problems of chip
failure, when a good A500 Plus is mostly socketed and far easier
to repair. The Plus also gives access to the vast portfolio of
Amiga 500 kit that still shows up on the Ebay auctions.

From what I have said here you probably realise that I am not a
fan. I do sense the A600 purports to be a major player in the
Amiga line but in truth kinda falls flat the first sign of probs.
Those first signs will relate to capacitors and next the failure
of tired components that are now subjected to increased power
loads in a very cramped internal space. It is a big ask of this
machine to cope with all that modern computing demands and I just
don't think it is fair on the machine to expect that.

For me the A600 is a generally good gaming machine and with a 1MB
trapdoor expansion will certainly let you enjoy most of the A500
library. Sadly though it is not an Amiga 1200 and you shouldn't
expect it to perform as such. I do view the A600 as the least needed
of all the Amiga models and better effort could have been spent
getting the A1200 up to speed with CD-ROM and maybe floppies that
could readily read the HD format. The 500 Plus was more than
capable of filling the gap between the 500 and the 1200. The 600
harps back to Jack Tramiel's efforts to force feed the Plus/4
onto an unreceptive C64 community.

I certainly wouldn't put off anybody from buying an A600, but if
you think this machine is just a cut down version of the A1200
then seriously you need to review the specs.. and understand them.

Amiga 600 - What is there not to like?

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Last updated 4th January 2024

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