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Apple/Digital Development

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The agreement between Apple Computer, Inc. and Digital Equipment Corp. has expanded the Macintosh applications development opportunities to include the VAX environment and thus, has expanded the horizons for you, the developer. Because you've shown an interest in developing applications for this exciting new platform, we'd like to provide you with some background information about this agreement, give you an introduction to the development opportunities, and show you the support for developers that is available from Apple and Digital.

The Apple/Digital Equipment Corporation Agreement

In January 1988, Apple and Digital agreed to provide a jointly developed and endorsed environment for common communications based on AppleTalk and DECnet/OSI networking foundations. The development effort between the two companies is designed to provide you with standard technologies for Macintosh and VAX integration. Based on this consistent technical framework of industry standards and open service interfaces, you will be better equipped to plan for, implement, and deliver a new generation of world-class networked end-user applications.

The August 1988 Apple/Digital Developer's Conference, held in Boston, followed by the update session at the May 1989 Worldwide Developers' Conference in San Jose were steps toward the fulfillment of this agreement to integrate the Macintosh and VAX computing worlds. This commitment to better integrate these two technologies is a direct response to a mutual customer need: to share informa­tion and to use computing resources more effectively.

Apple and Digital are providing the common communications foundations and the core network services needed to support this goal. Developer opportunities will abound for products ranging from high-performance distributed and cooperative computing applications to network-intelligent productivity applications to friendly multimedia front-end interfaces for standard VMS-based applications.

Customers will reap the benefits of a highly integrated environment featur­ing the consistent, intuitive Macintosh user interface, AppleTalk network transpar­ency and services, VAX computing power, and enterprise-wide DECnet/OSI network­ing connectivity.

Additionally, Digital and Apple have signed a service agreement whereby Digital will provide service on Macintosh systems and related peripherals to Apple/Digital customers. Apple and Digital are also focusing on support for related third­-party hardware and software products, more advanced network support and international customer support.

Because the joint development efforts are based on the same technology foundations, customers' strategic investments in third-party connectivity products and services based on the AppleTalk Filing Protocol (AFP) will not be rendered obsolete. The joint development program will not only offer the tools for the next generation of AFP-based integration products, but will also provide conversion utilities for the migration of existing AFP-based files and databases. The collabora­tion will not make modifications to existing nonconnectivity-based Macintosh applications necessary. Apple and Digital plan to support the OSI standard in future versions of the Apple/Digital network environment. A majority of the "deliverables" mentioned in the following sections will be available in the early part of 1990.

Development Opportunities

The Apple/Digital agreement increases opportunities for Macintosh and Digital developers. It provides them with a suitable platform for distributed applications in the areas of business, finance, engineering, desktop publishing, and Macintosh-to­-VAX connectivity products.

Third-party development opportunities for distributed Macintosh/VAX applications exist in the following areas: CAD, CAM, MRP, simulation, host access, network management, and vendor data access. There is also a market for network­-intelligent groupware applications in the areas of project management, word proc­essing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases and calendars, as well as for front­-ends for VAX applications, including access to Macintosh applications and services, graphic interface, and sound and video. Finally, developers should also look into filling needs that Apple and Digital will not address, such as 3278 gateway integra­tion, VAX Notes client, and VAX VTX client.

Distributed Macintosh/VAX applications utilize the Macintosh as an integral portion of the application, where it performs the role of interfacing to the user and calls on VAX resources as necessary. For instance, in an engineering computer-aided design application, the Macintosh might be used to perform airflow analysis on portions of an aircraft design, and to graphically display the results. But if an engineer decided to perform an airflow analysis on the entire aircraft structure, the application would realize that this would take far longer on the Macintosh than was practical. Instead, the application would take advantage of the RPC mechanism and data access facilities available for Macintosh/VAX connectivity and automatically utilize the VAX systems to perform the computational analysis - without requiring any change in the way the engineer issues commands.

