The Apple Network Server’s all-too-secret weapon: PPC Toolbox

However, there was a secret weapon hidden in ANS AIX most of us at the time never knew about. Built-in to the operating system was a fully Unix-native AppleTalk stack and support for receiving and sending Apple Events, surfaced in the form of Apple’s disk administration tools and AppleShare. But Apple had a much more expansive vision for this feature: full server-client “symbiotic” applications that could do their number-crunching on the ANS and present the results on a desktop Mac. Using the Program-to-Program Communication Toolbox (“PPCToolbox”), and because AIX’s throughput far exceeded anything the classic Mac OS ever could ever handle, an ANS could augment a whole bunch of Macs at once that didn’t have to stop to do the work themselves.

Well, today we’re going to write one of those “symbiotic” applications doing something this little Mystic Color Classic could never efficiently do itself — accessing and processing a JSON API over TLS 1.3 — and demonstrate not only how such an client application looked on the Mac side, but also how the server component worked on the AIX side. If you’re lucky enough to have an ANS running AIX too, you can even compile and run it yourself. But before we do that, it might be a little instructive to talk about how the Apple Network Server came to run AIX in the first place.

I had no idea the ANS could do this. That’s an incredibly cool feature, and clearly fits in the whole “the network is the computer” idea that dominated the late ’90s.

One Response

  1. 2023-11-16 6:19 am