BOY HAVE WE GOT BIG PLANS FOR THE WEEKEND!

A2Central has received its TranswarpGS v1.0 clone prototype and we are going to test it in our primary Apple IIGS starting this weekend.


IMG_20150427_113533_1 - Fixed For Handout

The first run of 10 PCBs are intended for testers and developers, with the remainder being sold to a lucky few who have offered to help fund the continuation of the project by graciously offering more than the retail asking price. If testing is successful, more PCBs will be ordered within a few weeks with full availability to be announced at a later date.

Our TranswarpGS test unit came with all the bells and whistles you’d expect on an upgraded TWGS except for an on-board fan. We’ve been asked to experiment using the card at 16MHz (and higher) without it, so the only cooling will come from our Kensington System Saver (which I consider essential equipment anyway). It will be interesting to find out if, or when, the card begins to get crashy without onboard active cooling. We know the old cards required cooling at higher speeds, but the new TWGS may not necessarily behave the same way or have identical requirements.

Our test rig is a ROM 3 Apple IIGS, with a ReactiveMicro 200W power supply. Currently installed are a typical assortment of cards:

4MB Sequential Systems RAM card (RAM slot)
R&D Automation CFFA3000 (slot 6)
Apple ‘Mustang’ SuperDrive controller (slot 5)
Drewbie Stereo card (slot 4)
A2RetroSystems Uthernet card (slot 2)

I usually have a 12MHz ZipGSX with 32K cache installed in this machine, so I’m expecting to see a noticeable difference in performance.

As we test the card, results will be posted here:

TEST RESULTS PENDING

What did we get?

Out of the package, aside from the TWGS itself, we received a flyer congratulating us on our purchase that also briefly describes the benefits of the card and a set of stickers with a chart of the Scalable Oscillator settings printed on them. The stickers are for placing on the underside of your Apple IIGS lid, so you won’t lose the settings when you need them most. No manual was included, but does anyone really need one? The original Applied Engineering TWGS manual is available online from several sources, and it remains applicable to the clone TWGS board.

Our TWGS also arrived with version 6 of the 32K cache board. By the time the clone TWGS is in full distribution, the version 7 32K cache board will be shipping with it. The primary difference is the version 7 board has a flash ROM on board, with LOTS of space to tinker with the TWGS firmware in the future. I’m attaching a pic comparing the 2 cache boards side by side.


TWGS_Cache
The top two cards are version 7 cache boards, the two bottom ones are version 6.
The new TranswarpGS v1.0 clone from UltimateApple2 and ReactiveMicro has a lot going for it. For one thing, all the components are brand new instead of being 25+ years old and benefit from modernization. New logic and manufacturing techniques should equate into power efficiencies and heat reduction for longer life and increased stability. Also, modifications that were previously considered hacks and upgrades are now standard features. There’s certainly more bang for the buck with the cloned TWGS.

The new TWGS includes:

High-speed WDC 65c816
32K cache board, with the current 1.8S firmware
Scalable Oscillator (preset to 16MHz) with .25MHz incremental tuning
High-speed GAL set
Enhanced “straight” CPU cable
On-board fan, for active cooling

Pricing

The price for the TranswarpGS v1.0 clone is $550 USD plus shipping. That’s probably not the price point some people were hoping for, but at least an option now exists for the Apple II Community for a new, modernized and faster accelerator in addition to the older, used accelerators. It’s extremely difficult to achieve discount pricing from suppliers on such small, niche product runs, especially one with this much silicon on it.

I’m grateful Anthony Martino and Henry Courbis undertook this project and brought it to completion. They were able to succeed where others have not. Good job guys.