Macintosh/VAX-based network-intelligent groupware applications are actually a subset of a larger area involving Macintosh network-based applications in general. AppleTalk, through the AFP facilities, offers a rich set of protection mecha­nisms, such as byte-range locking, that allow developers to create true multiuser applications. Many Macintosh applications were originally designed around a single­user model and had multiuser features added later. But network-intelligent group­ware applications are designed from the beginning with multiuser capabilities. The VAX systems, by offering AFP support, can also take advantage of any network­-intelligent groupware applications that developers may create.

Finally, the user's acceptance of an existing VAX application may be enhanced with the addition of a Macintosh front end. Rather than try to redo the VAX application so that it becomes a distributed program between the Macintosh and VAX, by adding either MacWorkStation or X Window code, the application can utilize a Macintosh and its familiar, easy-to-use interface with only minimal alterations.

Development Configurations and Documentation

To develop Apple-to-Digital applications on the Macintosh II, Macintosh IIx, or Macintosh IIcx you will need the equipment, development tools, and documentation listed below:

Apple Equipment and Software:

  • Macintosh II, Macintosh IIx, or Macintosh IIcx computer with a minimum of 2 megabytes of RAM
  • 12-inch monochrome monitor with 4-bit video card or 13-inch color monitor with 8-bit video card
  • Apple 40-megabyte hard disk
  • Apple Tape Backup 40SC (optional)
  • Macintosh II EtherTalk Interface Card (optional)
  • EtherTalk, Version 1.1 (optional)

Foundation of the Technology Infrastructure

The technology infrastructure that supports this new developer environment is based on:

  • Standardization of the connectivity hardware
  • Standardization, provision, and support of the connectivity software based on AppleTalk for VMS
  • Provision and support of a core set of network services, callable by third-party applications
  • Provision of a standard set of network interfaces and developer tools

Network Connectivity Hardware

Many of these building blocks were in place prior to the agreement and have been reinforced as a result of these joint efforts. Core-supported connectivity hardware includes:

  • Both EtherTalk (the higher-performance AppleTalk network) and DECnet, which use Ethernet industry-standard 10 MB/sec LAN over thick, thin, or twisted­-pair media
  • LocalTalk, Apple's broadly implemented low-cost network, which runs over twisted-pair wiring
  • Routing between LocalTalk-to-Ethernet is accomplished with various routers based on standard published AppleTalk routing protocols

Network Connectivity Software

AppleTalk for VMS

The standard development platform for Macintosh and VAX integration is AppleTalk for VMS. This software product is available through the Apple Software Licensing group to network applications developers. AppleTalk for VMS implements the AppleTalk protocol architecture on VAX/VMS systems, allowing them to be full participants in the AppleTalk Network System (ANS). Developers can then build VMS-based applications, such as AppleShare file and print servers, that communi­cate over ANS to Macintosh, Apple II, and MS-DOS personal computers.

The advantages for Macintosh users of AppleTalk protocol support on the VAX include:

  • Preservation and extension of the "look and feel" of the Macintosh interface in VAX communications
  • Preservation of the AppleTalk network's ease of use, installation, and setup
  • Access to powerful VAX-based file and print servers that retain the ease of use and interface of AppleShare file and print servers
  • Leveraging of investment in Macintosh applications that already take advantage of ANS
  • Interoperability with MS-DOS and Apple II personal computers and VAX applications and relational databases

Deliverables include:

  • AppleTalk for VMS API (Applications Program Interface) specifications
  • Extended AppleTalk for VMS will provide:
    • Enhanced performance
    • Additional wide-area AppleTalk routing capabilities via DECnet/OSI tunneling
    • Gateway functionality, facilitating the development of distributed AppleTalk and DECnet/OSI applications
    • Facility to enable networked terminal access to VMS
    • Support of Apple's network management protocols, for bidirectional AppleTalk-to-DECnet/OSI management.

Apple and Digital plan to use these future versions of AppleTalk for VMS as a platform for Macintosh/VAX integration products.

