Farallon EtherWave FAQ

You may know that Apple’s original network protocol was LocalTalk, which was replaced by Ethernet in the early 1990s. What you may not know about is Farallon’s clever EtherWave networking solution that bridged the two technologies.


AppleTalk, Apple’s LocalTalk networking hardware (released in early 1985), had a couple big problems: It was expensive, and the cables didn’t lock in place. On the other hand, it was easy to create point-to-point networks, and early on, 230.4 Kbps was a decent level of network throughput.

PhoneNet connectorsFarallon addressed those two problems head-on with its PhoneNet technology (released in 1987), which let you run the LocalTalk protocol over standard telephone wiring and RJ11 connectors – and those connectors didn’t slip out of the network adapter, a big step forward from AppleTalk hardware.

Because the Mac’s RS-422 serial port can also be controlled by an external clock, some manufacturers released their own accelerated versions of PhoneNet. Centram FlashTalk ran at 768 kbps, while DaynaTalk (1989) pushed speeds to 850 kbps. Of course, these systems were not compatible with each other.


10 Mbps ethernet was the up-and-coming network standard, and it was over 40x as fast as LocalTalk. As ethernet grew in popularity, ethernet NuBus cards and PDS cards became the tool for moving older Macs into the modern world of networking.

The big drawback compared with LocalTalk is that ethernet has everything connected to a hub, while LocalTalk let you daisy-chain networked devices and didn’t use a hub.

One problem with adopting ethernet is that some older Macs didn’t have expansion slots, and SCSI ethernet adapters were somewhat of a hassle.


Farallon EtherWave adapterEtherWave was Farallon’s solution to these problems. The regular EtherWave adapter connects to a Mac’s printer port and bridges LocalTalk to ethernet with no need to set up a dedicated Mac as a LocalTalk bridge. The EtherWave adapter draws its power from the Mac’s ADB port – and that was only the tip of the iceberg.

Unlike normal ethernet hardware, every EtherWave device, whether the external device or a NuBus or PDS expansion card, can be daisy chained to another EtherWave device or a standard ethernet device. With EtherWave, you can create an ethernet network without an ethernet hub.

Faster than AppleTalk!

From the beginning, the RS-422 serial ports on Macs supported external clocking beyond its standard 230.4 kbps, as mentioned above. Farallon’s EtherWave offered 690 kbps speed, a bit less than FlashTalk or DaynaTalk but still three times as fast as standard LocalTalk. That said, it’s still just 7% as fast as 10Base-T ethernet.

Unfortunately, this came at a price. Accelerated performance requires drivers that are not necessary at normal LocalTalk speed, and those drivers were never updated to use Apple’s improved Open Transport networking protocol, which means that Mac OS 7.6 and later users are out of luck, because Open Transport is all they support. You have to use “Classic Networking” in System 6 through 7.5.5 for high-speed (for its day) networking over the Mac’s printer port.

You can still download the drivers from Proxim’s servers. (You will need to create a free user account and log in to access them.)

According to alk in the 68KMLA forum, EtherWave adapters can function with Open Transport without Farallon’s drivers, but they will only automatically obtain an IP address from a MacIP server. You should still be able to manually assign an IP address.

The EtherWave Family

Links are to archived pages from the old Farallon website. I have heard rumors of EtherWave adapters for the Mac SE and SE/30 but have not been able to find further information on them. If you can help, please post a comment.

Farallon also made a wide range of EtherMac products that only have a single ethernet port.


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