Networking Your System 6 Mac

At this point in our series of posts about System 6, we have explored why you might be interested in System 6, what sorts of Macintosh units you might want to purchase to support that interest, and what minimum “starter kit” of software you might need to get you started in this new environment. Now it is time to load your System 6 machine up with the software you really need to make productive use out of the system.

There are two “usual” ways of doing this, networking the new machine with other Macs you may have, so that you can simply load new software across the network, and attaching mass storage devices such as an Iomega Zip drive or a CD-ROM and transferring the software in that way. This post explores the first of these two topics, networking your System 6 Macintosh. The last and final post in this series on System 6 will explore second option, adding mass storage.

The word “networking” deserves a little exploration of its own, in order to set the context for this post. There are two major forms of networking that could we could pursue: Apple’s own AppleTalk and the ubiquitous (today) Internet.

AppleTalk is an Apple proprietary set of protocols that allows two or more Macintoshes, along with other compatible devices, to communicate with each other. AppleTalk can run over either a simple serial connection between two or more units (LocalTalk) or it can run over Ethernet (EtherTalk), and thus address any compatible machines on your local home network.

In addition to AppleTalk, most people will want to get their new System 6 machine onto the Internet and the Web, and so this is an objective as well. We take this later objective with a grain of salt however, remembering that while a System 6 machine can make excellent use of many Internet resources, there is very little, if anything, that a System 6 machine can do on the web.

A practical consequence however of wanting both AppleTalk and Internet connectivity is that we will focus on AppleTalk over Ethernet… EtherTalk. Thus, this is the context in which we pursue “networking” in this post.

For the most part, we will need to start from scratch. Out of the box, your new System 6 installation will typically not come with AppleTalk, any form of TCP/IP stack (needed for the Internet) or even any form of Ethernet drivers.

To achieve our objective to AppleTalk over Ethernet, and the ability to access the Internet/web, we need to install both networking hardware and networking software.

Let’s start with the hardware. In order to accomplish networking, your machine needs to have network interface hardware at its disposal. Your machine may come with networking hardware built in, or you may need to install a NuBus network interface card (NIC) of your choice. Apple provided a range of Nubus NIC cards at the time, and similar cards were available from other vendors as well. I recommend the Apple NIC cards of the period to start with, simply because the drivers are largely available as part of the NSI 1.4.5 package.

This is what I did with my Macintosh IIsi. I purchased (on eBay) a Mac IIsi-specific PDS-to-Nubus extender, and an Apple NuBus NIC card. I physically installed this hardware before I began my networking software upgrade, and as a result the drivers for the new NIC went in as a seamless part of the NSI software install.

That’s the hardware – onto the software. You will need to install the following software, in order:

1/ Apple Network Software 1.4.5 (AppleTalk – will run over LocalTalk to start with)

2/ Ethernet drivers for the NIC hardware that is either built into, or you have installed on, your System 6 machine. As mentioned above, remember that drivers for many Apple NIC Cards are included in NSI 1.4.5.

3/ MacTCP 2.0.6, providing you with a System 6 compatible TCP/IP (Internet) stack.

As you approach your networking software installation, your new System 6 machine provides no networking support at all. Both the Network and the TCP/IP control panels are not present, and the Chooser control panel in all likelihood contains only one or more printer selections, and no AppleTalk selection, looking rather like this:

Chooser, No AppleTalk Selection

Like many things Macintosh however, transforming this into what you want is almost painfully easy.

In my case, I used my Power Macintosh 7300 to burn a copy of NSI 1.4.5 (the last version of Network Software to support System 6) onto a floppy. I fed that floppy into my Mac IIsi and it mounted it cleanly on the desktop with no issues. I executed the installer and it ran to completion also with no issues. Following a restart, I had a full AppleTalk client installed AND a shiny new Network control panel, supporting the shifting of my AppleTalk connection between LocalTalk and EtherTalk.

Network Control Panel

So far, so good. If EtherTalk networking was the objective, we would be done at this point.

