Decades Old MacPlus Flashes Forward To Go Online

Interesting Engineering

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Jeff Keacher retrieved his 27 year old Macintosh Plus from storage to see if he could somehow get it connected to the internet. The specs were certainly impressive for its day but by today’s standards they were less than ideal with an 8 MHz CPU, 4MB of RAM, a 50MB Hard Drive and a 512X342 pixel black and white screen. Keacher wanted to run his MacPlus on its very own TCP/IP stack.

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Right off the top a filter cap in the external drive’s power supply blew probably due to the stress of current suddenly running through it after years without. He replaced it and soldered it back on.

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Keacher concluded that he would need a few key things for an internet connection to fly; a web browser, a TCP/IP stack, a physical hook up, hardware and software installation.
MacWeb 2.0 is a web browser compatible with MacPlus and its new enough to render HTML and to speak HTTP. Unfortunately it has no feature for name-based virtual hosting. Through a filtering proxy solution thought up by software developer Tyler using python Requests, Flask, and beautiful soup the problem was solved.
To see Tyler’s code click here.
The TCP/IP stack Keacher selected was MacTCP which is compatible with MacPlus.
Without an Ethernet port the physical hook up was made through the serial port and the PPP to bridge it out to the online world. Keacher describes it “Like dialup without the modem.”

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Next, for the hardware he setup Raspberry Pi and ran some Cat-5 to it from the router. The serial cable worked between the Raspberry Pi and the MacPlus using a level shifter and a variety of adapters.
For the MacPlus software he selected PPPclient and for the Raspberry Pi a simple PPP called Slirp.
So the final configuration goes like this; MacTCP to MacPPP to Slirp to Ethernet connection through to the router and out to the internet. The speed of the throughput is a whopping 19kbits/s.
Finally to install the abandon-ware that was needed he used the serial port again. Luckily the MacPlus already had Microphone installed which is an old terminal emulator that supports ZMODEM for file transfers. He SFTP’d the file from his current PC to the Raspberry Pi through the serial port. Then using Microphone as a terminal on the MacPlus he launched Minicom. After that all Keacher needed to do was simply select the files to transfer and save them to the MacPlus.
The data loaded, the pages rendered, and amazingly links actually worked albeit very very slowly.

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