AppleTalk-DECnet Transport Gateway

In addition to AppleTalk for VMS, customers and developers will benefit from an entirely new capability: bidirectional end-to-end links between any AppleTalk computer system and any node in DECnet/OSI enterprise-wide networks.

This new capability means that you can build applications capable of performing transparent task-to-task communications between AppleTalk Data Stream Protocol (ADSP) and DECnet NSP-(Network Services Protocol) based processes located on any remote DECnet/OSI node (such as PDP-11, VMS, or ULTRIX-based systems). This facilitates adaptation of existing DECnet/OSI applications and allows both computers to be programmed in their native communications environments. A manufacturing applications designer, for example, could take an existing DECnet/OSI-based process control application running on a PDP-11 and implement software allowing the Macintosh to act as a front end to the application.

The AppleTalk-to-DECnet transport gateway is an important adjunct to Apple Talk for VMS, because it allows Macintosh integration with VAX systems elsewhere in the extended DECnet/OSI network, regardless of whether the destina­tion VAX is running the AppleTalk for VMS software. Using the AppleTalk-to­-DECnet transport gateway, Macintosh users will be able to access DECnet/OSI enterprise-wide mail networks and remote VAX-based network applications, such as VAX VTX and VAX Notes.

Digital will build and offer an AppleTalk-DECnet transport gateway to run on VAX/VMS systems. This ADSP-to-NSP transport gateway will run concurrently with AppleTalk for VMS, allowing any Macintosh in an AppleTalk network to access any DECnet/OSI node, or vice versa. (ADSP and NSP are bidirectional, connection oriented, end-to-end transport protocols available from Apple and Digital, respec­tively.)

Deliverables include:

  • AppleTalk-to-DECnet transport gateway (will be provided by Digital)
  • NSP protocol specifications are currently available from Digital
  • Gateway access routines Macintosh API for release with the Toolkit (will be provided by Apple); ADSP protocol specifications are currently available

Network Management

Future versions of AppleTalk for VMS will provide network management functions to allow integrated management of combined AppleTalk and DECnet/OSI networks. AppleTalk for VMS and the DECnet transport gateway will provide full support for AppleTalk network management functions. Apple will provide capabilities that will allow AppleTalk management stations to view the DECnet network. Digital will provide capabilities that will allow a VMS manager to view an AppleTalk network. These will work together to provide:

  • Necessary information to AppleTalk administrative tools, such as Inter•Poll, for viewing the network, determining device status and response time, and detect­ing and locating faults
  • Control of the AppleTalk-for-VMS internet-router process
  • Information about DECnet/OSI needed for:
    • Link status used by AppleTalk for the VMS router
    • Link status used by DECnet transport gateway
    • DECnet/OSI control functions for AppleTalk

Apple will develop, release, and support a version of AppleTalk for VMS incorporating these network management capabilities; no third-party API is planned at this time.

Building Distributed Applications

Independent software developers now have a choice of several user-interface technologies with which to provide access to VMS applications, including VT terminal emulation and use of MacWorkStation. We are also broadening the offering by supporting the X Window System.

VT Terminal Emulation

Networked terminal-emulation capabilities will be supported by inclusion of a terminal driver as a standard part of AppleTalk for VMS. This will support direct terminal sessions to VAX/VMS hosts via the network link from many terminal emulators that emulate a VT-class terminal.

Communications Toolbox

Apple will provide a new facility, the Communications Toolbox, which allows developers to easily build special-purpose terminal emulators and to incorporate terminal and file transfer capabilities into their applications. The Communications Toolbox will feature ADSP support. The Communications Toolbox is scheduled to ship in the latter part of 1989 or early part of 1990. It will be available from APDA and will be included in Macintosh System Software 7.0.

Deliverables include:

  • AppleTalk for VMS that will contain the necessary port driver for VMS systems
  • Communications Toolbox with a LAT (Local Area Transport) terminal driver interface for Macintosh developers

In addition to Apple's MacTerminal product offering, several third-party VT-series terminal emulators are currently on the market.

