Issue 15: Jan 2002






Tip of the Day


My trip down the Champs-Elysées


'C'ing through the window 'pains'


Atari UK 2


Star Alliance - Battle for Earth


M: Interactive Composition




Calamus from scratch


Porthos 1.28


Put a Little Bee Under the Bonnet of your TT



Put a Little Bee Under the Bonnet of your TT

by Elliot Swanton


Hats off to the people at Atari and all the developers who have over the years have made our little platform last so long. However, many of the modern functions of a computer require a fast machine not just a reliable one with good software, would it not be nice to speed up some of those slower applications?

When I found out that Czuba-Tech was going to be making a MC68060 upgrade for the TT030 I was very excited as I had my heart set on a seriously fast TT030. Unfortunately the project was cancelled as there were only a handful of people interested, however I still wanted a faster TT030 so I looked at what had been done already.

How do we make it go faster?
I already have a memory upgrade, some fast hard disks and a video card, I needed to choose an upgrade which would increase the "raw" speed of my TT030.

The decision was fairly simple; it was based on cost, benefits, simplicity and above all it was the only one I could find. I got mine brand new for £30, it boasted as being a 48Mhz upgrade and was advertised as a solder-less installation. In this report I will be looking at the CaTTamaran TT030 upgrade by CyReL.

What does it upgrade?
This card is designed to increase the standard 32Mhz TT030 to a whopping 48Mhz, this should give a general speed increase of around 50% (in theory). It will not however increase the speed or abilities of a number of devices, for example; serial port, video colours, sample playback rates and so on although there may be an indirect benefit to all of these.

It is able to upgrade all TT030s including the older ones with the CPU on a daughter board, although it should be noted that the process is a little harder on these machines.

How is it installed?
The unit has three clip connectors (funny gadgets about 4cm long, pushing in one end extends a hock on the other end to clip it onto things) and one small connector, the CaTTamaran's board has a 30 pin connector that stretches most of the way along the upgrade (much like a connector on an IDE cable). There are a few small chips and some other minor components on the underside of the board (my model being about 5cm by 2cm), it should be noted that this upgrade simply over clocks the computer and does not replace the CPU.

I first started by taking the top off of my TT030 and removing the hard drive and the shielding around the VME bay, I then "walked" myself through the instructions a few times locating all of the connecting points for the clips and the one resistor leg that needed to be cut.

When this was all clear in my head I started to work through the instructions. After connecting all of the clips to the motherboard, I came to install the main board of the upgrade. The large connector mounted on the upgrade is supposed to plug into the top of your ST RAM board along the back of the ST RAM board's connector that plugs into the TT030 mother board (if that makes sense).

[Diagram of TT030 mother board]

The problem is that the back of my ST RAM connector was not designed to have something plug into it, the pins are not precise and have solder covering them. Although I tried the pins were not long enough to penetrate the upgrades connector and make a strong fit. A few ideas crossed my mind;

  1. I could run a small ribbon cable to the board. This would work well but it was more work than I was willing to do plus the board would need to be secured with glue somehow so it did not move about and short out.
  2. Extend the back of the ST RAM connector with some pins. I felt that the rows of pins would become difficult to construct and may not be ridged enough.
  3. Remove the ST RAM board and plug the upgrade directly into the connector. This would work fine and the job would be done in minutes, but I would lose 4MB of ST RAM.
  4. Go with the regular install but use excessive force to get it to stay on.

"Eureka" this sounds like the perfect solution with no complications!

Now keep with me here there is logic behind it, the connector on the upgrade and the pins on the ST RAM board are made of harder metal than the solder surrounding the pins, I simply need to "mush" the connector into the solder. Okay, not the nicest way of doing it but I was becoming impatient and I only stood to lose an ST RAM card and the upgrade.

I removed the upgrade and the ST RAM board and straitened all of the pins on the back of the connector. The upgrade was then lightly aligned into place on top of the ST RAM board's connector, using a heavy hammer I simply "knocked it home".

I replaced the ST RAM board (with the upgrade "piggy backing") into the TT030, I then continued with the install that was now all backwards (but it was not a problem).

Note: Later I found out that there are only a few ST RAM boards like this and it would have been better to remove the excess solder with a soldering iron or sharp knife (but mind your fingers).

I went through the instructions again checking my work and all appeared fine, I then proceeded to loosely place the hard drive back into the case and connect the external cables. I flicked the power switch (leaving my finger hovering over it just in case of any smoke or hissing sounds) and was delighted to find that it booted first time, but did it work?

With a bit of foresight I ran a benchmark on my TT030 before I installed the upgrade, this would tell me if the upgrade actually worked and moreover by how much. Without the upgrade there was no surprise to find that most of the figures came out at around 100%. One should note that I did the test using GEMBench (V4.31) with a clean boot, not a single program loaded and in TT030 Medium resolution.

Being the eager child that I am I quickly ran the benchmark program, I was thrilled to find a near textbook increase on all functions to around 150%.

In "real" use one finds that windows appear noticeably quicker with CPU hungry applications running just that little bit smoother, in general my TT030 felt much more responsive. Hard disk intensive processes (for example copying, deleting) did not appear to benefit that much and DOOM was quicker but still unplayable.

Supplied with the unit is some software that enables you to turn the unit on or off (48Mhz or 32Mhz respectively) and a neat utility that monitors the CPUs activity (such as temperature). The archive that I got for the unit also contained GEMBench to test the computers performance, there was also some demo code to access the device in both C and Assembly.

Due to speed being software selectable, there is also code and documentation to increase the unit to 58Mhz or even a massive 64Mhz without problems. None of the code supplied actually lets you do this but with minor modifications it looks possible. I have yet to find any confirmation of it working or on its reliability, we will keep you informed.

Problems Found?
The solder-less install works and I will not take that away from them, although some of the clips could be replaced with a simpler and smaller connector (the clip may be to retain a solder-less install on all motherboards). The other problem with the clips is that they can obstruct the VME bay and the Serial connectors inside the TT030. I would recommend that people with a little soldering ability take to the iron and solder the few joints that are required.

My TT030 would often not boot when I switched it on or used the Reset button, this was not much of a problem as a few taps on the Reset button brought the machine back to life. I did find instructions for locating a pin on one of the upgrade's chips and making it permanently live which would resolve the problem, but I felt that it was not that much of an issue to warrant the risk.

There is no easy way to disable the unit but this has not been a problem yet. There is a software solution or a change of one of the clips inside to disable it permanently (which means taking the TT030 apart again). If anyone did find it a problem then I am sure that the "clip change" method could be re-worked into a simple switch solution, although I am not sure if this could be changed "on the fly".

There was a lot more interference on the screen when I used my CrazyDots card, with some tinkering I found that it was the hard drives, I moved them all to another power supply and that cleared up the problem. I think this was something my TT030 suffered from and the upgrade just magnified the matter.



CaTTamaran TT030 upgrade


CyRel (but no longer supported)


£30 (purchased second-hand)


  • A very cheap and effective solution (if you can find one).
  • Outstanding, does exactly what it says on the box.
  • High compatibility.


  • Easy to install with little knowledge required, however, owners of older TT030's might find it more difficult.
  • Occasional booting problems.




Useful links


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MyAtari magazine - Review #3, January 2002 


Copyright 2002 MyAtari magazine