However, the objective is EtherTalk networking AND Internet connectivity, and so you need to proceed to the final step, which is installing MacTCP. In this case, you will want MacTCP 2.0.6, although an earlier version may work. When I expanded the .sit file for MacTCP 2.0.6, I got just a file called MacTCP. Presuming that this was either an extension or a control panel, I copied it into the System folder and restarted. Success! I now had a MacTCP control panel, supporting both LocalTalk and EtherTalk selections.

MacTCP Control Panel 01 with LocalTalk and EtherTalk

A word of warning at this point. If you are used to more “modern” TCP settings such as you might find in later versions of Mac OS, you may be unpleasantly surprised by MacTCP’s presentation. The Internet was a fairly new thing in System 6’s time, and this is reflected in the sometimes arcane settings that MacTCP 2.0.6 presents to you. It may take some inspired tinkering, and perhaps just a little time, to get MacTCP to configure the things you will want to configure, but rest assured – it can be done.

MacTCP Control Panel 02 Advanced Options

Regrettably, this article is being written after the fact from notes that I made at the time (as I write this, the Happy Macs lab remains in storage as part of our present corporate move) and so I can’t include specific instructions for each MacTCP control. However, I recommend setting your IP address manually (I’ve never had much luck with modern DHCP servers, such as you will almost certainly have in your cable/DSL box, and early versions of Mac OS), setting your subnet mask to, and setting both your Gateway address and your Name Server address to the IP address of your local home router (which will typically be your home’s cable modem or DSL box). was a common default address for many cable/DSL boxes for some time. Readers who have Comcast Xfinity boxes may find that works for them.

Anyway, with a bit of tinkering, I successfully bludgeoned MacTCP into configuring the settings I wanted and restarted my Mac. When the boot was finished, I was pleased to see that the Chooser control panel now “saw” the other vintage Macs on the Happy Macs Lab network (specifically those that were turned on and which had AppleTalk networking enabled) indicating that AppleTalk over Ethernet was up and running on my System 6 Mac.

System 6 Chooser w Quadra 840AV Selection

But better still, when I fired up MacTCP Ping, it not only successfully pinged the other Macs visible on the Happy Macs Lab network but ALSO successfully pinged multiple external web sites! My Mac IIsi was on the Internet!

MacTCP Ping

I had to sit back and marvel at this point. An incredible amount of newly installed hardware and software (the NIC card, its’ drivers, MacTCP and MacTCP Ping) had all just working perfectly – and in perfect harmony – the “first time out of the box”, allowing my Mac IIsi to reach outside the limited confines of the Happy Macs Lab and out onto the wild, wild west of the Internet. As I said earlier, the whole thing had been almost painfully easy.

Reflecting on that, being able to ping other servers on the Internet was perhaps quite a technology tour de force, but in the end, it is not terribly useful. So, what did one do with an internet-networked System 6 Mac “back in the day”? Why, one Gophered of course! Gopher, a very capable text-based precursor of the web, was THE way to share information at the time, and has been discussed at length in several earlier posts of this blog. System 6, as you may well guess, had an excellent Gopher client in the form of the third party program TurboGopher 1.0.8b4 (an earlier version of the TurboGopher 2.x series which features prominently in the aforementioned blog posts on Gopher).

I installed TurboGopher 1.0.8b4, fired it up and pointed it at the current “daddy” of Gopherspace, Floodgap Systems’ server (port 70). TurboGopher got right through and displayed their home page perfectly, if somewhat more slowly than I was accustomed to… which is to be expected I suppose – the Mac IIsi is a 20 MHz 68030 machine, after all.

Assuming that you have been following along and installing hardware and software on your machine as you go, from this point on, the internet is an open resource to your System 6 Mac. Remember however that the web is not! I have experimented with some of the very early web browsers that would run under System 6, but have had no (none, zero, nada) usable results. You can network your Macs, you can Ping Internet servers, you can FTP files and you can cruise through Gopherspace… but you cannot surf the web with your networked System 6 Mac.

