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
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
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
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).
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;
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Go with the regular
install but use excessive force to get it to stay
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
(but no longer supported)
very cheap and effective
solution (if you can find
does exactly what it says
on the box.
to install with little knowledge
required, however, owners
of older TT030's might find
it more difficult.