What Does AppleTalk Mean?

AppleTalk is a set of proprietary networking protocols developed by Apple for their computer systems. AppleTalk was included in the original Macintosh released in 1984. In 2009, it became unsupported with the release of Mac OS X v10.6 and was dropped in favor of TCP/IP networking, allowing Apple computers to use the same standard to communicate with other computers.

The design of AppleTalk followed the OSI Model of protocol layering with two protocols aimed at making the system completely self-configuring:


  • AppleTalk Address Resolution Protocol (AARP): Allowed hosts to automaticall generate their own network addresses
  • Name Binding Protocol (NBP): A dynamic system that maps network addresses to user-readable names.

Techopedia Explains AppleTalk

AppleTalk was revolutionary and easy to configure in its day. However, with the rise of Internet-based protocols and their standardization, the need for a proprietary system quickly declined. If Apple had not conformed to other standards, they were in danger of losing the competition. Hence, they finally dropped AppleTalk in favor of TCP/IP. Apple supported AppleTalk for older devices for a while. However, the last Mac OS to support AppleTalk was OS X v10.5.

AppleTalk used a 4-byte address system and used completely self-configuring protocols. The address resolution protocol allowed hosts to generate their own address automatically. The name binding protocol allowed the system to dynamically map the network address to user-readable names of terminals.

An AppleTalk address consisted of a two-byte network number, a one-byte node number, and a one-byte socket number. Only the network number needed configuration, which was obtained from a router. This allowed for a total of 32 devices to be connected to the network and operated at 230.4 KBps with the devices being up to 1000 feet apart.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…