FastPath 5 Frequently Asked Questions

This document was last updated on November 20th, 2017. It was previously updated on September 10th, 2013.

What Is A FastPath 5?

Picture: FastPath 5 Unit

The FastPath 5 is an Ethernet to AppleTalk router/bridge. The software it uses can route TCP/IP packets to or from an existing Ethernet network, to or from an existing LocalTalk network (or even just one computer attached via an Apple nine pin serial cable). It can also pass AppleTalk data to and from the two different network types.

On one "end" of the FastPath 5 there is a LocalTalk/Apple serial connector. The other "end" will have an Ethernet connection of some type, usually 10base2 (coax) or 10baseT (CAT5). An AUI connection module is rumored to exist. Between those two "ends" is a 68K microprocessor, some battery backed RAM, ROM, and a program stored in the RAM to route TCP/IP between the two network types.

Physically, the FastPath 5 hardware is a small metal box that would fit very comfortably on the average desk. For a Macintosh tower, you could easily set the box on top and have room to spare.

What Can I Do With It?

You can use the FastPath 5 hardware to connect an older Mac to an Ethernet network. I've also been told of people who have used the FastPath 5 to connect an AppleTalk only printer to their Ethernet network, though it's probably overkill for this task.

The FastPath can route TCP/IP to quite a few AppleTalk-equipped devices. You could also use the FastPath to separate the Macs from other network segments.

Why Is There So Little Information Available?

The exact reasons may never be known for sure. As time moves on, lots of things happen. Companies go out of business, get bought out, forget about products they made, employees familiar with those products move on, and so on. On the hardware front, it's not uncommon for working devices to be tossed out in the trash (or, in these obnoxiously "green" days, taken by a recycler who has no idea of the potential value of this hardware and breaks it down into tiny pieces for material reclamation). Some devices will, of course, fail over time.

Shiva Corporation has been through a number of hands over the years and is now believed by the author of these pages to be completely out of business. These pages exist only because I felt they were sorely needed after trying to set up my own FastPath 5. It was nothing less than a miracle that Phil Budne, designer of the Shiva FastPath 5 hardware, was kind enough to return e-mails with answers to my (sometimes stupid) questions. I took a leap and figured that Mr. Budne probably didn't want to become the technical support service for every surviving and uncovered FastPath 5.

Was There A "Dual Port" Version?

Yes. The "dual port" FastPath was actually two units in one. According to my manual, you bought the dual unit cabinet with one unit already installed. The other would come from another regular FastPath 5.

This item was known as a FastPath 5R and was designed such that it would fit into a 1U rack space. (Thanks to NJRoadfan for providing the model number and case size information).

Internal Battery Information

The internal battery will eventually run out of power. It is not recharged during normal operation. You'll know if the internal battery has failed if the three lights on the front of the FastPath 5 are solid green right after you turn the power on. This does not mean the unit has failed or is nonfunctional, though it may appear so at first.

As per the battery label in my unit, it is a 1/2 AA size 3.6 volt battery. Most if not all of these batteries were made by Tadiran in Israel. Exact replacements are still available today at a low cost. You can order them online. Make sure to get one with attached wires so you can solder it to the board, or make plans to install a battery holder.

WARNING: Polarity matters! Do NOT just install your new battery any old way. You may wreck the FastPath hardware beyond any means of repair. Make a note of the way in which the old battery was installed--don't trust your memory. What seems so obvious now won't be in a few days or weeks when your new battery arrives.

Once you have your new battery, it's possible to "revive" the FastPath 5 hardware and get it running again. You start by holding down the RESET button with a straightened out paper clip while turning the power on. Hold it until the power light starts flashing yellow. You're ready to start reloading the software at that point. (It's a two step process.)

Warning #2: it's become sadly obvious that these batteries, if neglected for long enough, can literally turn into circuit board destroying bombs. Yes, they really can explode and when (not if!) they do, they'll trash any components or circuit boards unlucky enough to be nearby. My recommendation would be to remove the battery (clip it out) and dispose of it safely if it has run out of power. Cold environments make this problem a lot worse for some reason. (If you have any vintage Macintosh systems in storage or regular use, check the active ones and consider removing the batteries from the systems that are in storage.)

Why Do I [Seem To] Know So Much About The FastPath 5?

Honest answer: I really don't. I got seriously lucky in that the example I found still had its manuals and configuration software present. What I didn't know about TCP/IP networking at the time was filled in by reading various RFCs, as I wasn't yet running TCP/IP on my home LAN, much of which was still running on 10base2 (coaxial) Ethernet at the time. Phil Budne, the previously mentioned designer of the FastPath 5 hardware, was kind enough to answer my (probably rather dumb) questions when it came to getting the unit up and running.

I found my FastPath for sale at a nearby computer store on the bargains table. It was nestled in underneath various useless or near useless cards, toner cartridges and books. When I dug it out, I found that whoever took it out of service did at least take the time to put the manuals, packing materials and diskettes with it...all of which pretty much turned out to be essential. For 20--some--odd--dollars later, it was mine and I decided to try and seek out my fortunes with it by trying to set it up so that it would connect a Macintosh desktop to my Ethernet network.

After finding that the software disks had fallen behind a freezer, I installed them and made backup copies right then and there. I tried to get the FastPath up and running, but when challenged for a password I didn't know what to do. I then took it apart and clipped the leads on the internal battery. That cleared the password just fine, but it also hosed the RAM-based operating system.

From there it took a post to the newsgroup to get an answer. The answer I got pointed me to the man who led the design team for the FastPath 5.

So, long story short, I took a class at the school of hard knocks and told myself I would not give up until it worked or I knew a good reason why it would not work.

Software Question(s)

What Computers Will The Software Run On?

This software should run on any 68k or newer Macintosh computer--in other words, almost any Macintosh should be able to do the job. I'm not sure what the minimum requirements for the Mac OS system software are, though it runs just fine in Mac OS 9. Though I have not personally tried it, a few people have written to inform me that the Shiva Net Manager software I've made available for download here runs fine in the "Classic" environment of Mac OS X.

You cannot directly run the software on an Intel Macintosh, as the Classic environment was never made available on these computers. Later Intel Macintosh computers eventually removed the ability to run any software written for 68k or PowerPC Macintosh computers. I don't know if the software will run under any of the popular 68k or PowerPC Macintosh emulators. If you do happen to try it under an emulator and find that it works, please do let me know. I will update this page accordingly.

My Question Isn't Here!

This is very possible, and I am truly sorry if I didn't answer the question you have in this section. Before you contact me, however, PLEASE make a reasonable effort to look at the other pages that I have put together concerning the FastPath 5 hardware and software. You may answer the question you had with some effort....and remember, I put a lot of time and effort into making these could take a little time and effort of your own to see if what you want is located anywhere here.

That said, feel free to write me.

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