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68k Accelerators: NewLife Computer Corporation

The information and files I have collected so far about NewLife Computer Corporation, and their accelerators and addons for the 128k, 512k, Plus, SE, and Classic: UltraMac, NewLife 1, 2, 25, 25SE, 33SE, 25CL; NewLife 16 Accelerator! Plus, SE, Classic.

Background

In 2019 I picked up two Macintosh Plus machines with NewLife Quik30 / Novy Quik30Plus accelerators installed and started searching for information about them. Unfortunately I quickly found out that they either never had a website, or their website was gone before 1996 when the wayback machine started backup up the web. I did find a copy of the website for their parent company Newbridge Networks Corporation, but the product catalogue I found there did not contain any information on NewLife or the NewLife accelerators.

Luckily thanks to the internet archive I was able to find some information in older magazines and reference books, and as I searched I started putting together a list of the the various accelerators I came across.

But, I was hoping for more, there was still a lot cards with no manuals, or missing enablers. So, in 2022 I decided to start trying to reach out to past employees through LinkedIn.

NewLife is my first major success with that approach, I was able to get in contact with Lincoln Henthorn the general manager and later the company president, and he provided me with boxes of advertisements, manuals, and diskettes to use as source material for this post.

Company history 1983 to 1995

From what I’ve found online and what Lincoln has told me, the development of the NewLife accelerators involved several companies and licensing agreements. The following is what I’ve been able to piece together.

In 1983 John Roberts founded Calmos Systems, Inc. located at 20 Edgewater Street, Kanata Ontario a manufacturer of high quality semiconductor components for the Wireless, Video, and High Speed Digital Data Transmission Industry.

In 1985 John Roberts decided to step aside and Adam Chowaniec (previously the vice-precedent at Commodore International) took over (source: Ottawa Citizen Article, Figure 1).

UltraMac Logo

In 1986 Lincoln Henthorn (my contact for all of this through LinkedIn), president of LSJ Microtechnology Corp. located in Nepean, created a new division called UltraMac Conversions (or Ultra Mac), which designed, manufactured, and provided peripherals for Apple’s Macintosh Computers. (source: 1989 Ottawa Citizen Article referring to three-year-old UltraMac, Figure 5., and Figure 2. an advertisement from November 21 1997 in the Ottawa Citizen)

“LSJ did the original UltraMac memory upgrades for the 128K Mac. I actually reworked the motherboards to remove the memory chips and add 512K chips and a daughter card to go to 1 Meg.”

LinkedIn discussion with Lincoln Henthorn

In 1988 Calmos Systems Inc. purchased the product line from Siltronics (source: Ottawa Citizen Article, Figure 3), and created a new subsidiary called Calmos Semiconductor to focus on production, while the parent, Calmos Systems Inc., would focus on research and development. (source: Ottawa Citizen Article, Figure 4)

In 1989 Calmos System’s purchased UltraMac Conversions from LSJ Microtechnology Corp. and renamed UltraMac Conversion to Calmos Data (source: Ottawa Citizen Article, Figure 5)

“The Mac upgrades where developed at Calmos as a commercial venture. Calmos was a contract IC developer who purchased select assets from the demise of Siltronics. I ran the data products division at Calmos.”

LinkedIn discussion with Lincoln Henthorn

In early to mid 1989, Calmos Systems Inc (and Data and Semiconductor) was acquired by Newbridge Networks (source: Ottawa Citizen Article, Figure 6, and wikipedia), and was renamed to Newbridge Networks Corp:

Newbridge Networks, Inc. has acquired Calmos Systems Inc. of Ontario. The Canadian company, renamed Newbridge Microsystems, will operate as a separate division, designing and marketing semiconductor components and subsystems for internationally distribute data communications and processing products.

Computerworld 1989-06-12 Vol 23 Iss 24

In September of 1989 Newbridge Microsystems announced their new product line under the brand name Ultramax:

Newbridge Microsystems of Ottawa, has unveiled their new line of enhancement products for the Macintosh. The company says the Ultramax line includes a range of products such as memory upgrades and compact interior/exterior hard disk products

Enhancements for the Mac Family: Computer Data 1989-09 Volume 14 Issue 9

In January 1990 Newbridge Microsystems created NewLife Computer Corporation to take over the marketing and sale of the accelerators, and in April of 1990 Newbridge rebranded the Ultramax line to NewLife (April was listed as the first use date for the trademark filing).

The last mention I found for NewLife accelerators was the February 1995 MacWorld article: Making the move to PowerMac: Bye-Bye accelerators, that states NewLife is focusing on inexpensive upgrades, and that Novy Systems has stopped selling accelerators, this is the last mention of NewLife that I found in the internet archive.

