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Review: Falcon 040 A1200 Accelerator
By: Jason Compton
For years, people said it was impossible to get an 040 into an A1200. It's
too hot, they said. It'll never fit, they said. Why would you want to?
But someone (actually, by now, several someones) have gone ahead and done
it. Macrosystem Netherlands' Falcon 040 was one of the first cards on the
market that pulled the feat off. The Falcon's standard configuration is a
68040 RC 25 mhz, but also is advertised as an EC part and as a 33 mhz RC
unit. In addition, the Falcon is 060 upgradable, but the 060 upgrade is
not yet available.
In this, the first of two parts of this review, we'll deal with the
installation of the device...because it can get tricky if you're not
careful and patient. Next issue, we'll talk about performance.
The Falcon comes in a relatively nondescript box, with a short illustrated
installation manual and a few basic notes on the operation of the device.
The card itself is a very large affair. It takes up the entire available
space in the A1200's trapdoor slot, which actually means it's a very snug
and stable fit. Um, once you get it in, that is.
You're going to need to crack open your A1200 to get this installed. The
card is laid out so that the majority of the chips are on the top of the
card, and the single SIMM slot and the SCSI controller chip are on the
bottom. The SIMM slot runs the SIMM parallel to the card, but that means
the socket itself is rather large and requires a custom trapdoor
replacement (or you can hack up your own, or just leave it off, but this
means your card is exposed to the desk below. The Falcon is supposed to
ship with this custom trapdoor...mine didn't.
So, open your A1200, remove the keyboard, and you're ready to go to work.
Slide the card in from the bottom of the machine, and slide it upwards. It
should "snap" into place reasonably well. At this point, you will want to
install your SCSI connector board into the small socket that leads to the
back of the machine and the little punch-out SCSI door. However, my unit
didn't come with one and GVP is still waiting for a shipment from Europe.
The SCSI on the Falcon is a different concept than most other A1200
peripherals. Generally, you buy an accelerator which has an external
connector. If you buy the SCSI attachment, you hook it up to this header.
The SCSI attachment contains the SCSI chip and logic necessary to control
external SCSI devices. The Falcon puts the SCSI chip directly on the
accelerator card. This means that the SCSI connector unit is far cheaper
(advertised for about US$35) but means that if you don't need or want SCSI,
you pay for the bulk of it anyway when you buy the card, as the SCSI
connector card is essentially just a header.
Now it's time to make sure your computer doesn't melt. The 68040/25 RC is
a rather hot chip. A fan is included in the Falcon. (You're going to love
tihs.) In order to install the fan and keep it in place, you position the
fan on roughly one third of the chip, aligning one of the corners of the
fan with an open space in the RF shield between the Falcon and the floppy
drive. Then, you DRIVE A SCREW THROUGH the bottom of your Amiga's case,
holding the fan securely in place.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it? This will enable you to place the keyboard
and cover back on your Amiga 1200. Alternately, if you scoff at FCC
violations and don't want to bore a hole through your computer, you can
take a different, much more hackish approach. The present Falcon setup on
my desk is as follows: The top of the case is on a shelf. The fan is
actually attached to a small piece of plywood, which is being held in place
by the cushion-spring positioned on the floppy drive to keep it from being
crushed by the keyboard. The keyboard rests on this setup. This of course
means the 1200 is pretty much exposed, but it does keep the chip reasonably
Power up your Amiga 1200. With luck, you'll have a full 68040 with MMU and
FPU at your disposal!
Actually, the initial installation process was pretty easy, and I've
installed it on two different machines. For both, the actual physical
process of getting the card in place and wiring up the fan was 10 minutes.
Toying with the fan for maximum cooling took a little bit more work, but
that was nothing appreciable.
So, what to do with an 040? We'll talk about it next issue.