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Getting a Color Classic on the Internet

Rather than an exercise in futility, getting my girlfriend’s old Color Classic online was a great test of patience (both mine and hers), a matter of tracking down old and sometimes obscure software, and using a little creativity when things did not work quite as anticipated. In the end, however, I was able to get this cool old Macintosh online and pulling down web pages.

The Mac

The Color Classic, unlike the handful of other Classic Macs I own, was an ideal Classic Mac to get online because this particular one had been equipped with an Apple Ethernet LC Twisted Pair 10 Base-T ethernet card while Meg was a student at Colby College. The 16 MHz 68030 CPU is considerably faster than that in the Classic, whose place on my desk is currently occupied by the Color Classic. I had previously upgraded the Color Classic to have an additional 2 MB of RAM in addition to the 4 MB on the logic board, giving it 6 MB total. It is equipped with an 80 MB hard drive, which is the stock hard drive; I managed to remove the hard drive at one point but I have not yet replaced it with a larger drive.

The other appeal of the Color Classic is, of course, the fact that it is a Compact Mac that also has a color screen: 512X384, 256 colors (the horizontal rule lines at the top and bottom of this page are 500 pixels, to give you a sense of the width of the display). Remarkably crisp even after all these years, it is a bit awkward to view many pages that expect at least 640X480, but the geek factor more than outweighs the inconvenience of scrolling.

Finally, the 25 pin SCSI port on the Color Classis allowed me to attach my Zip drive, which facilitated backing up the Mac to a Zip disk.

Minor Setback #1: I forgot about the Soft Power on the Color Classic; I believe that this was the first model to include this feature. Basically, the Color Classic must have its power switch turned On at the back of the Mac, but it must be powered up using the Power key on the attached ADB keyboard.

System Software

When I first started goofing around with this Mac, it had System 7.1 installed on it, along with many different hacks that Meg’s friend Rana had installed. Always up for a challenge, I decided that I needed to upgrade the operating system to System 7.5, the same version running on one of my Quadra 700s. I had the 7.5 Net Install hosted on the Quadra 700; this would allow me to install System 7.5 on the Color Classic over the network.

Minor Setback #2: I could not get the Color Classic to switch its Network settings to EtherTalk so I could use ethernet instead of the slower LocalTalk connection to connect to the Quadra 700. After re-seating the card, I was able to get the Mac to use ethernet when it was booted from the hard drive.

Unfortunately, the Network Access Disk that I used to boot the Color Classic for the software installation did not include the drivers for my ethernet card, so I used LocalTalk instead (yes, I know, I could have put the drivers on the disk, but I did not realize what was going wrong until later). Ah, good old LocalTalk and the simplicity of its networking abilities; just plug in the LocalTalk adapter to the printer port, turn on AppleTalk in the Chooser, and your Classic Macs will all talk to one another.

With System 7.5 installed I was a bit disappointed in the performance of this Mac. The operating system took up more than 3 MB of RAM, and besides AppleScript, there were few operating system enhancements between version 7.1 and 7.5 that warranted me needing to run it on this particular Mac. Additionally, the one browser that I had on this Mac, Netscape 3.01, would not launch with the little available RAM. I decided to put 7.1 back on this Mac.

Roadblock #1: I was lazy and didn’t back up the active System Folder on the Color Classic when I backed up all of Meg’s documents and applications because I was booted from the hard drive and I knew I would not be able to back up active system files. System 7.5 does not allow for a Clean Installation of the operating system, though there are ways to do Clean Installations of earilier systems such as 7.5. So I took the slacker route, thought System 7.5 would be everything that I always wanted on a Color Classic, and I did an upgrade of the existing operating system, leaving me without a copy of System 7.1 for the Color Classic (yes, I know this was stupid, but it led to many educational challenges later).

My Macintosh Classic has a copy of System 7.1 installed. I hooked up the Zip drive and copied the System 7.1 folder to a Zip disk. I then copied the System Folder to the Color Classic, but upon booting the Color Classic I was told that System 7.1 did not support this particular Macintosh, even though I knew I had been running System 7.1.

I recalled that when I installed System 7.1 on the Classic that I had elected to install the operating system for that particular Mac to save space on the measly 40 MB hard drive. Unfortunately, System 7.1 is not available as a download from Apple’s Older Software Downloads page; Jag’s House mentions licensing restrictions that prevents the distribution. I resisted the urge to ask Meg whether she still had the disks that came with her Color Classic. Apple’s official line is that early Macs should be running 7.5.5, or if you already have a copy of System 7 or 6.0.x you are able to get the patches necessary to run your Classic Mac. A quick consultation of an old Apple database specified that the Color Classic shipped with System 7.1, so I knew I was not crazy trying to run System 7.1 on this Mac.

I ended up tracking down a copy of the System 7.1 installer on our wonderful internet. After creating floppy disks using Apple’s Disk Copy 4.2 running on the Quadra 700, I tried booting the Color Classic to the Installer Disk. Again, I was foiled with a message telling me that System 7.1 did not support this particular Macintosh. At this point System Enablers came to mind. Another quick search found the enabler I needed; I put it on the floppy and I was able to boot the System 7.1 installer disk! Macintoshes released after System 7.1 needed additional software in order to work with the existing operating system. Apple released System Enablers for these models; System 7.5 contains the code necessary for all of these Macs so enablers are no longer needed. I was able to reinstall System 7.1, and after copying the appropriate System Enabler to the new System Folder I had installed on the hard drive I was able to boot to the Color Classic’s hard drive, which was once again running System 7.1! I then installed QuickTime 1.5 (part of System 7.1) and the System Update 3.0 for System 7.1, System 7.1 Pro, and System 7.1.2 (for the first Power Macs). Finally, a working Color Classic running System 7.1!