So there you have it then! Networking your System 6 Mac with Ethernet can be a simple and enabling experience. Best of luck to you in your efforts in this regard!

p.s.> Networking via LocalTalk, on the other hand, has eluded me completely thus far! Just before the Happy Macs Lab was packed up, I was working on networking two System 6 Macs exclusively over LocalTalk, with no MacTCP involved, and was getting absolutely nowhere! I DID manage to connect to an ImageWriter printer I have using just LocalTalk, but that was as far as I could get. I could not get the two Macs to “see” each other over LocalTalk. This may become the topic of additional posts at a future time, once I figure it all out! In the meantime, just a word to the wise. It does not appear to be as simple to LocalTalk two or more Macs as it is to EtherTalk them over MacTCP.

p.p.s> All of the software mentioned in this post is available in the System 6 section of the Happy Macs Gopher server,, port 70… or rather, will be very soon. Regrettably, as I write this (April 2018), the Happy Macs Gopher server is presently offline due to our corporate move. However, it should be back on the net no later than the end of May 2018. Watch this blog for notification of its renewed presence. Until then, most, if not all, of the above mentioned software can be found on the web with a bit of luck and a lot of inspired Google’ing.


Happy Macs Lab, Gopher Server Are on the Move

The Happy Macs Lab and the Happy Macs Gopher site are on the move! I am moving to a new location for work and am now “between homes”. For the next few months, I am living in temporary housing while our new home is being completed, and that means that both the Happy Macs Lab and the Happy Macs Gopher server are both completely “off the air”.

This is a corporate move and so we did not have to pack anything, but I couldn’t bear the thought of ham-fisted movers disassembling and packing up my precious Macs (please no offense is intended if you happen to be a mover!) and so over the last month or so, I have been doing the job myself. Finally, this past weekend, it was time to load it all into a truck and drive it to our new location. As you can see below, I selected U-Haul for the job.


On each of the past several weekends, I have loaded up the car and taken down my most precious or most delicate Macs, a carload at a time. This past weekend, EVERYTHING else was loaded into the truck and taken down. You can see that the truck was fairly fully loaded. It is amazing how much Mac related paraphernalia I have when it is put all together in one place.


So, until our new home is move in ready (expected to be mid April), the Happy Macs Lab and Gopher Site are “off the air”. For those accessing the Gopher site on a regular basis, please accept my apologies, and my assurances that the site will be back on the air again as quickly as I am able to accomplish this.

You may be curious to know whether I set up any vintage Macs at my new temporary housing location. The quick answer is “yes”. Long time readers of this blog may remember that a few years ago, I made a similar move, although across a much larger distance, also for work. As with this time, the Happy Macs lab was also down for an extended duration, in that case 6 months. To retain some connection with the vintage Mac world, I brought two of my then favorite vintage Macs with me to my temporary housing location, my Power Macintosh 7300/200 and my Power Mac G5 Quad. This time around, ALL of my vintage Macs are essentially here with me in my temporary housing, but still in the boxes they were moved in and packed away neatly in an available attic. However, I have kept out a current favorite, my G3 All In One “Molar Mac”, and of course my “daily driver”, my 3.4 GHz iMac (definitely NOT a vintage Mac!). So, I am not completely out of the vintage Mac loop, just mostly.

I will keep everyone updated as things progress, and at any rate will soon be posting the two final articles in the System 6 series I was working on. These are “Networking Your System 6 Mac” and “Using External Mass Storage with Your System 6 Mac”, both of which were “in flight” when I had to tear down the lab. Stay tuned!

HappyMacs Software Archive is Open!

Over a year ago, I posted about my plans to make my collection of vintage Mac software available online via a Gopher site. I am pleased to announce that this has finally happened. The HappyMacs Software Archive is now open and ready for your use.

