Author Topic: FDDI networks on a Mac  (Read 1065 times)

Offline ssp3

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FDDI networks on a Mac
« on: September 21, 2023, 06:09:32 AM »
Time for a little fun. Especially for those into retro-computing.  :)
(This post was long overdue).

Want to impress your friends with your Macs running cool looking "never heared before" fast optical network? Look no further. Meet the DEC DEFPA-xx FDDI PCI card family. These are the only PCI FDDI cards known to me that are Mac 7.6-9.2.2 compatible and have Mac drivers. (There are drivers for Win/Win NT/SCO UNIX LLI as well. If anyone need those, let me know).
I've been using them extensively in various machines - from PM7500 to G4 Digital Audio and between Macs and PCs running Win 98 back in the day. (I still have about 20 somewhere in storage).

AppleTalk and TCP/IP works nicely. (Hotline server/client cross-platform too).
These are, in fact, a bit faster than 100base Ethernet, because FDDI protocol is not collision based.
I am not going to explain here what the FDDI is - Google is your friend.

There are two types of cards - Single Attachment Station (SAS) and Dual Attachment Station (DAS). With SAS cards you can connect two machenes to each other, with DAS cards, or combination of SAS/DAS cards you can connect more than one machine in a TokenRing fashion.
Switches in FDDI world are called 'Concentrators'. Bridging FDDI to Ethernet can be done, but that kind of equipment is relatively rare and bulky.
Cards that I've been using (see pics) require standard multimode fiber optic cables with SC connectors, that are also common in 1000base FX optical networks.
In fact, there are more than these two models - there are cards that require single mode optic cables and use laser based transmitters (stay away from those) and also there are cards that use copper RJ-45 connectors in place of optical transmitters. (See attached PDF).

Next time you do dumpster diving or see them on fleaBay for peanuts, you might consider grabbing them. Optical cables will be, most probably, the most expensive part if you decide to go this route.
Also, if the price is right, especially with the RJ-45 versions, these cards might be a good alternative to 100base Ethernet PCI cards for beige Macs and small home networks.

Mac driver is attached.

NOTE to retro-computing YouTubers! If you're going to brag about these on your channels, mentioning MacOS9Lives and that you got the information from here would be appropriate.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2023, 01:27:04 AM by ssp3 »
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Offline DieHard

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Re: FDDI networks on a Mac
« Reply #1 on: September 21, 2023, 09:18:19 AM »
Quote
These are, in fact, a bit faster than 100base Ethernet, because FDDI protocol is not collision based.

On a home network with less than half a dozen PCs, this is not so accurate.

Well it sounds cool and I remember the good old days...

Novell 3.11 Servers with Mac Name Space and IPX packets encapsulated for FDDI bouncing all around.  Everything worked, no lost forks :)

However, I would strongly recommend the FDDI stuff is just as a trip down memory lane.  With the statement...

"Hey Kids, don't try this at home"

FDDI is kinda like the dead sea scrolls, cool to read about, but that's about it... unless you want to setup an experiment in the garage, it will have no place in today's home network, especially if you want to communicate with any semi-modern equipment that you have connected to your switch.

Offline robespierre

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Re: FDDI networks on a Mac
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2023, 10:06:42 AM »
The different MTU size might cause some problems? Ethernet up to 100 Mb only supports 1500 byte MTUs.
Gigabit Ethernet has "Jumbo" MTU capability, but there are essentially zero off-the-shelf bridges from FDDI to gigabit.

Just a minor clarification, a concentrator is the equivalent of an ethernet hub. All the ports on it share the same 100 Mb bandwidth. With a switch, different ports can talk to each other independently; there was only one FDDI switch called the DEC Gigaswitch (very large, very expensive, and now extremely rare).

For something even more niche than FDDI/CDDI, try setting up 100VG AnyLan (or ArcNet?)  :o

Offline IIO

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Re: FDDI networks on a Mac
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2023, 10:52:05 AM »
it is surely fun to use it with hotline, but even more interesting for owners of certain eucon mixers.

the first time i saw optical cables for networking stuff was in a musical theater. that must have been around OS7.0 times, when sonicstudio also started with these FDDI cables.

i wonder what transfer rates you get for filetransfer? it canīt be much less than gigabit, because gigabit ethernet also does not give you its purely theoretical limit.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2023, 11:17:04 AM by IIO »
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Offline ssp3

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Re: FDDI networks on a Mac
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2023, 04:07:11 PM »
the first time i saw optical cables for networking stuff was in a musical theater. that must have been around OS7.0 times, when sonicstudio also started with these FDDI cables.

He he.. This is how and why I drifted into (fascinating) FDDI world  :)
I tried to bridge the Sonic enviroment to the outside world and experimented with all possible equipment. I even traced down some rare NuBus FDDI cards, but those turned out to be about as fast as Sonic's own MediaNet cards, but less useful.

FDDI is kinda like the dead sea scrolls, cool to read about, but that's about it...

Careful there! By the same logic there's just one step to "OS9 is dead" and "68k machines are just a doorstops"  ;)

Re. Hotline - I used it only to transfer audio files Mac<->Mac and Mac<->PC, not to connect to the outside HL servers. Also, by using FDDI instead of Ethernet NIC I could be 100% sure that in studio no idiot comes to idea to connect Win DAW machine to the internet to browse porn or similar sites (with all their viruses), when nobody else is around.

(There was AES paper by Andy Moorer where he explains why Sonic have chosen FDDI over any other protocol at a time, when their DAW was introduced to the broader circles. Real time, mutiple stream audio playback of the same material over network by several workstations at the same time without drop-outs was just one of them. But all that was possible because Sonic used their own file system. Macs were kind of 'terminals' to that enviroment).

Quote
i wonder what transfer rates you get for filetransfer? it canīt be much less than gigabit, because gigabit ethernet also does not give you its purely theoretical limit.

It's been a looong time since I used this kind of setup. At the time I experimented with DEC cards between two 'non-Sonic' PCI Macs, the limiting factor was U2W SCSI drive speed on both ends. But I hit the max, IIRC.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2023, 01:07:47 AM by ssp3 »
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Offline robespierre

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Re: FDDI networks on a Mac
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2023, 08:05:01 PM »
There was an IEEE draft standard for "FDDI-II" that described isochronous streaming support, but I'm not aware of any actual implementations of it. Maybe Sonic Studio had that?

 


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