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.


Network Your Classic Macintosh with Windows, Part 6 – The Grand Slam

Multi OS Networking

Welcome to the final installment of our six part series on networking classic Macintoshes with their Windows peers of the day, and even with Linux. After five preceding posts in this area, this is the the concluding post of the series, the promised “grand slam of networking”.

Over the past five posts, we have examined a variety of ways to network a classic Macintosh with Windows and even with Linux. Each method examined has had its own specific uses and its own specific strengths and weaknesses. However, thinking back to how this series began, and the search for networking solutions to the computational “tower of babel” that exists here at the Happy Macs lab, it is only to be expected that eventually, we would arrive at a networking approach that would encompass all of the previously examined mechanisms and in so doing, surpass them all. And that is just what has happened. The approach used, which I have alluded to in earlier posts as “the grand slam of networking” is the topic of this final blog post in the “network your classic Macintosh” series.


Encompassing all, and in so doing, surpassing all, is a tall order. Happily, this order has been filled by a networking hub so powerful and so all-encompassing that you have to experience it to believe it. What is this all powerful networking device, you ask? Is this some exotic piece of vintage hardware that I have been cleverly keeping under wraps until this post, so that I could unveil it at the last moment and dazzle you with its brilliance, rather like Steve Jobs might dazzle an audience with yet another of his iconic “just one more thing” unveilings?

No! … and yes. Steve Jobs DID dazzle audiences with this particular device when it was announced, but it is no longer all that exotic. Many of you may still have one in your homes to this day. The unluckier ones of these may perhaps have been put out to pasture, quietly gathering dust in some far corner, but the rest may still be in active use. I speak of the Power Mac G5 of course!

PowerMac G5

Surprised? You really shouldn’t be. If anyone could simplify a complex topic like networking, we should expect that Apple could, and with the Power Mac G5, this is exactly what they did. Running Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, the Power Mac G5 is capable of acting as central networking hub for ALL of the networking techniques we have examined thus far in this series. Now of course, ANY Mac running Mac OS X Tiger will fill the role nicely, but here at the Happy Macs lab, it is a Power Mac G5 Quad that does the heavy lifting, enabling all the other computers on the LAN, Mac and Windows alike, to trade files with ease.

The Grand Slam of Networking

Let’s look at this in a little more depth. In this series of posts, we have examined the use of SMB, FTP, HTTP and finally SSH, all as networking enablers. Can a stock Power Mac G5 support all of these seamlessly? The quick answer is “yes”.

The longer answer is that the general approach is to use the Power Mac G5 as a central file server, and allow each client machine to connect to it via whatever approach works best for it. In this role, the Power Mac G5 acts as the network’s multilingual “tower of babel” translator. Each client computer may only be able to speak its own language, and not that of some or all of the other computers, but through the multilingual common ground of the Power Mac G5, each computer can communicate with all the others.

How does this work? As a way of illuminating the answers let’s examine each of the potential networking approaches in the context of a central Power Mac G5 hub.

AFP (Apple Filing Protocol): “Wait a minute!”, you are exclaiming. We didn’t even discuss this one in the preceding posts of this series!”. You are right. We did not. This is because it is typically only used between Macintosh computers, and not between Macintoshes and Windows machines. This is not always the case, but it is most of the time. If you happen to be lucky enough to have Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 Server (which I do not), this OS CAN be used to network classic Macintoshes and Windows. However, for the purposes of this post, discussion of AFP is restricted to networking Mac OS Classic to Mac OS X Tiger. We are adding a Power Mac G5 running OS X Tiger to our solution, which brings this new capability along with it, and so we will briefly digress and discuss it.

Networking between Mac OS Classic and Mac OS X via AFP is not entirely without its issues. Mac OS X Tiger cannot connect to a classic Macintosh this way, but happily, a Classic Macintosh CAN connect to a Tiger G5 using AFP. Hence, by way of a shared folder or a shared volume on the G5, files can easily be transferred between a Tiger G5 and a classic Macintosh in either direction. To enable this, simply go to Tiger’s Network control panel, select the interface you are using, and examine the details. Click the AppleTalk tab, find the checkbox labeled “Make AppleTalk Active” and click it. This enables AppleTalk for that interface.

