LocalTalk is a particular implementation of the physical layer of the AppleTalk networking system from Apple Computer. LocalTalk specifies a system of shielded twisted pair cabling, plugged into self-terminating transceivers, running at a rate of 230.4 kbit/s. CSMA/CA was implemented as a random multiple access method.
Networking was envisioned in the Macintosh during planning, so the Mac was given expensive RS-422 capable serial ports. The ports were driven by the Zilog SCC which could serve as either a standard UART or handle the much more complicated HDLC protocol which was a packet oriented protocol which incorporated addressing, bit-stuffing, and packet checksumming in hardware. Coupled together with the RS422 electrical connections, this provided a reasonably high-speed data connection.
The 230.4 kbit/s bit rate is the highest in the series of standard serial bit rates (110, 150, 300, 600, 1200, 2400, 4800, 9600, 14400, 19200, 28800, 38400, 57600, 115200, 230400) derived from the 3.6864 MHz clock after the customary divide-by-16. This clock frequency, 3.6864 MHz, was chosen (in part) to support the common asynchronous baud rates up to 38.4 kbit/s using the SCC's internal baud-rate generator. When the SCC's internal PLL was used to lock to the clock embedded in the LocalTalk serial data stream (using its FM0 encoding method) a divide-by-16 setting on the PLL yielded the fastest rate available, namely 230.4 kbit/s.
There is a rumor that Steve Jobs was initially opposed to including any sort of networking on the Mac, and that the RS-422 port and its associated software support was developed largely in secret.
Originally released as "AppleTalk Personal Network", LocalTalk used shielded twisted-pair cable with 3-pin Mini-DIN connectors. Cables were daisy-chained from transceiver to transceiver. Each transceiver had two 3-pin Mini-DIN ports, and a cable to connect to the Mac's DE-9 serial connector. Later, when the Mac Plus introduced the 8-pin Mini-DIN serial connector, transceivers were updated as well.
A variation of LocalTalk, called PhoneNet, was introduced by Farallon Computing. It used standard unshielded side-by-side telephone wire with 6 position modular connectors (same as used in the popular RJ11 telephone connectors) connected to a PhoneNet transceiver, instead of the expensive shielded twisted-pair cable. In addition to being lower cost, PhoneNet-wired networks were more reliable due to the connections being more difficult to accidentally disconnect. In addition, because it used the "outer" pair of the modular connector, it could travel on many pre-existing phone cables and jacks where just the inner pair was in use for RJ11 telephone service. PhoneNet was also able to use an office's existing phone wire, allowing for entire floors of computers to be easily networked. Farallon introduced a 12 port hub which made constructing star topology networks of up to 48 devices as easy as adding jacks at the workstations and some jumpers in the phone closet. These factors led to PhoneNet largely supplanting LocalTalk wiring in low cost networking.
The useful life of PhoneNet was extended with the introduction of LocalTalk switching technology by Tribe Computer Works. Introduced in 1990, the Tribe LocalSwitch was a 16 port packet switch designed to speed up overloaded PhoneNet networks.
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