X Window System Access

The X Window System is an industry standard for communicating with and controlling bit-mapped display devices. Developed at MIT as part of Project Athena (sponsored in part by Digital), it includes a standardized library of routines for display-oriented functions in a networked environment where a program running on one system can present information on another system's display. This insulates applications developers from the intricacies of network communications transports and minimizes the effort required to implement applications across different platforms.

Apple supports the X Window System and will provide an X11 server on the Macintosh. X Window availability will be of particular interest to VMS developers of graphics-intensive applications. An X Window to a VAX application will appear as part of the Macintosh user's desktop, allowing cut, copy, and paste functionality between the X Window application and other Macintosh applications. The Macintosh X-server also provides a mechanism to start remote VAX-based applica­tions that support the X Window System from the Macintosh.


MacWorkStation is a collection of high-level Toolbox routines that allow host programs running over any supported communications protocol to utilize the standard user-interface, file-management, and printing features of the Macintosh personal computer. It offers VAX/VMS programmers full access to and control over windows, pull-down menus, dialog boxes, and other features of the Macintosh user interface-without requiring them to learn the details of a traditional Macintosh programming environment. MacWorkStation is an extremely efficient user-interface programming model, allowing good performance to be delivered even over dial-up connections. MacWorkStation is an Apple product available from the Apple Software licensing group.

Deliverables include:

  • Macintosh Xl1-Server Toolkit which provides support for Digital's DEC Win­dows program (will be provided by Apple)
  • MacWorkstation C programmer's library for VAX/VMS (will be provided by Apple)

Distributed Data Access and Information Sharing

AppleTalk Filing Protocol File Services

Customers have found that sharing of files and applications contributes to overall productivity. Digital's VAX/VMS systems will provide AppleShare-compatible file service to workstations on AppleTalk networks. In this environment, Macintosh files are stored on the VAX as VMS files. They are available to other VAX-based applica­tions and appear to the Macintosh user as Macintosh files. Digital's server will offer full AppleTalk Filing Protocol (AFP), Version 2.0 compatibility, supporting Macin­tosh, ProDOS, and MS-DOS systems running AppleShare client software. Popular high-quality AFP file servers for the VAX are available from third parties. Digital will provide tools, where necessary, for migration from existing APP-compatible VMS file servers to the new Digital file server.

This implementation of AFP servers on VAX/VMS systems allows multiple users to make use of larger VAX disk resources and provides access to corporate­level data. It also gives customers a smooth growth path from Macintosh-based servers to higher-capacity servers based on VMS systems. The server will support VMS security mechanisms and simplify backup procedures.

Deliverables include:

  • Implementation of AFP on VAX/VMS systems (will be provided by Digital)
  • AFP, Version 2.0 specifications, currently available from APDA

Document Interchange

Digital's Compound Document Architecture (CDA) is a set of definitions for standard encoding of compound document components. In addition, the architecture describes mechanisms for building translators, viewers, and applications that use this standard encoding. Standardized encoding is important because the multivendor environment of most enterprises leads to a multiplicity of data formats that are often incompatible. CDA provides a scheme for applications-developer migration toward a common language for communicating documents, data, and graphics. The Digital Document Interchange Format (DDIF), a component of CDA, is a format for encod­ing revisable-form text, graphics, and image data.

Apple will support Digital's DDIF document content standards for document interchange between Macintosh and VMS systems by:

  • Providing a VAX-based translation tool that works with the VAX/VMS implemen­tation of AFP to translate from DDIF to key Macintosh file formats, such as PICT, MacWrite, and MacPaint
  • Providing a Macintosh API to this translation tool, allowing applications develop­ers to incorporate DDIF format storage capability directly into their products (This capability will greatly enhance our customers' abilities to exchange documents between systems.)

