It’s been a while since we posted an update about our IIgs accelerator project. So here’s some recent good news.
Before we get to the update we wanted to ask for help from the Community. Those ‘power users’ of the TransWarp GS (TWGS) accelerator are asked to contact us. We have recreated the GALs on the TWGS and are looking to confirm the new code is stable and works correctly. We will send you a new set of GALs for local testing. All you need to do is install and use your IIgs as you normally would. Run programs and games and report back to us if all appears to be the same and no crashes. In return we will issue you a $50 RM Store credit towards any items of your choice. Upgraded and non-upgraded versions of the TWGS are welcome to apply. Users with more than one TWGS board preferred.
And another opportunity to get paid for working on your favorite hobby: Programmer Wanted! To provide the best user experience with the new accelerator, and to help keep costs as low as possible, better diagnostics are needed. We understand it’s not as ‘glorious’ as games. Nor the same public adoration. And we know how exciting it can be to changeling one’s self and see how far a particular area or field can be mastered and understood. Diagnostics however are really need by the Community instead of low use programs or more games few ever play. In fact, diagnostics really are the foundation for the Retro Community. We’ve stated the need for good diags many times in the past. And to this we irritate the point once again. We need your help. New diags are needed to better test motherboards and accelerators. At the very least, a program could be written to help automate tasks under GS/OS. We’re open to ideas. And we’re also willing to pay for your time. No less than $150 will be offered for someone willing to help to create a diagnostics program. Contact Support for details and to discuss the ideas we currently have.
Who said there’s no more jobs left in retro computing!
Background about our IIgs accelerator project:
As you may already be aware, Henry from ReActiveMicro had been involved with the TWGS clone project from it’s inception. In a collaborative effort with UltimateApple2, we released a low volume run 1-to-1 clone of the TWGS called v1.0. Later ReActiveMicro revised the design slightly to allow simpler assembly, thus a much lower price, and released the v1.1 project. Both designs however are more or less an exact clone of AE’s design. Even with v1.1 the same design issues original TWGS board have are present. These issues mainly add time and assembly costs to making a stable new board. Each one has to be ‘tuned’ and can take hours of time to find issues and fix them, which adds to the overall sales price of the board. Amazing the AE design works at all at 16Mhz, and goes to show how well designed the project is.
With ReActiveMicro’s IIgs accelerator project Henry will base a new design on the AE TWGS since it’s proven. AE’s team of trained programmers and engineers spent more than a year of time and had assistance from Apple with IIgs propitiatory information. It seems unlikely any one person could believe they could make an accelerator for the IIgs and it ‘just work’, or as well as the TWGS. So we plan to reuse the firmware and cache systems as a starting point, and rework the AE design from the bottom up. This will lower costs while providing the same stable design and compatibility we have come to know and trust, but using new parts and a new layout. We also plan to use DIP parts which are more ‘retro’, and allows users the opportunity to hand assemble their own kit if they wish the full retro ‘home-brew’ experience.
As we mentioned above, we have completed reverse engineering the GALs on the original TWGS. This is one of the harder parts of the project, as the source code for the GALs was lost to history. Henry was successful in copying the GALs back in 2006. But how the GALs worked was still a mystery. So new code was created and tested. We have a final version ready for field testing and are looking for TWGS owners to step up and offer assistance in helping confirm our work is correct so we can move on with the rest of the project.
Next, we will continue with a new layout for each system on the new accelerator card. Bus and cache systems are pretty basic and probably won’t change much. However the clocks, access, and control logic were 74-series IC based and had several race conditions, especially at higher speeds. On the original TWGS the GALs could be made to deal with these issues. However on the new layout we will fix the issues using a new set of logic designed for use at higher speeds. All the known issue can all be fixed this way. Technically our accelerator will be better than the original AE TWGS for this feature alone. But wait, there’s more!
We also plan to incorporate our ‘Controllable Oscillator’ on to the new accelerator. This project is also being worked on at the same time as the accelerator. We mentioned it a few times in past updates. In short – it replaces the static, single speed oscillator with a handheld controller. Users can select a range of speeds and even pause the IIgs. We plan to offer the Controllable Oscillator in a stand alone design for use with original TWGS and ZIP-GSX boards. The original concept used a joystick and LCD screen. The new version uses a touch screen and is based on an Arduino Mega. The UI will be open source so mods can be made by the Community as they see fit. And we will host and support the differed mods on our Wiki. And as with all our projects, anyone offering to help improve a design will be offered store credit for their help and ideas.