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Imgewriter & Imagewriter II


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#1 Mac128

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 01:48 AM

I've been thinking about getting a native printer to go with my 128K Mac.

Looking on eBay I see the Imagewriter and Imagewriter II are practically worthless, with the shipping costs being more than 10x many of the selling prices.

I have to wonder why? Is it because these printers can no longer be maintained in good operational condition? Are supplies still available for them?

Is there a better, newer option that can be used on the 128K? Or was the Imagewriter II the last printer that could be used on one?

I would consider going with a LaserWriter, except I don't have anywhere near the room for one, and can't imagine supplies are still available for it either. Are there any newer LaserWriters that would work on a 128K which would be a better choice?

#2 Hrududu

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 03:54 AM

A quick search on google showed many Imagewriter II ribbons for less than $10. I've got one about to go in the trash here cuz I no longer have room for it.

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#3 Osgeld

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 03:58 AM

community question

does it work

and where are you located

#4 Hrududu

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 03:38 PM

It still powers on and doesn't seem to have anything wrong with it. I'm sure the ribbon is dry by now, but afik thats all thats "wrong" with it. I'm in Wichita KS USA.

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#5 Dog Cow

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Posted 29 April 2010 - 05:59 PM

Speaking of the IW II, I bought a shrink-wrapped (and hence, never opened) AppleTalk option card. I just got around to installing it about a month ago and it's definitely a winner!

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#6 trag

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 02:36 AM

Wasn't there an early DeskWriter (HP Inkjet, Deskwriter? Deskjet?) which was Mac compatible through the serial port. Of course, finding supplies for *that* would be a trick, even if the heads still worked.

I only remember it because I kind of wanted one for several years but only had an IWII...

Another cool thing about the IWII, in addition to the LocalTalk option is the MicroSpot MacPalette II software. It lets the IWII use that optional four color ribbon dither out millions of colors. There was a serial version and an AppleTalk version.

#7 mac2geezer

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 03:26 AM

Yup, it was the HP DeskWriter 560C, with both serial and parallel ports. I have one in near pristine condition boxed in the original HP box; haven't used it in years. Traq is correct that the ink carts are hard to find, at least locally.
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#8 Hrududu

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Posted 01 May 2010 - 03:55 AM

Wasn't there an early DeskWriter (HP Inkjet, Deskwriter? Deskjet?) which was Mac compatible through the serial port. Of course, finding supplies for *that* would be a trick, even if the heads still worked.

I only remember it because I kind of wanted one for several years but only had an IWII...

Another cool thing about the IWII, in addition to the LocalTalk option is the MicroSpot MacPalette II software. It lets the IWII use that optional four color ribbon dither out millions of colors. There was a serial version and an AppleTalk version.

I too have one of these. Mine is the 550C and it uses a standard HP 25 color cartridge and a compatible black one can be found online for $10. Used mine for years until I got my G3.

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#9 Scott Baret

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 04:08 AM

The HP No. 26 will work in the original DeskJet and DeskJet Plus. I had a DeskJet Plus that I used on my IBM PS/1 for years, finally retiring it after the rollers wore out and replacing it with a newer, color-capable DeskJet 722C. The cartridge also works in several DeskWriter printers, including the original and some of the earlier 500 series plus the DeskWriter C. It's really easy to find online and HP still makes them. Of course, you could always refill your old cartridges, although I have never been a believer in doing this.

The old LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus use the HP 92285A cartridge, which is discontinued by HP but still made by some manufacturers and can be found remanufactured online. It's not cheap, but can be had for as low as $60 if you're willing to go remanufactured. The page yield is high, though, so you won't have to replace it anytime soon and will be getting a better bargain in the end. Keep in mind that the original LaserWriters don't always fill large black areas due to limitations of the Canon CX engine, so keep this in mind if you're going to be printing images.

As for ImageWriters not selling well on the used market, keep in mind the sheer number of these machines as well as their shipping weight and alternatives. Most people who buy ImageWriters do so for four reasons--nostalgia, compatibility with a wide array of Apple systems (including the Apple III and Lisa), the ability to print in color, or the ability to print multipart forms and banners. The optional networking card is also a nice feature of the ImageWriter, but keep in mind most LaserWriters (save for a few of the "Personal" models) have this built-in. Many prefer LaserWriters or StyleWriters because of the quality of the print. If you're going to be using a vintage Mac for work that is supposed to look professional and modern, only one of these printers will do not only because the quality of an ImageWriter printout is too low to be considered acceptable in today's workplace, but also because of the lost time accumulated when using an ImageWriter. Background printing isn't supported and the printers are painfully slow on "best" mode (and not much better on "faster").

