One of the things I’ve always loved about the Amiga is it’s expansion possibilities. There was always some upgrade or gizmo you could add that would let you do something new, or do something faster. The TerribleFire 330 is touted as being able to do both of these things and then some. Naturally, as soon as I spotted it on AmiBay I wanted one…
What is it?
The TerribleFire 330 is an expansion for the Amiga CD32 that adds many new features to the console. It’s attached by means of a ‘Riser’ card to the expansion port which itself offers some benefits to the user. Here’s a quick run-down of the extra features it offers:
- 68030 CPU over-clocked to 50Mhz
- 64MB Fast Ram
- IDE Interface
- RGB Video Port (on the riser)
- PS/2 Keyboard port (on the riser)
In a nutshell, it converts your CD32 into a souped up Amiga 1200 with built-in CD-ROM drive.
A Closer Look at the TF330
Installing the TerribleFire 330
Installation is pretty straightforward and involves removing the plastic expansion cover on the back of the CD32 console. There’s only one phillips screw to remove. Both the screw and the cover can be safely stashed away at this point as they won’t be getting used again.
With the cover removed you can clearly see a big empty space left above the shielding. This expansion bay was original intended to allow the use of the official Commodore CD32 Full Motion Video Module.
You can simply install the TF330 as it comes but I found a nice little 3D printed clip to hold the IDE cable and CF card in place on eBay. With this fitted the card is securely held underneath the main TF330 board out of harms way. Not an essential purchase but as I store my CD32 vertically I thought it was a worthwhile extra to prevent things moving around.
Installing the TerribleFire 330
Here are some photos of the TF330 after I installed it. It does protrude from the back of the console somewhat and it certainly ain’t ‘pretty’ but I’m more than happy to overlook this given the features it offers.
Booting up for the first time
My TerribleFire 330 came with a pre-installed copy of Workbench on an 8GB Compact Flash card. To boot into Workbench all you need to do is turn on the CD32 without a disc inside it. After a few seconds the CD activity light starts to flicker away and then up pops the workbench screen.
As with any accelerator upgrade for the Amiga I couldn’t resist loading up Sysinfo to see how my pimped out CD32 fared against other systems in the Amiga range. I was not disappointed, it ranked between the Amiga 3000 and 4000 which is impressive. It’s almost twice as fast as a stock A3000 which has a 25Mhz 030 processor.
And of course with the ability to run Workbench off an installed CF card comes the option of using WHDLoad! My card came pre-installed with hundreds, if not thousands of games all ready to play with a few clicks of a mouse. The CD32 already has the required 2Mb chip RAM and with the TF330 it also has plenty of Fast RAM now too. Throw in a PS/2 keyboard and you can also exit games cleanly back to Workbench and play games like Star Crusader that require one.
I’ve now tested all the games I own and listed the results on my CD32 Game Compatibility page.
The board was described as having a ‘disable jumper’. Removing it is supposed to make it invisible to the CD32 so it can boot up as normal. However in my testing this simply doesn’t work, in fact removing the jumper prevented my console from booting up at all. I contacted the seller on AmiBay who said there’s still a bug with this and that it would hopefully be fixed in a future firmware update. If that ever happens I’ll update this article.
As things stand right now I can either remove the board if I come across an incompatible CD32 game or see if there’s an alternative version on the internet that has been patched to work. Alternatively I can also try the WHDLoad version.
RGB Video Functionality
The RGB port works exactly as described and offers a beautifully crisp, vibrant display with a regular Amiga RGB SCART cable. Much better than the composite I was having to use previously. Whether or not I was using Workbench or playing a game off CD this worked flawlessly.
PS/2 Keyboard Functionality
Unfortunately I can’t say the same for the PS/2 port. The whole point of this is to allow people to use cheap PC PS/2 keyboards with the CD32 instead of super scarce Amiga ones. However I tried three different brands of PS/2 keyboard and only one of those worked… for about 10 minutes. No matter what I tried I couldn’t get that keyboard to work reliably. It turns out that the PS/2 keyboard compatibility is very poor with the riser card. People report greater success with really old keyboards rather than currently available ones. I was advised by the seller to get a CD32 AUX to PS/2 adapter.
I chose one of these on eBay for about £18. The seller was really helpful and even offered to refund me if the adapter turned out not to work. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary as it worked perfectly with my cheap Genius PS/2 keyboard that I picked up off Amazon. There’s some clever electronics hidden inside the adapter that converts stuff like the two ‘Windows’ keys into ‘Amiga’ ones so you can still do a soft-reset. It works really well and I highly recommend getting one, even if you don’t get a TerribleFire!
Actually there was one other issue that I had to solve before I was in PS/2 keyboard nirvana. The keyboard initially behaved like a key was stuck down. There is a conflict between the PIC chip on the Kipper 2K riser and the PS/2 Aux adapter. Simply removing the PIC chip solved this problem completely with no negative effects.
Here’s the PS/2 keyboard I’m using with my CD32, it’s just a cheap one I picked up off Amazon but it does the job and isn’t a bad match for the dark grey colour of the console either.
I can’t deny it’s shame the built-in PS/2 keyboard option doesn’t work as well as it could and that I can’t disable the board without removing it. However these small niggles don’t stop the TerribleFire 330 from being a beast of an expansion for the money. You’d be hard pressed to find anything else offering as much bang for your buck.
With the TerribleFire 330 installed my CD32 has become the ultimate Amiga gaming machine. It can play CD32 and CDTV titles and thanks to WHDLoad it can now play pretty much any other Amiga title as well. In fact with mouse and keyboard attached it can even be used for productivity stuff just like an A1200, only with a built in CD-ROM drive!
The extra grunt of the 50Mhz 030 also helps it run games like Alien Breed 3D, Frontier Elite 2 and Wing Commander at their very best. The addition of the RGB video port makes everything look its very best too! Bottom line, if you have a CD32 then the TerribleFire 330 is an essential upgrade for it.