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LocalTalk Hardware Essentials


LocalTalk Cabling Options

Most companies have replaced their LocalTalk networks by now so you should be able to pick up cables and network boxes for (next to) nothing. PhoneNet and "official" LocalTalk work at the same speed but PhoneNet was cheaper to install on a large scale. Design your network according to what you can buy most cheaply/easily. Adapters can also be bought or made to join "official" LocalTalk to PhoneNet.

Macintosh Requirements

Desktop Macs in beige and platinum cases all have built-in LocalTalk support. They have two serial ports, marked Printer and Modem. However older versions of the AppleShare client software only work with the printer port so it is best to stick with the "printer port" convention when cabling your Mac. The original Mac Portable and most older PowerBooks have built-in LocalTalk support.

Macintosh G3, G4 and G5 systems in coloured cases do not have built-in LocalTalk support or serial ports although PCI or USB adapters may be available. If you need to connect an older LocalTalk system to a modern Mac, you should also look at the software and hardware router options described below.

The original Mac 128, Mac 512K and Mac 512Ke use 9 pin D printer ports; all other Macs with LocalTalk support use DIN style printer ports.

Apple II Requirements

The Apple IIgs supports LocalTalk using either of the DIN style Printer and Modem ports.

The Apple IIe requires a LocalTalk adapter card (part number!). These cards are uncommon and are often expensive. I was lucky enough to buy one on eBay but haven't had enough time to play around with it seriously yet. Beware of cards that are incomplete and do not include the ribbon connectors that are exposed on the back of the IIe.

LocalTalk is no longer the only network cabling option for the Apple II family. Ethernet cards had been designed at the time that Apple pulled the rug on Apple II development. Some prototype cards still exist -- see Tony Diaz's pages for further details at A year or so ago, a French IIgs enthusiast brewed his own ethernet card and two further projects have since been announced. The Lance IIgs card is now shipping with a basic TCP/IP driver for use with Marinetti; full details can be found at At the time of writing, this card does not support AppleTalk.

It is not possible to use a SCSI to Ethernet adapter with the Apple II. These adapters were fairly popular for use with older Macs (eg Plus, Classic) and were sold by a number of vendors. However, the adapters require special drivers and information for writing such drivers is difficult to obtain (the 68k Linux developers may have some information on specific adapters). A further complication is that the driver would have to be written for a specific Apple II SCSI card (eg Apple HS SCSI, RamFast).

PC LocalTalk Cards

PCs require an adapter card before they can be plugged directly into a LocalTalk network. A conventional serial port will not support LocalTalk. LocalTalk cards are no longer manufactured but several manufacturers produced ISA and MCA adapters. Second hand LocalTalk cards are not that uncommon -- look out for 9 pin female D connectors on the backs of old PCs (beware of identical video connectors!). For more information about such cards, please refer to my PC LocalTalk adapters page.

Printer Issues

PostScript business (rather than "personal") printers may support LocalTalk networking. Older laserprinters (eg original Apple LaserWriter, QMS 810) require a LocalTalk/PhoneNet box with a 9 pin D connector rather than the DIN version. Older printers may not have the ability to autosense which port (serial, LocalTalk or parallel) to use so you may have to set a switch on the printer to use it on a network.

Software Bridges and Routers

Software bridges allow you to join a LocalTalk network to an Ethernet network.

To use a software bridge, you need a Mac or PC which is plugged into both your LocalTalk and Ethernet networks. Software such as LocalTalk Bridge is freely available for the Macintosh -- please refer to my Apple software page. For the PC, you must run a server operating system such as NetWare 3.x/4.x or Windows NT/2000.

Hardware Adapters and Routers

An adapter is a compact box which connects a single or small number of LocalTalk devices to Ethernet. You can still purchase new old stock from Asante and Farallon dealers. The Asante Talk and AsantePrint devices are designed for AppleTalk only; the Farallon EtherWave and EtherMac adapters support AppleTalk and MacTCP but the degree of support for Open Transport is unclear.

Routers are used to connect larger numbers of LocalTalk devices to ethernet. They are designed as an industrial rather than a consumer device. The best known models are the Kinetics Fastpath and Cayman Systems GatorBox which were very popular in universities and enterprises a couple of years ago so they may be available from computer scrappers etc. There are several different models of each and they are more complicated than adapters to configure, especially if setting up on a network that has many AppleTalk zones or if you require TCP/IP routing. Please talk to your network administrators (or somebody who really knows what they are doing) before plugging one into a corporate or campus network.

Both types of device will require setup software and documentation is nice if you can get it. Fortunately there are many willing advisers on Apple II and Mac Usenet news groups if you get stuck.

LocalTalk Hubs

If your domestic network comprises half a dozen computers or so, you might prefer to use a star topology so that a computer can be unplugged from the network without disrupting other systems. As well as the hub (eg Farallon StarController), you'll need the technical notes for wiring up PhoneNet.

This page last updated: 16 October 2005

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