23
Jul
'14

These days one can network a bunch of computers for $25 without breaking much of a sweat, since most if not all computers these days come with a network port right there on the motherboard, and if it’s a notebook there will be wi-fi right there as well.

But back in 1987 networks were a big deal. Arcnet came out in 1982 and Ethernet was standardized in 1983 — using almost-a-centimeter-thick coax cables with the delightfully named “vampire tap” connecting stations to the backbone. Yes, we’ve come a long way.

So being able to network two or three machines for $25 was a Big Deal. At around the same time you could get two Ethernet adapters and a cable from LANtastic for $699.

How? Point-to-point serial cables, with one machine acting as a hub in three-machine installations. According to the documentation, this is good for 80 feet at full speed (115 kbit/s). This and some very clever DOS software from D. Jindra and R Armstrong, calling themselves Information Modes and operating from a drawer in Texas. All drives (which in 1987 meant 360k to 1.2Mbyte floppies, and maybe a 20Mbyte hard drive somewhere) and printers could be accessed from all the machines in this network.

It was magic, I tell you. Kids of today, they don’t believe a word of it.

 

  • Link to the files I have (Time has not been kind. There’s some bitrot in the filenames I think)
  • The Data Packrat has a disk image of a different version of the $25 Network and delightfully odd ideas of how the internet works.

 


1 Comment to “The $25 Network”


  1. Ken D'Ambrosio — 2017-07-21 @ 15:43

    Ah, yes — the ol’ $25 Network. It really did do an awesome job for the bakery I worked in — we were able to share the printer, Excel^WQuattro Pro spreadsheets, and in general, get a lot of bang for our buck. That being said, even for the 80’s, 115kbps was still awful slow for larger stuff. (We even had a *100 MB* HD. Amazing, I know. Cost us $1200.) Eventually, we went with Netware 2.2 using NE2000 cards over coax at a whopping 10 mbit, and while I loved the $25 Network, megabit speeds are hard to argue with.



Write a comment