NewLife Accelerator Card for Macintosh Classic
I was donated an old Macintosh Classic that was in desperate need of a good restoration, full of dust, gooey capacitors, no startup, imagine my surprise when I opened up the case and found that I had a really unique accelerator, the NewLife CD309B 16MHz 68030 for Macintosh Classic.
Being a Canadian, this little card holds a certain significance for me as it was manufactured by a Canadian company in Canada.
NewLife Computer Corporation
Like many things in Canada, we are often overshadowed by our neighbours to the south so it's very difficult to find out information about this organization.
I found exactly two places that mention this company at all on the big bad web, both of which appear in 2011 on the 68kmla.org thread, which featured some dead links now in 2019. One live link led me to the Government of Canada's Federal Corporate Information site that mentions that the company was founded on January 12, 1990 as NewLife Computer Corporation and existed in that form until February 8, 1993. The company appears to have had offices at 3922 Armitage Ave. Dunrobin Ontario.
After 1993 the company was renamed 2563878 Canada Corporation and then dissolved on August 7, 2008. According to the 68MLA thread, the company appears to have been bought by Newbridge Microsystems which in turn was bought by Tundra Semiconductor of Ottawa Ontario, which is associated with Adam Chowaniec one of the founders of NewLife and former Commodore International Vice-President of World Product Development who was responsible for the development of the Commodore Amiga.
Indeed one of the other companies mentioned on the Tundra Semiconductor Wikipedia Article is Calmos Microsystems, which provided the VLSI chip on my accelerator card. Again, Adam Chowaniec became President of Calmos in 1985, with the founder, John Roberts becoming VP of R&D.
An old usenet thread post also provides a little bit more background about the company in general:
Well enough history for now, lets dig into my accelerator....
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 92 10:47:03 EST
>From: "Charles A. Patrick"
Subject: '030 Accelerators for the Mac Plus
On Thursday January 10 in v10 #8, Phil Jung asks about economical accelerators
for the Plus.
Just about a month ago I was pursuing the same information. The best bet seems
to a NewLife accelerator called the NewLife Plus, manufactured by a company
called (guess what!) NewLife Computer Corporation, which is located in my
(wide sense) backyard: 603 March Road, Kanata, Ontario, Canada, K2K 2M5.
(800) 663-6395 or (613) 592-5080, and FAX (613) 592-9738.
The NewLife Plus is a '030 board, available in a variety of clock speeds. It
boasts 4 SIMM sockets that accommodate either 1MB SIMMS or 4MB SIMMS, and a
32 bit data path. Its basic Canadian suggested retail price is $688. As with
other boards the accelerator can be clipped on or soldered. The basic kit comes
with a power supply augmentation arrangement and a fan. It sounds like a good
deal. Certainly it would bear further investigation!
I got this information from a fellow with first name Patrick, who, I got the
impression, would be more than happy to assist your investigations.
It is certainly my intention to purchase this board for my son's Plus very soon
after it starts shipping.
Hope this helps!
First thing to note is it's odd shape. This is to accommodate the existing chassis and form factor of the original board. There are two rectangular cut-outs on the board, one for the PSU and a second for the clock battery. The accelerator contains four 30pin SIMM slots for RAM, a 16MHz 68030 CPU, a MC68882 math co-processor, what looks like a diagnostic edge connector port, some weird black connector with a whole bunch of pins and a 2pin 5V power connector. The whole thing connects via a "Killy" connector that clips right over top of the 68000 processor on the original motherboard as seen below.
The thing requires extra 5V power, which is supplied by a little extra PSU which screws to the inner chassis of the Classic and is connected to resistor RP46 on the main Classic analog board via two plastic probe clips.
There are few indications of the age of this board: First is a sticker that states "Pass Jan 14 92 CW", then the serial which is 9201053. If I'm parsing this correctly (and I could totally be wrong), could stand for the 53rd unit manufactured January 1992? Maybe? If that's true, that's a pretty low serial? Maybe there weren't too many of these made?
The final indication of age is the dates on the ICs. The Calmos chip has a date stamp of 9134, the MC68882 9139... This seems to confirm at least the age. Ironically, January 14, 1992 is exactly one day after the usenet post above!
The board is of good quality construction, there are no electrolytic capacitors, just tantalum which means no leaky gunk. My one accusation is that to install the board, the metal frame has to be bent out of the way to make it fit. This can cause the little Microchip socketed firmware? chip to pop out of its socket which caused me no end of grief when re-assembly. I ended up getting weird checkboard patterns which I thought at first was RAM, but yea... wasn't... unless the RAM also was flexing out of its socket....Which is a possibility... hmmmm....
This is the message I got when I removed the RAM completely...
Software and Performance
So, upon bootup there is a little Control panel called NewLife Accelerator v.1.05. It seems to confirm the info found on the UseNet Post about address and location for sure. Also, not sure what In SANE patches are... That's the only option here.
It appears the accelerator completely replaces most of the motherboard. In fact, the original onboard RAM isn't even reported and only the accelerator RAM appears as usable. Well... How does it perform? Using Speedometer 3.23 here are the results. Bear in mind that 1.0 is a stock Macintosh Classic.
P.R. Results (Uses Mac Classic as 1.0):
Disk: 1.199 Name of Hard Disk tested: Classic 40 MB
Performance Rating (OLD PR): 2.903
Performance Rating (NEW PR): 2.407
Benchmark Results (Uses Mac Classic as 1.0):
KWhetstones: 24.340 3.334
Dhrystones: 3386.004 3.475
Bubble Sort: 4.709
Fast Fourier: 3.168
F.P. Matrix Multiply: 3.045
Integer Matrix Multiply: 5.761
Benchmark Average: 4.271
So yea, Pretty strong showing, I fired up my Mac SE/30 and ran a benchmark test, you can see the full report here. but the SE/30 CPU, Graphics and Math have scores of 4.178, 3.559 and 6.648, so not really at the performance level of an SE/30 even with the same specs for at least the processor and Math coprocessors. I do love how on these old machines a simple acceleration speeds up every aspect of the machine. If you head over to my Mystic Overclock page you can see the same thing when I jumped thee clock up to 36Mhz from 33Mhz.
One other strange little oddity, the computer doesn't reboot when you send it for reboot in MacOS. The only way to perform a reset is to first select reset, then physically press the reset on the side of the case. When you do so you're treated to a little splash Screen that says NewLife. I suppose that's one way to do it....
Well that's about it. I'd love to get more information or get my hands on any other hardware from NewLife. If you've got any info feel free to drop me a line at ebylenga at gmail dot com. I'd like to know more!
Steve sent me this message today (January 18, 2023)....
Saw your post at https://bylenga.ddns.net/index.php?page=NewLife.php
Steve has done an excellent job here of aggregating a ton of information on NewLife and it's history. A lot of unanswered questions are no longer a mystery! And yep, gonna try out those new drivers.
I recently wrote a blog on the company and uploaded drivers and manuals
Please let me know if you try out the drivers and if they work for you.
Can you Identify this "Newlife Computer Corp." Card?"
GoC Federal Corporate Information
Info Mac Digest
NewLife Accelerator Control Panel V.1.05
Last Modified January 18, 2023