Bannermaking is the only obvious reason why an ImageWriter would be suitable for modern work. In fact, if your friends know you have an older Mac, BannerMania, and an ImageWriter, you will probably get requests to make banners for events and advertising purposes. In the past several years, I've been asked to create banners for college fundraisers, campus activities, graduation parties, and high school band booster events. The ribbons (both monochrome and color) are pretty easy to track down and the tractor-feed paper isn't too hard to come by either.

Another drawback to ImageWriters is shipping them. They aren't huge in terms volume, but are quite heavy. Shipping costs scare many away, even though there are plenty of ImageWriters still in the original box.

That being said, there are some collector pieces out there. If you want a full set of ImageWriter IIs, there are three models to hunt down. The first, produced from 1985-early 1987, is the same "white" color as the Apple IIc. The second, produced until sometime around early 1989, is platinum and has one latch along the base of the cover and a DIN8 connector coming out of the back of the printer. The third edition is also platinum but has two latches along the base of the cover and a DIN8 connector that comes out of the printer's left side, not the back. This one was made from ~1989 until the printer's discontinuation in 1996. Each generation came with its own printing of the manual, adding new machines (Mac Plus and later, Apple IIc+, Apple IIGS) in each revision with later printings excluding the sections about the Apple III and Lisa.

Imagewriter Is are harder to find, mostly because they had a shorter production run. The regular Imagewriter (1984-1985) is beige and uses standard size paper. There was also a now-rare wide carriage version of the Imagewriter I that I believe was made from 1984-1986.

To round things out, there was also an ImageWriter LQ (for "letter quality; it had a higher DPI) made in the late 1980s that suffered from quality problems. It's rare and so are its ribbons. True Apple buffs will also recall the Apple Dot Matrix Printer, the forerunner of the Imagewriter I sold from 1982-1984 that used a parallel port connector and worked on the Apple II, III, and Lisa. There was also an Apple Color Plotter that looked like an Imagewriter I at one point; it had very limited support from software developers.

The ImageWriter line is quite exciting but definitely underappreciated and often overpriced on eBay and the like once shipping is factored in. Your best bet is to look for them at school surplus and church sales, where they still show up with great frequency due to their ability to be used with more recent Macintosh models.
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#10 Mac128

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Posted 03 May 2010 - 08:34 PM

Scott, thanks for the summary. I concur with your timeline. But let's call a spade a spade, that so-called "white" color of the Snow White products until 1987 is actually off-white. Of course most of us know what you mean. :beige:

Let me take your information a step further in asking: what is the highest Apple printer driver the Mac 128K will support? Is there some kind of TIL somewhere which indicates what the system requirements were for various printers?

#11 shred

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Posted 04 May 2010 - 10:27 AM

Nice summary of all the different models, Scott.

I might add that the quality problems with the ImageWriter LQ 24 pin printer were addressed with a "rework" programme in which quite a number of the internal printer components were replaced. Among other issues, it reduced the noise produced by the printer. In my first job, I installed quite a few of the rework kits in these printers. Apple supplied a really natty little hook tool with each kit to install and remove all the springs in the printer. I still have a couple in my toolkit - they're very useful.

I always found it amusing that the Imagewriter LQ used an 80186 processor. Apple considered the Intel x86 processors as suitable for use in printers!

I'm not sure about the ImageWriter I and ImageWriter LQ, but the ImageWriter II was based on a C-Itoh printer mechanism, something that might be useful for tracking down parts.

#12 ~Coxy

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Posted 05 May 2010 - 03:22 AM

I don't have much to add after some of the very informative posts in this thread, but the ImageWrite II is built on the C-Itoh 8510 print engine, and if you look for ribbons using that moniker then some people have reported that they can be found relatively easily and cheaply in standard office supply stores/catalogs.

