The AppleTalk protocol suite was developed in the early 1980’s by Apple Computer to facilitate networking on their Macintosh computers. Although AppleTalk was the primary protocol suite used on Macintosh-based networks up until the late 1990’s, Macintosh systems have supported TCP/IP since MacOS 8.1, and all relatively recent models use TCP/IP as their primary protocol. As such, many companies no longer route AppleTalk traffic within their networks, choosing to rely on TCP/IP instead. So why discuss AppleTalk here? Well, the reason is twofold. First, you should be aware that although it is declining in popularity, many large networks (especially those in the academic world) still use AppleTalk as they continue to run applications that support no alternative protocols. Second, you may still come across AppleTalk-related questions on the CCDA exam. Although much less emphasis is now placed on AppleTalk concepts, there is still the chance that you’ll come across questions that reference Macs, so it’s better to be safe that sorry.
Using newer Macintosh models (such as an iMac, G4, or post-MacOS 8.1 system) does not explicitly require a network to support AppleTalk.
Two versions of the AppleTalk protocol suite exist – the earlier version was known as AppleTalk Phase 1, while the current version is AppleTalk Phase 2. The main differences between the two versions relates to scalability, which will be discussed shortly. Much like Novell’s IPX/SPX protocol suite, AppleTalk has also become less popular as networks are migrated to TCP/IP.