I still had Netscape 3.01 on the hard drive, so I attempted to switch the Network Control Panel from LocalTalk to EtherTalk in order to get some real web browsing done. However, I was immediately foiled as the Mac reported that an error had occured and it would not be switching its network connection to EtherTalk. I reseated the ethernet card again, but that did not help. I then recalled the Network Software Installer disk that I had used before on different Macs and which installs drivers for optional networking hardware on early Macs. While the installer probed and correctly identified the Mac and the ethernet card and installed AppleTalk 58.1.3 and EtherTalk 2.5.6, even after installation the Network Control Panel would not switch to EtherTalk. I was able to move the Apple Ethernet LC System Extension from the System 7.5 Extensions folder to the System 7.1 folder, and that solved the problem; I was able to turn on EtherTalk in the Network Control Panel! It turns out that there was a separate driver that for whatever reason did not get installed by the operating system installation, the Network Software Installer disk, or the 3.0 Update.

Next I copied MacTCP 2.0.6 from my Quadra 700 to the Color Classic and installed it in the Control Panels folder. This Control Panel allows for configuration of the TCP/IP settings for the Macintosh without using the later OpenTransport, which requires System 7.5. Using MacTCP I was able to give the Mac an IP address and tell it what the router and DNS addresses are. I was finally ready to pull down some web pages onto this Color Classic!

Browsing on the Color Classic

As I said before, I had previously installed Netscape 3.0.1 on the Color Classic shortly after Meg and I started dating. I was really impressed that she had a Color Classic, however out of date it was in 1998, and I had scrounged up a modem and additional RAM and I had installed Netscape on it in an ill-fated attempt to get it to work with hotmail so Meg could check her email. I knew from before I started this crazy project that Netscape 3.01 would work on this Mac; after I first got it powered up and got the ethernet card working, and before I got the crazy idea that I needed to run System 7.5, I had managed to load google in Netscape while running System 7.1, which amazed even Meg. Netscape failed to meet my needs. With 7.1 reinstalled and Netscape using 9 MB of RAM, the URL field would not keep up as I typed a new location. I promptly downloaded iCab, which conveniently supports Macs that run System 7.1, with a few caveats. With the extra extensions in place I was able to run iCab on the Color Classic, I have to say that it looked as good as it does running under OS 9 or OS X: the GUI was consistent with that on later operating systems and the browser was responsive and loaded pages properly.

However, I was not yet satisfied. Sure, iCab gave me a nice graphical browsing experience; I could use Netscape plugins, iCab takes less than 2 MB of hard drive space, and I am able to run iCab using between 3.9 and 4.5 MB of RAM: sweet. But browsing was not as fast as it could be (my Newton 2100 seemed just as fast at loading pages). I was not looking to load many Flash pages on the Color Classic and Java was definitely out of the question, and I certainly was not planning on doing any of my ecommerce transactions from this Mac. My requirements and/or expectations were not high. I was too lazy to turn on insecure telnet access to my OpenBSD box so I could telnet to it from the Color Classic and run Lynx. Another quick search came up with what might be the perfect solution for 68k Macintosh internet browsing: The Wanna Be Web Browser. Yes, you give up a few convienences of using a full-fledged browser such as having images loaded, but you gain speed, stability, and the convenience of fast internet browsing on a Classic Mac. Perhaps the best part about WB2 is that it supports Sherlock .src plugins, many of which can be can be downloaded and used with this browser: amazing!

At this point I really felt like I had accomplished what I had set out to do: to get on the internet using a Color Classic and to pull down some web pages in a fast and efficient manner, using the hardware at hand and software readily available. Some of the software ended up being a little difficult to track down, but in the end I came up with a pretty snappy web browsing Color Classic.


You will need Disk Copy 4.2 when dealing with many of these old disk images.

System 7.1 is not available from Apple; look around.

You will need a System Enabler in order to run System 7.1 on your Color Classic, specifically System Enabler 401. You may download it here.

Ideally your Color Classic will have an Ethernet Card; I used the Network Software Installer Disk 1.4.4 disk to install AppleTalk 58.1.3 and EtherTalk 2.5.6, but I still had to find the Apple Ethernet LC driver left from a previous System 7.5 install to get the ethernet card working. If you do not have an ethernet card you will have to go the PPP route with a modem and a dialup account.

AOL/Netscape does not allow you to download old browsers. Somehow you will need to get iCab onto your Classic Mac; I recommend using a Zip drive to transfer this application, which is 3.5 MB in size, from a more contemporary Mac to your Classic Mac. Netscape plugins will use additional hard drive space.

While you are at it, get a copy of The Wanna Be Web Browser, the neatest piece of software since Courier, as far as I am concerned (but we have already confirmed that I am a geek). Pick up the Search Plugins while you are there. I think I will be using this browser more than others on the Color Classic.