Web Browsing on the Macintosh SE

Excuse the poor quality.

Excuse the poor quality.

Well, I decided to drag my SE home from my parent’s house when I came back from winter break. It sat in the laundry room for a couple weeks, but I was bored today so I decided to stretch its legs. I had also recently been reminded of the Hack A Day retro challenge and so I thought it might be the perfect way to spend my afternoon.

Back when I first got the SE, I was eager to connect it to anything that I could, so I had a ziplock bag full of all sorts of vintage-Mac cables. AppleTalk adapters, serial cables, etc. A quick dig through the bag netted me a mini DIN-8 to DB9 cable. I dug around another box and found a null modem cable and a USB-serial adapter. By connecting these three cables together and plugging the USB side into my MacBook Air and the mini-DIN into the SE’s modem port, I was able to quickly establish a serial connection with Zterm.

My initial intention was to download a TCP stack and a System 7 compatible browser, however I couldn’t get the TCP stack properly unzipped on my contemporary Mac and I couldn’t find a browser that was suitable for System 7.0. Most that I found required a later variant of System 7. While the later version is available from Apple for free, I would have no way to create an 800k floppy to install from as I only have 1.4m floppies. To boot, the only other machine I own with an 800k drive is at the very same parent’s house still.

Moving on from that idea, I decided I’d just use a terminal browser. Getting a console was a slight challenge, as Mac OS X doesn’t natively support hardware terminals. Attempting to enable one simply does nothing. As I recall, the only version of Mac OS X to support hardware terminals is Mac OS X Server, as Xserves are the only contemporary Macs that have hardware serial ports.

The solution came from everyone else who has ever used an Apple II as a terminal. Screen! Within screen, you can execute getty. Perfect. After fussing with baud settings and window sizes (I found that the screen session on OS X needs to match height and width of the SE terminal) I was in business. Now to find a suitable browser. Instead of installing Links or Lynx locally, I SSH’d right into my AWS instance, as I already had lynx installed there. Everything fell in place.

As you can see in the (rather poor) image attached, the HAD retro site loaded right up. There’s some issue with the terminal that I haven’t straightened quite out yet, but I have a feeling that it has to do with Screen on my MacBook Air. I’m going to connect the SE to a Raspberry Pi and see how that turns out. That’s a project for a later hour, though. I think I deserve a nap right now.