Deliverables include:

  • Translator tool (will be provided by Digital)
  • API to the translator tool (will be provided by Apple)
  • VAX-based conversion tools to move to DDIF from other VAX document formats (will be provided by Digital)

Print Sharing and Spooling

Further leveraging our customers' investments in high-quality printing resources, Digital's VAX/VMS systems will offer LaserWriter print-spooling services to AppleTalk network-based workstations. These spooling services will allow Macintosh computers to print to Digital LN03R and LPS40 printers, as well as to AppleTalk-based LaserWriter printers. Additionally, Digital will provide the capabil­ity for VMS users to print to LaserWriter printers on AppleTalk networks. Digital's spooler will be compatible with Apple's AppleShare Print Server, Version 2.0. Digital will also support wide-area access to networked printer queues via its Distributed Queue Service. Third-parties currently offer popular high-quality print servers for Macintosh and VAX integration.

Deliverables include:

  • AppleShare-compliant print services on VMS (will be provided by Digital)
  • Support for Digital's LN03R and LPS40 printers (will be provided by Digital)

Database Access

Remote database access over the network allows Macintosh applications access to data stored on VAX/VMS systems as though it were locally available on the desktop. This form of data access eliminates the need for snapshot database extractions, common in batch modes, and ensures that timely, up-to-date data is provided on demand and in the format needed for effective decision making.

Macintosh applications' access to VAX/VMS databases will be supported in two ways. Apple and Digital will support database access via CL/1 from Network Innovations for Macintosh-applications access to VAX system-based relational databases and RMS files. The CL/1 specification will be released in driver form by Apple. For access to Digital's Rdb/VMS relational database, Apple intends to support Digital's SQL Services by offering a client driver consistent with other SQL Services' clients being built by Digital.

CL/1 provides access to several VAX/VMS-based SQL database products while the Macintosh client for SQL services provides optimized, high-performance access only to Digital's Rdb/VMS relational database.

Deliverables include:

  • CL/1 specifications, currently available from Network Innovations
  • SQL Services specifications (will be provided by Digital)
  • SQL server for Rdb/VMS (will be provided by Digital)
  • CL/1 and SQL Services APIs and clients for Macintosh (will be provided by Apple)
  • CL/1 server for VMS (will be provided by Apple)

Distributed Processing with Remote Procedure Calls

Apple will provide support for Digital's forthcoming Remote Procedure Call (RPC) mechanism. RPC is a high-level mechanism for distributing computing processes between computers on a network. This technology has the unique advantage of not requiring the programmer to have intimate knowledge of the underlying network. In fact, RPC provides the ability to implement facilities and services that are transparent not only to the end-user, but also to the programmer. Well-designed implementations of applications can be transported from platform to platform with little change. This RPC implementation will utilize the AppleTalk-to-DECnet gateway for its basic transport mechanism.

Implementation of this feature is scheduled for Phase II of the joint develop­ment project.

Business Communication Services

Messaging Architecture

Apple intends to offer a messaging service that will allow access to Digital's Mailbus architecture and X.400 mail systems, allowing developers to integrate store and forward messaging capabilities into their applications. Apple and Digital will publish specifications and implementations as they become available.

Electronic Conferencing

Electronic conferencing is an application that allows multiple users to exchange information on topics of interest. Digital's VAX Notes has proved invaluable inside Digital as a means of discussing important topics among project team members and as a mechanism for communicating information to a mass audience. Apple will provide Macintosh access to VAX Notes via terminal emulation in phase one of the joint development. At a later date, Digital and Apple will release an API for electronic conferencing to allow developers to take advantage of this capability.


Videotex is a networked application for broadcasting or posting information, such as on-line reference manuals, price changes, and personnel announcements for a mass audience. VAX/VTX is Digital's implementation of videotext which has proved to have be valuable both inside Digital and among its customers. Apple will provide Macintosh access to VAX/VTX via terminal emulation in phase one of the joint development. At a later date, Digital and Apple will release an API for Videotex to allow developers to take advantage of this capability.

See Also