The Vampire Arrives

by Eric Schwartz
from the AmiTech Gazette, December 2017

In the amazing saga of Vampire Quest®, after what feels like decades of waiting and runaround, I finally have my Vampire 600 V2 board. Actually I received it last month, but I withheld that information in the November newsletter for the sake of it being a surprise at the meeting. While it’s tempting to do so, I have not rushed to get it running, for the sake of making sure the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, and avoiding mistakes made in excited haste. Because of this I haven’t really experienced much of the power of the Vampire yet, though I am learning things as I go.

Firstly, there is very little real estate inside the case of an Amiga 600, and it’s quite the challenge getting the Vampire card and a RapidRoad USB interface crammed inside there with their supporting cables in such a way that the case will close.

Secondly, while it’s apparent the Vampire card attaches over the surface-mounted 68000 CPU on the motherboard, I didn’t realize exactly the effort that takes. Initially I had the board snugged up against the CPU (aided by the included screws), but the board did not appear to be working correctly, despite apparently powering on. I learned that I didn’t do a good enough job attaching the board, which involved literally CRAMMING the Vampire socket onto the CPU (not for the squeamish) until it is flush with the motherboard. The screws seem less necessary once you see how tightly the board fits on, but their job is to keep the board from working loose once it’s there.

Thirdly, it’s interesting to note that the kickstart ROM on the motherboard becomes optional once the Vampire is installed, as it has its own custom version of Kickstart internally (required to accommodate its function, though I’m not sure if this copies the Commodore code or uses an AROS-based open equivalent.) The board appeared to be working more correctly now, but apparent conflicts with the RapidRoad USB adapter caused errors with the Compact Flash card that serves as the hard drive. I jumped though a few hoops trying to figure out the problem, but it would seem that re-installing the 3.1 operating system from floppies has fixed the issue. (Late update: perhaps not.)

The story leaves off here for the moment, though I hope to be a bit further along on the software side by the time of the meeting. As my long VampireQuest® comes to a close, originally begun in March of 2016 when I first wrote in declaring my intent to buy one, up to last month with the receipt of the actual board. There are undoubtedly plenty of stories yet to come, as I see there’s still plenty of fight ahead of me to turn this tiny monster 600 into a useful productive Amiga, but the achievement of getting the board itself has been reached. Stay Tuned in the future however for Vampire-Quest II, the search for the Vampire V4 stand-alone Amiga-alike system, coming to a newsletter near you in 2018 (maybe).