Rob Smith Brings Amiga's Famous Boing Ball Off the Screen and Onto His Desk

Inspired by the famous Amiga demo of CES 1984, this Boing Ball is a 3D-printed replica of the rendered original — and really floats.

Gareth Halfacree
12 months agoArt / Retro Tech / 3D Printing

Software engineer and vintage computing enthusiast Rob Smith has brought back the classic Amiga "Boing Ball" in an usual fashion: 3D printing a real-world version that levitates via cleverly hidden magnets.

"I got the idea after seeing one of these floating moon lamps," Smith explains. "They're pretty cool, and I thought an Amiga Boing Ball would look really ace here. So, I started looking around at magnetic levitation kits, and I found [a] kit on AliExpress […] and I decided to order it. With this coming from China, I had to wait a bit — which [gave] me the perfect opportunity to design the Boing Ball."

This Boing Ball doesn't need an Amiga to run, but floats on magnets while glowing from within. (📹: Rob Smith)

The Boing Ball itself is a true piece of computer history. Looking to demonstrate a prototype of the computer at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 1984, the Amiga team didn't have an operating system in usable form — so coded a real-time demo which rendered a spinning ball, resplendent in red and white checks, which bounced on the screen. A key indication of the visual prowess of what the Amiga team was creating, the demo proved a hit — and served as the logo of the Amiga Corporation, prior to the company's acquisition by Commodore.

While the original Boing Ball was only ever rendered on-screen, though, Smith's variant is a physical object — 3D printed in sections on a single-color printer and assembled into the familiar checked sphere. The levitation kit provides the magnets required to float the resulting ball, and while it doesn't bounce like the original version electromagnets let it spin.

Smith found, however, that — much like the work-in-progress operating system the Boing Ball demo was designed to replace — the project had stability issues. "It's just not strong or stable enough to support such a wide sphere or hemisphere," he explains. A replacement kit with considerably bigger magnets solved that problem, and the time between order and delivery was filled by adding inductive LED lighting inside the ball for a glow effect.

"We need a nice base to put all of the electronics in," Smith says of the finishing touch. "I spent a little bit of time and designed this case which is loosely based on the shape of an Amiga A590 external hard drive. [It] worked out really, really well, and it's really nice to look at too."

The full build process is shown in Smith's video on the subject, while 3D print files on Thingiverse with design files on TinkerCad.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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