Macintosh and Networking

By Yundt, William H. | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), September 1988 | Go to article overview

Macintosh and Networking


Yundt, William H., T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


Macintosh and Networking

In the last 18 months, there have been many networking hardware and software products announced for Macintosh computers. Some are workgroup-oriented systems that include sophisticated hardware and software for sharing programs and data files, exchanging mail and more effectively sharing printers or other devices. Others allow resources sharing or data exchange between Macintoshes and other computers, such as IBM PCs or DEC VAXes. Some products from different vendors work well with each other and may be suitable components for integration of Macs into campuswide networks. But naive buyers risk encountering incompatibilities among products and becoming locked into a proprietary network technology.

The advent of "open" networking technology with widely available specifications is very important and requires support from the educational community. Open networking will produce a greater variety of products with competitive pricing and compatible or interchangeable operation. AppleTalk, TCP/IP and ISO-OSI are the predominant open protocol families being developed for the Macintosh environment, the latter two having broad, multivendor communities of origin and standardization.

The first Macintosh "networking" products were announced shortly after the introduction of the machine itself. For the most part these were merely terminal emulators, programs like MacTerminal that cause a Macintosh to behave like a computer terminal in order to use a remote minicomputer or mainframe. With one of these programs and a modem, a Mac user can dial up and exchange data with remote computers at typical speeds of 300, 1200 or 2400 bits per second. While this kind of networking is widespread and useful, the focus of this overview is on a different style of networking involving local area networks, or LANs.

LAN technology is pervading higher education. And the recent announcement of Apple's Apple II Workstation Card and Aristotle software, which extend Macintosh-style networking to the Apple II, should promote even greater Mac LAN technology migration into the K-12 levels.

A LAN can currently deliver data between computers at speeds ten to 1,000 times faster than a modem connection can move data over a telephone line between a terminal (Macintosh) and a remote host computer. Moving a page in hundredths of a second may not be important if one is sending a letter to a colleague, but such speeds make possible resource-sharing and distributed-computing applications that aren't practical at slower speeds.

Technologies of Choice

I'd like to briefly examine what I believe are currently the most popular technological contenders for Macintosh networking in educational institutions: LocalTalk/PhoneNet or Ethernet for physical connection and signal transmission; and AppleTalk or TCP/IP as network protocols.

There are a variety of networking and file server software applications which can be run iwth these physical connections and protocols, AppleShare, 3+ Mac, and Novell's new Netware for the Macintosh, to name only a few. In addition, there are many proprietary networks that deserve mention and consideration as network solutions. Unfortunately, detailed discussions of these products are beyond the scope of this overview. An excellent guide to Macintosh networking options, titled Apple Desktop Communications Solutions Reference Guide, is available from Apple Computer.

LocalTalk/PhoneNet

LocalTalk and PhoneNet are variations on the original AppleTalk theme. AppleTalk used to be the name used to connote both Apple's signal wiring and connection system and the software protocols that control the delivery of dta to and from the network and between applications on connected computers. The former parts (physical transmission and media access control components) are now called LocalTalk and the software protocols are collectively called AppleTalk. …

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