Better Networking With A Macintosh Classic

While it may not be the case anymore, if you compare a Mac and a PC from 1990, the Mac comes out far ahead. PCs suffered with DOS, while the Mac enjoyed real, non-bitmapped fonts. Where a Windows PC required LANMAN to connect to a network, the Mac had networking built right into every single machine. In fact, any Mac from The Old Days can use this built-in networking to connect to the Internet, but most old Mac networking hacks have relied on PPP or other network to serial conversion. [Pierre] thought there was an incomplete understanding in getting old Macs up on the Internet and decided to connect a Mac Classic to the Internet with Apple’s built-in networking.

Since the very first Macintosh, Apple included a simple networking protocol that allowed users to share hard drives, folders, and printers over a local network. This networking setup was called LocalTalk. It wasn’t meant for internets or very large networks; the connection between computers was basically daisy chained serial cables and later RJ-11 (telephone) cables.

LocalTalk stuck around for a long time, and even now if you need to do anything with a Mac made in the last century, it’s your best bet for file transfer. Because of LocalTalk’s longevity, routers and LocalTalk to Ethernet adapters can be found fairly easily. The only problem is finding a modern device that speaks both TCP/IP and LocalTalk. You can’t use a new Mac for this; LocalTalk has been gone from OS X since Snow Leopard. You can do it with a Raspberry Pi, though.

With a little bit of futzing about with MacTCP and a few other pieces of software from 1993 or thereabouts, [Pierre] can even get his old Mac Classic online. Of course the browsers are all horribly outdated (making the Hackaday retro edition very useful), but [Pierre] was able to load up rotten.com. It takes a while with an 8MHz CPU and 4MB of RAM, but it does get the job done.

You can check out [Pierre]’s demo video below.

18 thoughts on “Better Networking With A Macintosh Classic

    1. An easier to find alternative would be a LocalTalk to Ethernet bridge, like an AsanteTalk or Cayman Gatorbox.

      Another option would be to run the LocalTalk Bridge software on a second Mac that has both serial and Ethernet. (Either built-in Ethernet or a NuBus card would work.) I believe that would get your entire LocalTalk chain online.

    1. Macs used separate bitmapped screen and outline printer fonts for a few years, which worked but could throw your page layouts off if you weren’t careful. Thankfully the platform switched almost entirely to TrueType with the introduction of System 7.

  1. Macintosh didn’t have integrated scaleable fonts until 1991. http://www.truetype-typography.com/tthist.htm

    TrueType was Apple and Microsoft’s reply to Adobe expecting them to pay a high licensing fee to package their PostScript Type 1 font technology with Windows and the Macintosh System. Adobe’s answer to that was to publish the Type 1 font specification they had been keeping secret. Hackers at companies such as Bitstream had cracked the encryption so that was another reason for Adobe to publish the specification.

    1. Ah yes, i remember making something on a Mac Plus and sending it down to the SE/30’s LaserWriter across the school only to get there and find that the font was either not postscript or installed and getting a bitmapped blocky mess.

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