I believe there are two main reasons for the death of the 68k accelerator market:

  • The launch of the new PPC hardware
  • The launch of System 7.5.x with it’s new memory manager that was not compatible with the existing enablers. Many of the accelerators still partially work under System 7.5.x and provide CPU acceleration, but the extra memory they provided was not accessible.

In December of 1995, Newbridge Microsystems was taken over by Tundra Semiconductor led by Adam Chowaniec, I could not find any information to indicate if NewLife Computer Corporation was included in that sale or not.

Licensing Agreement with Novy Technologies?

Accoring to Build Your Own Macintosh and Save a Bundle 1992 NewLife licensed technology from Novy Technologies. I’m currently waiting to hear back from Lincoln to find out more.

Addons and Accelerators

NewLife created 68030 accelerators for the Macintosh 128K, 512K, 512Ke, Plus, SE (Original, FDHD and possibly the SE/30), and Classic. They announced, and started development on an accelerator for the LC/Performa 610, but it was never released.

UltraMac (Ultra Mac) memory expansion

To Do.

NewLife 1

NewLife 1 / Ultramax

Developed by Calmos Semiconductor (CD101D1-3) and initially released as the Ultramax, then renamed the NewLife 1 (NL-0001-02).

Designed for the Mac 128K*, 512K* and 512Ke, the NewLife 1 is up to 20% than a Mac Plus:

  • a 8MHz MC68HC000 CMOS processor (up to 20% faster than the original Plus CPU),
  • optional SCSI connector,
  • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 4 Megabytes

*Note: The Mac 128K and 512K required the Apple 800K internal disk drive kit and it’s included 128K ROM upgrade.

Manuals and drivers:

  • 1994 v2.0: driver (DC4.2 image), this may be for the cost reduced 16MHz version.
  • 1990 v1: manual please note this version contains some errors, and you need to read the additional notes and amendment.
  • 1990 v2: manual corrects some of the errors, but still contains the error that the board will operate with 0MB, it will not.

Advertisements and Reviews:

NewLife 2

NewLife 2 / Ultramax with Video

Developed by Calmos Semiconductor (CD601D) and initially released as the Ultramax with Video, then renamed the NewLife 2 (NL-0001-01).

The NewLife 2 has all the features of the NewLife 1 with the addition of a custom Video Controller CMOS ASIC which provides a standard DB-9 TTL PC compatible video connector that can connect to any one of a number of larger monochrome monitors. A control Panel Device (CDEV) allows you to select the monitor and the screen attributes:

ResolutionDPICompatible Monitors
512×32472Standard 9″ Mac screen
640×48072Apple Monochrome, NEC MultiSync II, NEC MultiSync GS, Princeton MAX-15, Sony Multiscan
720×35080NEC MultiSync II, NEC MultiSync GS, Princeton MAX-15, Sony Multiscan
800×56088NEC MultiSync II, Princeton MAX-15, Sony Multiscan
640×86080Samsung Full Page Display MP5671
Display Modes

Manuals and drivers:

  • 1992 v5.2: video driver (DC4.2 image)
  • 1992: manual the content seems similar to the NewLife 1 manual, with the addition of a section on how to install the video adapter.
NewLife 25Plus

NewLife 25 (Plus) / UltraMax 25

Developed by Calmos Semiconductor and initially released as the UltraMax 25, and then re-released on July 17th, 1990 as NewLife 25 (NL-0025-01), this accelerator can upgrade a Mac 128K*, 512K*, 512Ke, or the Mac Plus with:

  • a 25MHz 68030 processor (and later there was also as a 20MHz or 16MHz version),
  • optional 68882 FPU,
  • optional SCSI connector (NL-1025-01),
  • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 4 Megabytes

*Note: The Mac 128K and 512K require the 128K ROM upgrade that is included with the Apple 800K internal disk drive kit.

Manuals and drivers:

  • 1993 v5.42: driver (DC4.2 image)
  • 1990: manual for both the Plus and the original L-shaped SE version that did not fit in older SE cases
  • 1991: product description
  • 1993: manual for the Plus and the updated rectangular SE version

Advertisements and Reviews:

NewLife 25SE

NewLife 25SE / Ultramax 25

Developed by Calmos Semiconductor and initially released as the UltraMax 25, and then re-released on July 17th, 1990 as NewLife 25SE (NL-0025-01)

Installation Notes: The initial release of the accelerator did not fit in the original SE case (apple changed the SE’s case to give it more room, source MacWorld 1992.06 p. 152)

  • a 25MHz 68030 processor (and later there was also as a 20MHz or 16MHz version),
  • optional 68882 FPU,
  • optional DB-9 TLL video connector (NL-2025-02),
  • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 4 Megabytes (later versions added support for 16MB)

Manuals and drivers:

  • 1993 v5.42: driver (DC4.2 image)
  • 1990: manual for both the Plus and the original L-shaped SE version that did not fit in older SE cases
  • 1991: product description
  • 1993: manual for the Plus and the updated rectangular SE version

Advertisements and Reviews:

NewLife 33SE (for the SE and SE30)

NewLife 33SE / Ultramax 33

Developed by Calmos Semiconductor and initially released as by Newbridge Microsystems as the UltraMax 33, and then re-released on July 26th, 1990 as NewLife 33SE (NL-0033-01).

