Monday, December 16, 2013

Surfing the web on a 27y old Mac Plus

Just yesterday we were talking about old computers regarding Doom's 20th anniversary and today I bring yet another "ghost from the past". How do you feel about resurrecting an old Mac Plus to see how it fares browsing the modern web? As we're about to find, bringing this 27 year old computer up to the task proves to be more challenging than you'd might think.

You see... the computer has Motorola 68000 CPU running at 8Mhz, has only 4MB of RAM, a 50MB hard drive, and a 512x384 resolution screen. Yes... even a lowly smartphone has thousands more power these days.

But making it browse the internet isn't easy. Not only you need to find a capable browser than can understand HTML and still run in such lowly specs (they settled for the MacWeb broswer), but you need to find a way to connect it to the internet, which is something easier said than done - as there are no SCSI-Ethernet cards anymore, and this was way before WiFi was invented. The solution came thanks to a Raspberry Pi acting as a gateway between ethernet and a serial connection, adding to a long list of protocol conversions (from MacTCP to MacPPP to SLiRP to Ethernet) allowing the Mac Plus to talk to the internet at an (not so) incredible speed of 19kbits/s!

But there's more... the MacWeb isn't capable of understanding the modern web, and so they had to add a filtering proxy to the mix, that translates and filters out all the elements it can't understand, in order to make it work.

It's a lot of effort... but the end result is a Mac Plus that can browse the modern web, provided you have several minutes to wait for each page to show up on screen! :)

Just imagine how using the web would be differente if you had to wait so long after each click... ;)

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