HappyMacs Software Archive

As planned, and in keeping with the “vintage” nature of HappyMacs, the HappyMacs Software Archive can be accessed via Gopher at URL:


For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Gopher, it was an early contender for the crown that was won decisively by HTTP (and the web in general). Gopher is a purely text-based environment, which makes it wickedly fast, but puts it at a serious disadvantage relative to the text, image and other capabilities of HTTP. With its richer mix of media, HTTP won the day and Gopher slowly faded from view. The good news is that it remains alive and vibrant to this day, albeit with a smaller audience.

Using a vintage protocol to present a vintage software archive had a certain poetic wholeness to it, and so I chose Gopher as the publication mechanism for the HappyMacs archive. As time allows, I may also put up a web interface to the same library. Please rest assured that when I do so, I will take care to ensure that it operates correctly when accessed using vintage web browsers such as iCab. In the meantime however, and by design intent, Gopher it is!

How do you get access to this archive? You can’t exactly go out and get a current Gopher browser, so what do you do? Well perhaps you can’t get a modern Gopher browser, but you can endow a modern web browser with the Gopher protocol and thus gain immediate access. The good people at Floodgap Systems ( support the Overbite project, which delivers a plugin that upgrades Firefox to Gopher-capable status.

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To get Overbite, visit URL:

Then simply press “+ Add to Firefox” button and then restart your browser. Voila! You now have access to Gopher URLs!

Unfortunately, Overbite is not available for Chrome, IE or Safari, so you will need Firefox for it.

HOWEVER, you are not tied to Firefox for long, unless you want to be. You are only interested in using Gopher to access the HappyMacs Archive because you have an interest in vintage Mac software, and that implies that you have and can use a vintage Mac. SO, use Overbite to visit the archive and download TurboGopher, a FAT binary Gopher browser that runs as well on a 68K Mac running System 7 as it does on the last of the PowerPC capable Macs that could run Mac OS 9.2.2 natively.

TurboGopher About Screen

Once you have TurboGopher installed, you can now access the HappyMacs archive directly from your vintage Mac environment, using TurboGopher to do today exactly what it was meant to do all those years ago.


A Little More on Gopher

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There was an unusually strong response to my last post on the Gopher-based software repository at gopher:// I don’t know if this was simply a reflection of interest in new sources of vintage Mac software, or perhaps was an expression of latent longing for the long past glory days of Gopher, or perhaps something else entirely. No matter what it was though, I thought I would follow up my last post with a little more information on Gopher.

I have spent some time digging into native Gopher clients for Mac OS, Mac OS X, and even some of the older Windows platforms. This was a fruitful exercise and turned up a rich set of available Gopher clients, all of which continue to work well today. Unlike the underpinnings of today’s web, the Gopher protocol has remained largely unchanged, and that means that unlike yesterday’s long-in-the-tooth web browsers, the Gopher clients of days gone by continue to work well today (are all Gopher clients long-in-the-tooth by definition? 🙂 ).

Pretty much all of the clients I found can be downloaded from just one wonderfully comprehensive web page (Offbeat-Internet) which lists Gopher clients for just about every vintage computer OS known to man. See the page below:

In short, here is what my search for Gopher clients unearthed:

> Mac OS 7.x and forward. TurboGopher was (and remains) the golden standard. I installed TurboGopher and used it to surf gopherspace, and I can report that it works very well (more on that below). Honorable mention goes to NetScape Navigator 4.7, which supports the Gopher protocol natively. Finally, today’s Classilla 9.3.2 supports the Gopher protocol natively as well.

> Mac OS X Tiger. Clearly TurboGopher and NetScape can be used in Classic mode, and this may be the best option. Native Gopher support in Mac OS X 10.4 seems limited to the weirdly unusual Gopher VR, a title that defeated my best efforts to install it and run it successfully. Thankfully, per my earlier post on the software repository, the OverBiteFF plugin for Firefox, which works very well with TenFourFox, imparts Gopher capability to that fine browser, yielding usable Gopher support via that avenue. Finally, I stumbled across a “new” old browser for Mac OS X 10.4 that also supports the Gopher protocol natively: OmniWeb. OmniWeb will be the topic of a separate post – I am SO impressed with it.

