Here’s How it’s Like Surfing the Web with a 1986 Mac Plus [VIDEO]

In an interesting new article at The Kernel, the author has shared his experience trying to plug in his nearly three decade old 1986 Mac Plus into the modern web. The machine features an 8 MHz CPU, 4 MB RAM, 50 MB hard drive, and 512 x 384 pixel black-and-white screen. While the computer had been on the internet in the past, first via BBSes and later via Lynx through a dial-up shell sessions, but it had never never run a TCP/IP stack of its own.

Macplus wiki

The author had his childhood Mac shipped to him by his mother, which she had stored in her basement since the mid-1990s. “I plugged it and its external hard drive in, flipped the power switches, and watched the happy Mac glow to life on the tiny CRT”, he says. “All of a sudden there was a loud *POP* and the smell of smoke. Panicked, I slammed the power switches off and pulled the plugs”. Later he found out that one of the filter caps in the external drive’s power supply had given up. “Fortunately, Digikey still sold those exact caps(!), and I’m handy with a soldering iron, so a few days later, I was back in business”.

Getting the Mac physically hooked to the network was a bigger challenge. The Mac Plus didn’t have an Ethernet port, and things like Wi-Fi were years from being invented when it was manufactured. I set up my Raspberry Pi and ran some Cat-5 to it from the router. Using a level shifter and a variety of old adapters, I managed to get a serial cable working between the Pi and the Mac. That took care of the hardware.

On the software side, I scrounged around and, after several failed attempts, found a PPP client that would run on the Plus and a super-simple PPP server.

Sure, it was slow as hell, but it worked! Data loaded, pages rendered, and links were clickable. Even forms sort of worked. Did I mention it was slow? It was slow. Soooo sloooow. Slow slow slow. Like, minutes to read and render a page slow”.

Here’s a video showing how slow the old Mac Plus renders the web pages:

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  • kkritsilas

    Didn’t the Mac Plus have Apple Talk networking built in? I think I remember that there were Appletalk to Ethernet adapters/convertors; it may have made this a little bit easier, but probably not significantly faster.