Jump to content

catalyst vs alchemy boards for G3 accelerators

Recommended Posts

had looked up a few still-working older forum thread links (especially with posts from jessenator) and mm am I correct to presume that G3 cards in any form for the catalyst was rather a small market in the first place? I can find so much for the alchemy in archived product websites on the other hand


this is specifically to do with power computing re powerbase (alchemy) versus powerwave (catalyst)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Catalyst was kind of a short-lived platform: Apple only used it for the 7200/8200 and the processors on those were soldered with the only upgrade option being an elusive Sonnet PCI card-based product. PowerComputing made the bulk of Catalyst models it seems and they appear to have used normal processor daughtercards. So no, the L2-based upgrades for Alchemy won't work in a Catalyst, but a PowerComputing Catalyst-based machine should be able to use a typical Newer or Sonnet daughtercard (though you'll need to check the specs to ensure the card you want to use is supported; some of the PowerComputing models had odd pinouts).

Link to post
Share on other sites

thank franklinstein, I did indeed notice one site somewhere that mentioned that it seem some of the existing powercomputing desktop sales were terminated in a relatively short time due to perceived competition against their own new tower systems not surprisingly


anyhow just going to dream a little more basically :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/12/2021 at 7:03 AM, Franklinstein said:

They appear to have used normal processor daughtercards. So no, the L2-based upgrades for Alchemy won't work in a Catalyst

That appears to be the case. Most of the Sonnet, NewerTechnologies, Powerlogix cards meant for PCI Power Macs work in the broad range of Catalyst Power Computing machines. In one of the threads I've posted in/created user trag articulated the differences for their native CPU cards not being cross compatible, but I think the upgrade makers found ways around the differences to ensure a more universal product (see: early Sonnet Crescendo L2 revision madness for comparison :lol:)


On 1/10/2021 at 4:24 AM, chelseayr said:

am I correct to presume that G3 cards in any form for the catalyst was rather a small market in the first place?

As Franklinstein mentioned, yes. The 7200/8200 was an odd duck and the only Apple product to need this solution. The G3 upgrade for the Power Macintosh 82/7200 was basically a PCI card that had the G3 and its own dedicated RAM... which I guess was the only solution there. Sounds like it's just a symbiotic (parasitic?) card computer, a la Apple PC Compatibility Card, but I guess you can still use the PCI bus... IDK I'm not an engineer :lol: 

The actual L2 cache modules (not CPU upgrades) are a different case compared to the CPU daughter cards, as I've found either PCC or Apple L2 memory to be interchangeable between the two, and perhaps that was just good form on Apple's part making both Catalyst and Tsunami boards use the same module pin configuration.

But yes, Alchemy, Gazelle, and Tanzania used a different L2 module pin config from the Catalyst (and Tsunami) boards, which is where the L2 G3 upgrade comes into play. What I find really strange is the PowerBase actually has a CPU card vs Apple's (and Motorola's) soldered offerings. Odd mostly because AFAICT the PowerBase only had a 603e (with varying clock speeds) and never a 604 option; so why bother with the card in the first place when something like the Tanzania had provision for selecting CPU clock and just soldering varying clocked CPUs... BUT

Speaking of options, apparently the PowerCenter prototypes had a 603e option (or were supposed to be 603e only—it's not clear to me anyway), and one purportedly with a 300 Mhz clock version, which might have preceded the Power Macintosh 6500/300 by a year, if true. Whether or not these prototypes were Catalyst (like the actual production units*) or another architecture seems unclear (from macinfo.de anyway).

Fun fact, from what I've been able to tell, the PowerCurve, PowerCenter (non-pro), and PowerTower (non-pro) all used boards that all had "PowerCurve" silkscreened onto them. The PowerCenter Pro, however, used an upgraded motherboard design which integrated the graphics chipset into the CPU riser, eliminating the standard Catalyst VRAM slots on the logic board, among other changes. Still used the same daughter card based G3 upgrade AFAICT.

Edited by jessenator
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/10/2021 at 5:24 AM, chelseayr said:


this is specifically to do with power computing re powerbase (alchemy) versus powerwave (catalyst)


[NITPICK]   The PowerWave, like the PowerTower Pro, was based on the Power Surge architecture, not the Catalyst architecture.  [/NITPICK]


One way to remember is that the PowerWave has eight RAM DIMM slots, while Catalyst machines never have more than 4 slots.


"Power Surge" is the Apple's name for the 7500/8500/9500 and following models, family.  They are sometimes called Tsunami, but that was the code name for the 9500, specifically.


Power Computing shipped two PowerSurge-based models, PowerWave and PowerTower Pro.


Their Catalyst based models were PowerCurve, PowerCenter, PowerTower (no Pro) and PowerCenter Pro.  


The following is a little hazy -- well the memory of the cause is hazy, the result is solid.    The Catalyst chipset needs a CPU signal that isn't brought out on the PowerSurge CPU cards.    So CPU cards, which were made specifically for PowerSurge architecture (all Apple, PowerWave/PowerTower Pro from PCC, Umax S900/J700) will not work in Power Computing's Catalyst based machines.


The CPU upgrade makers quickly became aware of this, and added the signal to their upgrade cards.  Some early models, especially PPC604(E) based upgrades, might lack it.   I guess the upgrade makers figured there was a lot of overlap between customers who would by a PCC machine and customers who would buy a CPU upgrade.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...