Amiga 1080 monitor

The Amiga 1080 monitor was the original monitor Commodore supplied with the Amiga 1000 in 1985. It’s one of only two monitors that featured the Amiga branding with the Amiga checkmark logo. Its picture quality is very good, but the monitor sometimes behaves oddly. You can fix the odd behavior. I’ll tell you how, and I also tracked down the elusive pinout for this monitor.

Amiga 1080 monitor history

Amiga 1080 monitor
The Amiga 1080 monitor closely matches the Amiga 1000’s styling, but it worked with other Commodore computers too.

The Amiga 1080 monitor hit the market in November 1985, the same month as the Amiga 1000. It featured Analog RGB to match the Amiga’s output. However, it also worked with digital RGB like IBM CGA and the Commodore 128’s 80-column display, and composite video like the C-64. It was a universal monitor that worked with every computer Commodore made at the time, even though Commodore never marketed it as such. The 1080 works well with all Commodore computers, and even with many non-Commodore computers.

The styling most closely matches the Amiga 1000, but the color scheme matches the Amiga 500 and Amiga 2000 as well.

It’s a little unclear who made the Amiga 1080 monitor. Some 1080s shipped with Hitachi picture tubes, while others had Toshiba tubes. It was made in Japan, either by Toshiba or Fujitsu.

Commodore changed monitor manufacturers a lot, based on price and/or availability. So it’s possible both Toshiba and Fujitsu made 1080 monitors for Commodore. Or maybe Fujitsu made them and used Hitachi and Toshiba tubes depending on availability.

Like many mid-80s Commodore monitors, the 1080 didn’t last long on the market. Commodore discontinued it by 1987.

Compatibility

The composite connector on the 1080 works with the Commodore 64 and VIC-20 and the C-128 in 40-column mode. It will also work with non-Commodore computers with composite outputs, such as the Atari 8-bits, with the appropriate cable. There’s a slide switch in the front of the monitor to switch between composite and RGB.

The RGB connector will work with the Commodore 128 in 80-column mode, and IBM compatibles with CGA, when you put the monitor in digital mode using the slide switch on the back next to the video connector. The position closest to the composite connectors and the center position are digital RGB modes. If the picture rolls in one mode, try the other.

In analog mode, with the switch flipped toward the RGB connector, the 1080 works with the Amiga and other computers that use analog RGB with a 15 KHz signal, such as an Atari ST or Apple IIgs. It will not work with VGA, which I learned the hard way in the 90s.

Also, despite the name, digital RGB isn’t compatible with modern digital connections like DVI or HDMI, so you can’t connect a DVD player to it using the digital RGB connector. To use a DVD player with it, you have to use composite the composite connectors. They’re both digital, but that doesn’t mean they’re compatible.

Advantages of the Amiga 1080 monitor

Aesthetically, the Amiga 1080 monitor has the advantage of the Amiga name and checkmark. That’s a plus when you’re using it with an Amiga. Perhaps the Commodore branding of other monitors is an advantage with a C-64 or 128.

But beyond aesthetics, the 1080 had advantages over Philips-manufactured monitors like the 1084. The flyback transformer on the 1084 wasn’t very reliable, and tended to give out after 2-3 years. The flyback in the 1080 monitor was much better. But neither monitor is as reliable as a 1702.

The picture quality was also better. The 1080 had a better dot pitch than most other Commodore monitors, and also tended to be better adjusted. I don’t have my 1084 anymore to compare picture quality, but the 1080’s picture quality is better than I remember the 1084 being. The 1080 also has a matte display rather than a glossy display, so it gives better contrast.

Close cousins: The Commodore 1902 and 2002 monitors

The 1902 monitor (not the 1902A) looks just like the 1080, only with Commodore branding. Commodore sold this monitor with the Commodore 128. It supported composite and RGBI video, but wasn’t supposed to support the Amiga’s analog RGB. However, at least some 1902s had the circuitry, they just didn’t have a large enough cutout in the case to allow you to slide the switch into analog RGB mode. I have heard of 1902 owners modifying the case so they could use their 1902s with an Amiga.

Commodore did market the 2002 monitor as a universal monitor, working with all of its computers. It looked just like a 1080, except it featured Commodore name and model number in the front instead of the Amiga name and checkmark.

Compute reviewed the 2002 monitor in the February 1988 issue of Gazette, and it disappeared from the market within about a month of the review running. That prompted a bunch of mail from readers. The 1084 appeared soon after. It was functionally identical, but made by Philips. Commodore realized by 1988 that selling monitors that worked with all of their computers was a good idea because people could upgrade without having to buy a new monitor, but they sure seemed to have trouble deciding which one they wanted to sell.

All three monitors look and behave similarly, and develop the same problem over time.

Snaps, pops, and system glitches

The October 1989 issue of Amiga Transactor contained an article about the Amiga 1080 that also applied to the Commodore 2002 and 1902. All three monitors have a large heat sink attached by two screws and a twist tab. The twist tab sits very close to the ground foil on the underside of the monitor’s motherboard, but isn’t attached to it. Over time, voltage builds up in the heat sink like a capacitor, and when the voltage gets high enough, it jumps the gap to ground. When that happens, the monitor will usually snap or pop, the screen may glitch for a second, and in some cases, it can cause the system to malfunction or crash.

The older the monitor gets, the more frequent these problems become.

I’ve observed this. I had my 1080 connected to an Atari 800 using a suitable cable, and occasionally noticed the screen flashing briefly. But in a couple of cases, it caused the game I was playing to glitch badly. I was playing Dig Dug, and the enemies all disappeared, leaving me unable to complete the level. When I reset the game, I only had one enemy, and the level always looked the same. I’ve never seen a monitor crash a computer before.

The August/September 1990 issue of Run magazine also mentioned these problems. though it didn’t give any insights into fixing them.

Fixing the glitch in the 1080, 1902, and 2002

To fix it, you have to open the monitor. Opening CRTs is risky and dangerous, so if you don’t know how to handle 20,000 volts being present in a CRT, have someone else do this. The fix involved breaking off the tab on the heatsink on the underside of the board, cleaning off any carbon residue, and then insulating the area so it can’t arc again. I don’t know where you can buy CRT corona dope anymore, so you might have to settle for liquid electrical tape. Finally, add extra insulation to the red high voltage wire to reduce the amount of voltage that can bleed onto the heat sink.

Again, if you don’t know how to discharge a CRT and work on it safely, don’t do this yourself. Get help from someone who does.

Commodore Amiga 1080 monitor pinout

The pinout for the 1080 monitor is surprisingly hard to find. It’s not in the manual that came with it. Someone on some obscure forum mentioned the pinout is the same as the later 1084D monitor. So I tried it, and the person who said that was right.

Here’s the pinout. If you’re soldering up a cable like I did, reverse the connections. I cheated and marked the connections on my connector as I soldered them.

Pin Analog Mode (Amiga) Digital Mode (CGA/C-128)
1 Ground Ground
2 Ground Ground
3 Red Red
4 Green Green
5 Blue Blue
6 n/c Intensity
7 Composite Sync n/c
8 n/c Horizontal Sync
9 n/c Vertical Sync

 

One thought on “Amiga 1080 monitor

  • September 1, 2020 at 2:09 pm
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    Great post!
    Today I made a room on table for Amiga M1438S monitor beside Commodore 1084 monitor!
    Amiga M1438S is connected to Atari Falcon030 so I can use it with any VGA / RGB resolution! 🙂

    Reply

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