Unclear from the documentation if this will work in a SE/30. The brochures mention that the card can automatically configure itself to work with the SE’s 8bit, 16bit and 32bit bus.

  • a 33MHz 68030 processor,
  • optional 68882 FPU,
  • optional DB-9 TLL video connector (NL-2025-02),
  • 256Kb of 25ns static RAM cache and 0 wait states,
  • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 4 Megabytes

Manuals and drivers:

Advertisements and Reviews:

NewLife SE video display card

NewLife SE video display interface card

The card (NL-2025-02) adds large monitor support to your SE system, and supports a wide variety of monochrome monitors including: full page, Hercules graphics, MDA, CGA, EGA, and VGA monochrome compatible monitors.

Plugs directly in to a standard SE bus connector, and is designed to work with the NewLife 25SE and 33SE system upgrades.

Drivers:

  • 1991 video driver (DC4.2 image)
ResolutionDPICompatible Monitors
512×32472Standard 9″ Mac screen
640×48072Apple Monochrome, NEC MultiSync II, NEC MultiSync GS, Princeton MAX-15, Sony Multiscan
720×35080NEC MultiSync II, NEC MultiSync GS, Princeton MAX-15, Sony Multiscan
800×56088NEC MultiSync II, Princeton MAX-15, Sony Multiscan
640×86080Samsung Full Page Display MP5671
Display Modes

Advertisements:

NewLife Accelerator! Classic / NewLife 25CL

Originally named the NewLife 25CL, the accelerator was re-released in 1991 as the NewLife Accelerator! Classic Version with 3 versions:

  • Original NewLife 25CL (NL00025-03)
    • optional 68882 FPU
    • optional SCSI Port (NL-1025-02)
    • optional Video Adapter (NL-2025-03)
    • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 16 Megabytes
  • a 16MHz version (NL-3016-02, w/o FPU)
    • optional 68882 FPU (NL-3016-01)
    • optional Video Adapter (NL-3000-01, and installation kit NL-3000-02)
    • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 16 Megabytes
  • a 20MHz version (NL-3116-01)
    • included 68882 FPU
    • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 16 Megabytes

Manuals and drivers:

Advertisements and Reviews:

NewLife 16 Accelerator! Plus

Released in early 1992 as a lower cost 16Mhz alternative to the NewLife 25 for the 128K, 512K, 512Ke and the Plus. I assume that like the NewLife 25 the Mac 128K and 512K require the 128K ROM upgrade that is included with the Apple 800K internal disk drive kit.

I could not find much information on this othering than the prices and configurations listed in the 1993 Price List:

  • a 16MHz 68030 processor (NL-0016-03),
  • optional 68882 FPU (NL-0016-01),
  • optional Video (NL-00016-07),
  • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 16 Megabytes

Advertisements and Drivers:

NewLife Accelerator! SE

Released in early 1992 as a lower cost 16Mhz alternative to the NewLife 25SE the NewLife Accelerator! SE provides:

  • a 16MHz 68030 processor (NL-0016-04),
  • optional 68882 FPU (NL-0016-02),
  • optional Video (NL-00016-08),
  • 4 SIM sockets for memory expansion up to 16 Megabytes

Manuals and Drivers:

Advertisements and Reviews:

TurboStar 610

Announced, but not released accelerator for Centris 610 systems:

  • a 40MHz 68040 processor,
  • TuboSIMM sockets for memory expansion up to tripple the 610

2 Comments

  1. Richard Thomas Richard Thomas

    I ran an UltraMac 68030 (maybe 68020?) accelerator on a 128k based Hackintosh (ref. Computer Shopper magazine) in the early 1990s. I had stability issues with my first board. Being based in Ottawa at the time I was able to contact Lincoln directly and he arranged to swap my troublesome board with a unit from their lab, complete with numerous jumper wires. The board had a Killy clip that fit over the 68000 CPU, NCR5830 SCSI chip, 4MB of ram and video output for a 2-page monochrome white monitor made by Ikegami (21 inch?). I used Mac SE ROMs and updated onboard RAM to 512K with a Dr Dobbs style modification to get the additional address signal for 41256 RAM chips.

  2. Richard Thomas Richard Thomas

    Sorry, NCR 5380.

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