My battle with ethernet on Mac OS Classic

Apr 25, 2020Computer Improvements0 comments

My classic Macs seem to not pull a DHCP IP address… solved.

As a major Apple fanboy through the nineties it’s no surprise that I am have some vintage Macs around that I tinker with as a hobby. The most annoying part of it all is moving files between modern Macs and the retro ones. Until I solved this problem I had been burning CDs with files I needed but the nature of CDs single write and throw away is less than optimal. I needed to get the old Macs on my network.

So I just fought with Mac OS Classic and an Ethernet card(s) for months. I thought it wasn’t working because it wouldn’t pull a dhcp address. I plug it in, I get a link light on the NIC and switch. While watching the IP address field in the TCP/IP control panel, it never populates. I bought a PCI nic and CSII slot for my Performa 6360. No go on either. I have a 7200/90 with built in RJ45 port and AAUI port. Both nada, link lights and no IP. I tired it to setup manually with no luck.

Solution

I was searching but not turning up much as I feel the search terms were broad. I spoke to some folks on r/vintageapple some said there was a problem that modern switches don’t speak 10Base-T like the old macs did but that didn’t make any sense. At some point I came across a video where a guy hooked the network up and like mine it didn’t pull a DHCP address. Then he opened IE and an IP popped up in the TCP/IP window in the background. Seeing that made me remember (or think I remember) classic OS not doing anything with the network until something requests network access.

Well after a while it dawned on me that these old OSs aren’t network operating systems and don’t activate the network stack until a request is made to do so. So I opened a browser and when it started loading the home page, then I saw it pull a dhcp and get online. I remember in the dial up days I could open Netscape and it would start PPP dialing. So thats it, there was nothing wrong the whole time. Below is a quick video demonstration and summary of this article.

Video Demonstration
PCI-based Communication Slot II – 10BASE-T Apple EtherNet CS II Twisted-Pair Card

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