MS-DOS, HFS, and other file separators

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at
Sat Mar 5 09:05:04 CST 2005

On Fri, 04 Mar 2005 13:36:56 -0500, Steve Jones <classiccmp at> wrote:
> > Not many people know this, but at low levels in old Mac OS,
> > they used ":" as a folder separator in file specifiers.
> But I imagine anybody who ever looked at developing software for
> the Mac very quickly discovered this when they learned that - uhm,
> was it ADPA? The earlyish development environment for the Mac -
> included a shell, and you could see the filesystem more directly.

I didn't know about the shell, but I did learn about the ":" back in
the old days, when I tried to use my VAX-11/725 as a nightly backup
machine for my mother's typing shop full of Macintoshes.  The idea was
to run each modem serial line down to the basement where the VAX was,
and with each Mac Plus or Mac SE (total of 3 to 5), running CKermit in
server mode, have Kermit on VMS copy files from a working directory to
a special place on the RC25.  Unfortunately, it was a bit beyond my
skills at the time, and the tools I had available to me.  But I did
notice to navigate the filesystem on the Mac from the VAX, I had to
use ":" as the path separator.

This was circa 1987.  I probably still wouldn't know this bit of
trivia except for playing with Kermit that time.


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