#13 Mac128

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 06:45 PM

Looking at the Apple TIL, it appears as though the 128K would have been cut off with the Stylewriter which requires System 6.0.8 or better. So that means the Imagewriter I, II and possibly the LQ would have been the only ink printers that would work with it. Unless third party print drivers were written for it.

I'm having a harder time checking the Laserwriters, but I know the original Laserwriter worked with the 128K, and assume the LW Plus did as well. The IISC and NT(X) were sold in the System 6 era, and while I'm sure the SC would not be supported, I wonder about the NT(X), which is a much smaller printer than the first two LWs, and might be easier to get parts for.

#14 Mac128

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 09:03 PM

Actually it just occurred to me, with so many ways to get printed information out of a 128K Mac, that any ImageWriter is not best utilized as a printer per se. In fact, it seems the best use for an ImageWriter would be as a scanner with the ThunderScan attachment and software? No ribbons to maintain, nothing else to buy, and a lot more fun to be had with the Mac.

Anybody know whatever happened to Andy Herzfeld's idea of scanning software code from a piece of paper directly into the Mac rather than dealing with the physical medium of a floppy disk? That would be great, sort of an early version of text recognition software ...

#15 Osgeld

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 09:29 PM

I am not sure what scanning programs your talking about, the ones I always saw in the magazines were 2d bar codes not scanning programs and having some form of ocr translate it, though that would be much cooler

and I SO wanted a thunderscan!

#16 johnklos

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 09:50 PM

Speaking of the IW II, I bought a shrink-wrapped (and hence, never opened) AppleTalk option card. I just got around to installing it about a month ago and it's definitely a winner!


Are there any more AppleTalk cards available from where you got yours? I'd love to get my ImageWriter II going again. I kept one because I wrote all the drivers to print to it from various applications on a Sinclair QL - in color, too. I even did parts in m68k assembly so that the computer would process faster than the printer could print. All in all, it's a very decent printer.

#17 Mac128

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 09:55 PM

Hertzfeld was working on a way to output software code onto paper, as that would save the cost of disks and shipping. The paper would then be scanned using Thunderscan which he developed the software for, and turned back into software on the Mac. No more floppy disks. You'd have a notebook of backup copies on paper, to be scanned in if something happened to your disk.

I extrapolated that if he did create such software, it should work on text as well. It probably never happened though, as there was too much profit to be made in physical sales of disks, not everyone had a Thunderscanner, and how would you prevent piracy?

Anyway, as far as the Thunderscan goes, I found this which raised a few questions. This adaptor appears to allow the Thunderscan to be plugged into the external floppy drive port, with a passthrough. It also has a Mini DIN 8 connector to plug an Imagewriter II into it as well (assume the Thunderscan worked on it as well).

So what was the rationale for this? To free up the serial ports for a modem and dedicated printer? Or was it designed to increase the speed of input, in much the same way Apple broke their own rules and used the floppy port to attach the HD20 for faster transfer rates? Evidently, the serial port also allows a second mouse to be input, so it obviously accepts standard serial port input data, without any special software. So, is it at a faster rate than a regular serial port? Pretty odd thing.

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#18 trag

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Posted 26 May 2010 - 10:23 PM

Ah, thanks guys. Yeah, I think my memory was trying to bring up the HP 540C, 550C and 560C. Those were all nice printers in their day, which I wanted but couldn't really justify buying.

#19 Concorde1993

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Posted 02 October 2010 - 03:46 AM

I thought the DeskWriter 3.1 was the first HP inkjet designed for the Mac, as it came out in 1989, and not the 540c. My mom had one with her SE (which was transferred to me in 2004) for nearly 10 years, and by far it was one of the best HP inkjets ever produced. The quality was outstanding, and the ink cartridges were fairly inexpensive (although we refilled ours). Unfortunately, the paper feeder malfunctioned, and was tossed out in 2004.

In regards to the LQ, I thought it had 27 pins, not 24 (hence the reason for the spacing problems). Either way, it would be nice to find one.

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#20 trag

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 09:06 PM

I thought the DeskWriter 3.1 was the first HP inkjet designed for the Mac, as it came out in 1989, and not the 540c.


I was thinking of color printers. I believe that the DeskWriter (DeskJet on the PC side) was a black printer. The 5x0C series were color inkjet printers.




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