Build A Killer Amiga Emulator For Under $100 With The Raspberry Pi 3

Retro-Amiga Goodness With The Raspberry Pi 3

rpi retro amiga 1
Dave Haynie, one of the chief engineers that worked on the Amiga back in its heyday, put it best when he said, “Amiga users make Macintosh users look like PC users”, in the Viva Amiga documentary that was released early this year. Those of us that were around when the Amiga initially debuted knew Commodore had something special on its hands. At the time of its launch, the Amiga was the most advanced personal computer money could buy – bar none. It offered multimedia features that were unmatched for many years, it was affordably priced (relatively speaking), and was the first personal computer with true multi-tasking capabilities, among numerous other things.

Despite the Amiga’s superiority, Commodore eventually imploded some 23+ years ago and took the Amiga down with it. The rest of the Amiga’s story is a convoluted mess that’s been told ad nauseam and continues to spur heated debate to this day. But one thing is certain – the Amiga still has loyal fans that can’t get enough of the platform. So loyal, that new hardware and software continue to be developed for the Amiga to this day.
amiga 500
The Amiga 500

Messing around with old Amiga hardware can be fun, but it can also be costly, especially in the U.S. where the Amiga wasn’t as pervasive. Thankfully, there are a myriad of ways to emulate the Amiga on virtually any platform from Android smartphones to powerful PCs. The Raspberry Pi 3, however, represents a flexible, affordable option that’s tiny, easy to configure, and can actually be many times faster than any of the original Amigas. If you’re crazy – like me – you can even overclock the Raspberry Pi 3 to squeeze even more performance from the platform. I'll show you how in a just a bit.

When these 3D printed, Retro Amiga cases for the RPi 3 hit Etsy, I had to have one. Although I still own a couple of actual Amigas, they are in storage and have probably succumbed to battery and capacitor leakage at this point. So, I snagged a Retro Amiga case and got to tinkering. I had so much fun, and the endeavor was so affordable, I thought some of you might want to get in on the action.
raspberry pi 3
The entire parts list is surprisingly affordable – especially if you have input devices laying around and aren’t dead-set on acquiring a Retro Amiga case. And almost all of the software is completely free. All you need to build a killer, small form factor Retro Amiga is:

The grand total for all of the essentials is only $91. That Pi3 starter kit includes a power adapter, HDMI cable, heatsinks, and a clear case. Any standard USB keyboard and mouse will do, but I wanted something compact that could be easily moved from machine to machine, so I grabbed a cheap, compact wireless combo from Rii. There are numerous USB gamepads that’ll work with the Pi 3 (including Xbox controllers), so I grabbed a SNES gamepad replica that was super cheap. And then there was the 32GB Samsung micro-SD card. 32GB is complete overkill for this project, because it’ll hold virtually every application ever created for the Amiga, but it happened to be one of the cheapest, high-speed cards available when I looked, so I grabbed it.
If you don’t mind splurging a bit, a 3D printed Retro Amiga case for the Raspberry Pi 3 will set you back another $40. For me, it was absolutely worth it for the aesthetic appeal alone, but not everyone is as emotionally attached to the Amiga as I am.

There are a few options in terms of software, like RetroPie and Amiberry to name a couple, but I went with a standalone emulation package called Amibian. Amibian uses UAE4ARM, an Amiga emulator built for ARM-based processors, and is very easy to setup and use. Amibian is also completely free, as are the tools you’ll need to set it up properly. The software breakdown looks like this...
In addition to these items, you’ll also need a decompression program like WinRAR to extract any files that you download and Amiga ROMs to emulate the particular type of Amiga you desire.

If you’re only concern is some retro gaming goodness, Amiga 500 and Amiga 1200 ROMs will have you covered for the vast majority of games and applications. Believe it or not, these ROMs are still being licensed and need to be purchased if you want to keep things totally legit. A software package called “Amiga Forever” available from Cloanto includes an array of ROMs and Amiga Workbench disks. There are various Windows packages available that include emulators for the PC as well, but they are more expensive. The Android version of Amiga Forever is only $1.99, and includes everything you need.

Of course, should you search for Amiga ROMs or Workbench ADF downloads on line (ADF is the Amiga Disk Format), you’ll found countless sites that have them available for download, but we don’t condone it.

Related content