Fast Chip IIe: First Look

– One of the simplest cards I’ve ever used, just connect and run!

For a long time, the Apple II has enjoyed a plethora of hardware that extends, connects, and enhances it. Among them, speed accelerators have been sought and venerated.

The Apple IIe had a few of them: the TransWarp, Titan, Speed Demon, Zip Chip, and Rocket Chip. These products have not been manufactured for 30+ years and hence they are sometimes expensive and hard to obtain, leaving some Apple users out of options.

This is all about to change: A2Heaven.com, (Plamen Vasilov) the Bulgarian genius that has provided the Apple community with amazing devices such as memory, storage, and sound enhancements, is about to release an accelerator specifically designed for the Apple IIe. Unlike older speed enhancement products, it does not require the removal of chips or modifying the hardware in any way. You simply insert the small card into any slot and start enjoying the enhanced speed!

 

The ‘FASTChip //e’ accelerates the Apple //e by replacing the on-board 6502/65C02 CPU with a faster and more advanced 65C816 CPU. The original Apple //e memory is clocked at the same 1Mhz as the original CPU. To achieve higher speeds the FASTChip //e needs to access much faster memory (SRAM). The clever design allows the acceleration of programs running in both main and auxiliary memory. In addition the FASTChip //e provides more memory, in the form of 512Kb fast memory on the board. The magic happens when programs are loaded into SRAM memory, allowing them to run at full speed. The additional memory can emulate either 192 KB fast RamWorks compatible RAM or 256 KB fast RamFactor (slinky) compatible RAM.

The card is designed to draw low power and stay cool, unlike some earlier accelerators which drew substantial power and ran hot. The FASTChip //e has a small footprint, a very nice modern design, white PCB, sandwiched between two acrylic plates with the A2Heaven graphic. The card logo is illuminated with LEDs which allows the user to select from an array of colors.

The most notable feature of the card is the hardware control panel: connected to the card with a long cable that allows the display and control of the CPU speed. Yes, you heard it right. You can control the CPU speed in real time. The control panel includes control knob, buttons, and four digit-seven segment LED display that shows the current selected function. In additional you can stop and pause the CPU. The LED display also gives useful information such as speed, CPU status i.e. paused, stopped, as well as memory mode and bank number.

At startup, you can press the ‘escape’ button to access the card’s software control panel where you can set the standard CPU speed, slot configuration, along with different options like startup graphic, slot speed, sound mode, or even LED colors. You can also test the CPU, memory, speaker, video and finally save your settings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you set your configuration and start using the Apple IIe, the real fun begins. Every program runs faster, and pushing the hardware control panel knob will “stop” or freeze the computer which comes in handy for pausing games/other operations. You can also set the speed that you find most comfortable while using the program by rotating the knob. By pressing the left panel button you can change between current and standard 1Mhz CPU speed. Clicking the center button pauses/stops the CPU. By pressing the right button you can choose between functions. The rotary knob will change the CPU frequency from 0.20Mhz to 16.6Mhz.

My evaluation/testing was performed on an Apple IIe Platinum with 1 MB RAM, a mouse card, CFFA 3000 and Disk Drive Cards. Booting from the CFFA and loading programs was easy and fast. The programs tested so far are:

 

Dung Beetles

Hard Hat Mack

Karateka

Drol

Prince of Persia

Alien Downpour

Galaxian

Zaxxon

Apple Disk Utilities (passed all tests)

Appleworks

Mouse Desk

GEOS

So far there has been no issues or concerns with the FASTChip //e board, as all programs have worked as expected, only much faster. This card is a must-have for any Apple IIe owner because it gives a new meaning to games that were slower in the past, hence creating a whole new gaming experience essentially.

I fully recommend the FASTChip //e card and if possible, combine it with the A2Heaven VGA adapter so the games and applications can be enjoyed in full color and hi resolution with all its glory.

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About the Author

Javier Rivera

I’m an apple //c fanatic, born in Mexico but living in sunny Miami, FL, the perfect place for retrobrite!
I like restoring computers to bring them back to their old glory. Also like to combine new technology with vintage hardware to give new uses to them.