Browsing the Internet on a 1989 Macintosh II with a Web Rendering Proxy

For completely impractical reasons I decided to try and browse the internet using my 1989 Macintosh IICI computer. Here’s how it went.

I’ve previously tried web browsing with Web Rendering Proxy on a 1993 Windows 3.11 computer, and thought I’d see how the Apple experience stacks up.

Setting up the Raspberry Pi with Web Rendering Proxy

Web Rendering Proxy is a neat little tool that lets you browse the internet from older devices.

It works by rendering a modern web-page in a modern Chromium browser, taking a screenshot, and then sending that screenshot to your obsolete web browser which can render it. When you click on the rendered screenshot, Web rendering Proxy notes where that click was and sends it back to Chromium to update the page and get another screenshot.

This is required because old browsers don’t support many of the features offered by modern browsers and expected by modern websites.

To set this up I used the steps I took previously when setting Web Rendering Proxy up for use with my Windows 3.11 machine.

Setting up and FTP Server

Getting files to the Mac is a problem – Floppy disks are getting harder to find, and are prone to failure.

My Mac II has an ethernet card, so I’m going to use it to transfer files via FTP.

I’ve configured an FTP server on my OpenWRT router to host the files, following the instructions provided here.

Getting Mac Software

For some of the initial setup I used a Floppy Disk Emulator – a seriously cool gadget that can emulate vintage Mac and Apple II disk drives.

Other software used on the Macintosh side included:

  • MacTCP for networking
  • Fetch for FTP transfers
  • Unstuffit to extract files
  • MacEnvy to check System Stats

A quick online search will bring up multiple places you can obtain this software online.

Finding a Web Browser for Macintosh System 7.5

Netscape Communicator 4.04 is the last Netscape version supported for Macintosh System 7.5, which is the last version of the Macintosh System software which works on my Macintosh II.

This is the most modern (if you consider 1995 modern) web browser available for this system, so it’s the browser I’ll be using.

Macintosh IICI Tour

Here are a few shots of the Macintosh II CI this will be running on. It’s pretty sharp.

Macintosh II CI Setup
Macintosh II CI Setup
Macintosh IICI Up Close
Macintosh IICI Up Close
Macintosh IICI Internals
Macintosh IICI Internals

It’s got a Motorola 68030 CPU and 20MB of RAM, pretty beastly for the time.

Macintosh IICI System Info
Macintosh IICI System Info
Macintosh IICI Specs
Macintosh IICI Specs

But is it enough to browse the internet?

Getting the Mac Networked With MacTCP

MacTCP was (and I guess still is) the package that provided TCP networking to the MacOS operating system.   It’s pretty easy to use, but it doesn’t support modern DHCP services, so must be configured with a static IP address.

Accessing the MacTCP configuration panel
Accessing the MacTCP configuration panel
Configuring a static IP address for MacTCP
Configuring a static IP address for MacTCP
MacTCP with a configured static IP address
MacTCP with a configured static IP address
Reboot to apply changes!
Reboot to apply changes!

Connecting to the FTP Server with Fetch

Fetch is a simple FTP client for classic Mac systems.  It can be used to upload and download files from compatible FTP servers such as vsftp.

I’m using Fetch to copy across a copy of the Netscape Communicator web browser.  This is faster, and way more reliable than trying to copy it on old floppies.

Connecting to an FTP server with the Fetch FTP client
Connecting to an FTP server with the Fetch FTP client
Browsing the remote FTP server with Fetch
Browsing the remote FTP server with Fetch

macii wrp 0558

Selecting files for download
Selecting files for download
Selecting download destination in Fetch
Selecting download destination in Fetch
File transfer in progress!
File transfer in progress!

Installing Netscape

Now that the Netscape installer has been transferred over, the web browser can be installed.

The Netscape Communicator Installer
The Netscape Communicator Installer
Netscape installation destination
Netscape installation destination
Waiting...
Waiting…
Installation finished!
Installation finished!

macii wrp 0582

Netscape is installed – time to run it and see what a mid-1990’s web browser running on a computer from 1989 can do.

The Netscape configuration screen
The Netscape configuration screen
So far so good!
So far so good!

macii wrp 0585

Setting up a new Netscape profile
Setting up a new Netscape profile
Netscape Communicator setup completed
Netscape Communicator setup completed
That's a good looking splash screen
That’s a good looking splash screen
Giving a 30-something year old computer direct internet access obviously isn't a great idea, so Netscape will complain about a few things.
Giving a 30-something year old computer direct internet access obviously isn’t a great idea, so Netscape will complain about a few things.
Netscape, up and running
Netscape, up and running

Browsing the Internet like it’s 1995 (On a 1989 Computer)

Now to try out the Web Rendering Proxy by pointing Netscape to the IP of the Raspberry Pi running the proxy software.

Web Rendering Proxy Loaded. It's alive!
Web Rendering Proxy Loaded. It’s alive!
Browsing the internet in 2022 on a 1989 Macintosh IICI
Browsing the internet in 2022 on a 1989 Macintosh IICI

Unsurprisingly, this was not a pleasant browsing experience.  The Mac II is incredibly slow to respond and load pages.  Of course, this machine only has about 20 MB of RAM and a 25Mhz processor, so I wasn’t expecting any miracles.

The most useful thing gained from this little project was getting FTP working between my OpenWRT router running vsftpd and the vintage Macintosh.  I can now transfer over more era-appropriate applications (and games) – and transfer any documents create back to the FTP server so that I can publish or share them from my modern computer.

These old machines are still fun to use and arguably better in some ways.  It’s just a computer.  There are no distractions, no ads, no annoying notifications.  You can just sit down and get some stuff done (or play some Marathon).

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I'm Brad, and I'm nearing 20 years of experience with Linux. I've worked in just about every IT role there is before taking the leap into software development. Currently, I'm building desktop and web-based solutions with NodeJS and PHP hosted on Linux infrastructure. Visit my blog or find me on Twitter to see what I'm up to.

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