How Can I Network My iMac with My Old Macs?

1998 – JP writes: Thanks for reading my email. I have reached an interesting intersection. I want to be able to share data among my three Macs.

Bondi iMacI have a brand new iMac, a real beauty with 64 MB of memory; a Performa 630 CD, loaded up with 36 MB of RAM, but just a 250 MB HD, already mostly full with silly games; and a PowerBook 5300cs 16/750, which is showing its age and has no modem/ethernet. I also have a Color StyleWriter 2400, which has never impressed me with its speed or color (which now isn’t working consistently) and an HP 320 portable that’s missing the paper loader, which makes it difficult to print anything more than one or two pages.

Anyhow, I need to share data between at least the PowerBook (PB) and iMac. I also need to be able to print from all of them. I have figured I have four options:

  1. Buy an Epson 740 and a serial splitter. I can then hook up all the computers to the printer but not really share data.
  2. Buy an ethernet hub and ethernet PC Card and a card for the Performa, then hook up the StyleWriter or HP printer to the Performa and share it as a LocalTalk printer.
  3. Buy an Imation SuperDisk drive to share data, and when I want to print, put something on a floppy and then print it on one of the old printers from either the Performa or PB (but I could really only print WP files, since those units can’t handle some of the software the iMac can.
  4. Combine 1 and 2.

My choices run the gamut from $150 or so up to $400 or so. I really don’t think I want to spend more than $250. What do you think would provide me with the best compromise of price, convenience and performance.

Mac Daniel writes: That’s a nice collection of Macs. With almost a dozen Macs at home, this has become a real issue for me and my house. Macs are currently spread all over the place, not networked, and the only printer is on my computer. We’re getting tired of the floppy shuffle.

Creating a small computer network is the first step in solving your problem.

AAUI plugs

AAUI plugs

Your iMac has ethernet. I believe your PowerBook does have ethernet, although you’ll need an AAUI adapter before you can use it. The Performa 630 doesn’t come with ethernet – although there are several ways to add it.

The least expensive solution is probably to find a small 10Base-T ethernet hub (four to six ports), which should cost no more than $60. Then add an ethernet adapter to your Performa. Options include SCSI ethernet adapters (under $100), an ethernet card (this requires removing your modem), and some type of LocalTalk-to-ethernet adapter. The last option will be slow, since LocalTalk tops at about 230 kbps, which is 1/40 the bandwidth of ethernet.

Using file sharing, your iMac will be able to mount disks (including floppies) on your PowerBook or Performa, eliminating the need to buy the Imation drive.

Then comes the printer issue. Your best choices are a networked printer (ethernet if possible, because LocalTalk will require yet another LocalTalk-to-ethernet adapter) or using printer sharing and having one of your serial-port-equipped Macs handle printing. (You may be able to use your StyleWriter 2400 for this. Since I have no hands-on experience with printer sharing, I can’t give any further advice on setting it up. All my printers use LocalTalk.)

An additional benefit of networking the three computers is that you also have the option of sharing a single Internet connection among your Macs using just one modem. See How Can I Share One Modem with Two Macs? for more information on that topic.

Keywords: #macnetworking

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