Tiger Network Control Panel

Tiger Network Control Panel w AppleTalk

A word to the wise. Make sure that you never enable AppleTalk on more than one interface at a time. It IS possible to do this, but there are complications. Stick to one interface at a time and your life will be easier. With that one caveat out of the way, you are done – that is all it takes. Your Tiger G5 will now show up in the Chooser or Network Browser of any classic Macintoshes on the network, and they will be able to mount, read and write the shared folder(s) and/or volume(s).

SMB (Server Message Block): Enabling SMB on a Tiger G5 is a simple trip to the Sharing control panel. There, find the “Windows Sharing” checkbox and check it. That’s it! This starts Tiger’s SMB server and your Power Mac G5 will now show up in the Neighborhood Network of all the PCs on the network. As long as things are properly set up on the PC, it will obligingly reciprocate, showing up in the Network area of Finder on the Mac. This enables completely bidirectional file transfers via SMB. See the first two posts in this networking series, which concerned themselves with the topic of networking with SMB, if you are in doubt about how to set things up on the Windows side.

Tiger Windows Sharing Checkbox

FTP (File Transfer Protocol): Like SMB, this one could not be easier. Enabling FTP is just a simple trip to Tiger’s Sharing control panel. In this case, find the “FTP Access” checkbox and check it. This action starts Mac OS X Tiger’s internal FTP server and your Mac will be visible, at its currently assigned IP address, to all FTP clients on your network, be they Mac OS Classic, Mac OS X, Windows or Linux. Of course, using any Mac OS X FTP client that you favor, you can also access any other FTP servers that may be on your network from your G5. The net result (pun intended!) is full bidirectional file transfer via FTP.

Tiger FTP Access Checkbox

HTTP (Hyper Text Transfer Protocol): This one is a little more interesting. When we examined the use of HTTP as a file sharing protocol in an earlier post, the narrative was built around the use of Mac OS Classic’s Personal NetFinder capability. Of course, as we pointed out, a similar capability carries over to Tiger’s web server, and it can be leveraged for one way file sharing, outwards from your Tiger G5 to any web browsers on your network.

Similarly, assuming you have Personal NetFinder turned on any Mac OS Classic machines on your network, you can point your Tiger-based web browser at any of those machines and download files from there. The overall result of this is file transfers from your G5 to any other machine with a web browser, and file transfers from any machine running Personal NetFinder to your G5, all via HTTP.

To enable this, you will need to set up Personal NetFinder on any Mac OS Classic machines that you may wish to share files from. See the recent post on using HTTP as a file sharing mechanism for detailed information on how to do this. On your Tiger equipped G5, simply pop over to the Sharing control panel, find the “Personal Web Sharing” check box, and check it. This starts Mac OS X Tiger’s web server and you are off and running.

Tiger Web Sharing Checkbox

SSH (Secure Shell): Enabling SSH on your Tiger G5 is again a simple trip to the Sharing control panel. This time, find the “Remote Login” checkbox and check it, an action which starts Tiger’s built in SSH server. Now, from any computer on the network with an SSH client, you can connect to the G5 by specifying your userid on Tiger and the G5’s IP address. As we pointed out in our last post, this is especially convenient from Linux, where the “sshfs” program implements a user space file system built around the SSH protocol.

Like AFP, this is essentially unidirectional file sharing, with the Tiger G5’s SSH server providing the common access point, but like AFP, this can be used to achieve file transfers between the G5 and any other machine, and visa-versa, as long as the other machine has an SSH client.

Tiger Remote Login Checkbox

Alright! We have reviewed every file sharing technology examined thus far in this series – SMB, FTP, HTTP and SSH – and seen that a Tiger equipped G5 supports them all. So, coming back to the original question, loosely rephrased as “can a stock G5 support all of the previously mentioned networking techniques?”, we can now see that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”. I hope that this will bring you to the conclusion, as it has me, that a Power Mac G5 running Mac OS X Tiger is the true “grand slam” of vintage Macintosh and Windows networking servers!


And so this series ends. We have looked at all of the common ways of networking classic Macintoshes with their Windows peers, and a few of the uncommon ones as well. While there are a few more techniques we could yet delve into (NFS, for example), I don’t think that they add enough incremental value to warrant further exploration. So, let’s draw this series to a close. After six posts on this matter, we are all now experts in the sometimes arcane topic of how to network Classic Macintoshes with both Windows and Linux.

I hope that this series was helpful and that you will be able to put your newfound networking skills to good use! Happy Networking!