> Windows 9x (Windows 95, 98 and ME). I would guess that few readers of this blog will be all that interested in Windows 9x Gopher support, but since I also have a healthy collection of vintage PCs, I thought I would throw this in for completeness. WSGopher32 was the Windows 9x PC equivalent of the Mac’s TurboGopher. It was THE golden standard. There were lots of other Gopher clients for the vintage PC world, but I will not elaborate on them here. Check out the Offbeat-Internet page above. You will find several listed there.

I will however elaborate just a little bit more on TurboGopher, which I tested under Mac OS 9.1 on my Power Macintosh 7300/200.

TurboGopher About Screen

As you might expect with a name like “TurboGopher”, this program is fast. It launches quickly and pages load smoothly and easily. The program features a very nice Finder-like interface, with each new page opening in a new window, neatly resolving the “how do I go back to the previous page” question that haunted several of the other Gopher clients I tried out.

Gopher is 100% text based, and any Gopher hole author who is feeling even the slightest bit creative quickly starts adding ASCII art to their pages to give them some visual interest. Because of this, it is VERY important to set TurboGopher’s preferences such that it uses a fixed width font. ASCII art does not look like art at all, nor like much of anything else really, when viewed with the default proportional font that TurboGopher starts up with. Fix this by going to TurboGopher’s preferences and setting the default font to a fixed width one. I chose Monaco 12, as you can see below.

TurboGopher Preferences

So, what do Gopher pages look like when viewed through a “best-in-class” Gopher client? Below I show two Gopher pages as rendered by TurboGopher. The first is the page mentioned in my previous post, and the second is the current reigning home page of all gopherspace, Gopher Page

Floodgap Gopher Page

So that’s it – The world of Gopher is alive and well and you can be part of it. Just download one of the Gopher clients from the Offbeat-Internet repository, sharpen your two front teeth and head off into gopherspace! – A Mac Software Repository in Gopherspace


“A Mac software repository WHERE?”, you ask? In gopherspace, I reply. Those of you beyond a certain age may remember Gopher, a text based precursor to the World Wide Web. Gopher largely faded from public view with the emergence of the web, but I am happy to report that a dedicated band of vintage enthusiasts is keeping Gopherspace alive and well, and YOU can still access it today.

Gopherspace - The Hidden Internet

You may reasonably ask why you would WANT to access such an anachronism, but it turns out that there are at least two very good reasons. First, as a reader of this blog, which is concerned largely with vintage Macs, you clearly have an interest in older technology. Gopher may therefore be an interesting avenue of investigation in its own right. If however this is not enough motivation to take a peek into the odd gopher hole or two, how about this? I have just found a wonderful little vintage Mac software repository in gopherspace, and you may just want to check it out.

The repository in question is and it has an interesting collection of both Mac OS and Mac OS X titles (plus PC, Amiga and more), many of which definitely qualify as “hard to come by”. I found a few programs I have been looking for for quite some time now, and you may too.

So, how do you access this small miracle in gopherspace? It is actually very simple. The address is:


Type that into your browser’s address bar just like you would an HTTP:// address. However, if you type that particular address into your browser right now, it won’t really know what to do with it, since the gopher:// part of the address will represent an unknown protocol to it. Happily, for those of you on Firefox, there is a plugin with the wonderfully tongue-in-cheek name of OverbiteFF that adds Gopher capability to your browser.

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Installation of OverbiteFF is a breeze. You can get it from here:

and this page features a large “+ Add to Firefox” button. Simply press the button and follow the simple instructions, and you will quickly be rewarded with a Gopher capable version of Firefox.

Now so equipped, head over to, at gopher:// and have a look. There is a healthy selection of software on tap there, all neatly organized into straightforward categories, as you can see below:


All of this, and you can now explore gopherspace as well. You can thank me later! 🙂