Apple LaserWriter II – Never Say Die

As a potential destination for disposing of old, unwanted Apple crap – err, I mean as Curator of the Vintage Mac Museum – I am contacted fairly regularly by folks who are looking for good homes for their old equipment. A few months ago one such query came from a fellow with a few old Mac drives, several piles of software on floppy disks, and one never-say-die behemoth called the Apple LaserWriter IIg.

LaserWriter+IIBack in the day Apple sold a variety of peripherals along with computers – printers, scanners, cameras, monitors (they still sell these), etc.. The original LaserWriter was a groundbreaking piece of equipment, launching the desktop publishing revolution in conjunction with the Mac Plus and a new font format called Adobe PostScript.

The LaserWriter begat the LaserWriter II, which was offered in many different flavors: IISC, IINT, IINTX (with special high speed RAM), IIf and IIg. Using Canon print engines and built like tanks, these workhorses helped many businesses and graphic designers earn their livings.

I’d been looking for a LaserWriter of this vintage for some time to help with the Mac Museum’s file transfer and conversion efforts. While most old formats can be converted, a few are rare or restricted enough that the only options available are taking screen snapshots or printing to hardcopy. Since you can’t print from a Mac Plus to anything modern, a vintage LaserWriter would be the next best thing.

The LaserWriter IIg measures 20.2 inches wide, 18.7 inches deep and 8.7 inches tall – not including space for the paper tray which sticks out one end. This is substantially larger than most modern printers. It also weighs 45 pounds, which makes it a joy to get in and out of your car and up to the second floor. Nevertheless I wrangled this puppy from a suburban Massachusetts garage back to the VMM, blew out the dust, hooked it up via LocalTalk phone connectors, and printed out a few pages. Twenty years after it was manufactured the thing still worked, albeit with a few creaks and groans.

Fast forward a few months, and a job comes in to Oakbog involving Microsoft Word v3 files with a combination of English and Ukrainian text. The owner sent along a copy of the Cyrillic font he had used with the original files, so I added this to my old Mac’s Font folder and was able to open and convert the data to modern Word .doc format.

A few days after I emailed things back my client contacted me again. Apparently his newer Mac and printer could not render the old fonts properly, so he asked if I could print out copies of the files containing the Cyrillic text.

Ukranian-text

Piece of cake, I thought – LaserWriter II to the rescue! I installed the Cyrillic font on my PowerBook 540c, selected the LaserWriter via the Chooser, and started to print out a document. The green light started blinking, a piece of paper got pulled from the tray, then BAM – the red paper jam light turns on. Feh. Well, some challenges are to be expected from twenty year old technology.

I opened the printer and pulled out the page – this was no small feat, as I have the printer installed on the floor underneath a small table and the cover can only open a few inches in this location. Close things up, try again, another jam. Frustrating, as it had worked fine just a few weeks before.

After several rounds of paper clearing, a few whacks to the side of the unit, blowing out dust with a can of compressed air and several “choice words” said to its face, I finally got the unit printing again. I think the compressed air was what did the trick, probably some dust on an internal sensor. Slowly and methodically I printed out about 200 pages of Ukrainian text. The room now had that familiar odor of hot plastic and fused toner we all used to know so well, but the job was complete.

I turned off the printer, had a glass of wine (or three), and mailed the pages back to my client. The LaserWriter may now be fine forever, or it may die again tomorrow – hard to tell with these old machines. One thing’s for sure, they don’t make ’em like they used to. Which is a mixed blessing…


15 responses to “Apple LaserWriter II – Never Say Die”

  1. Adam Rosen says:

    ORIGINAL BLOGSPOT COMMENTS:

    Seth Lewin said…
    Adam –
    That printer will probably never die – it worked for me for 17 years at a cost of $26 over that period (plus consumables) for a new ozone filter on its exhaust air duct. I suspect giving it some regular exercise is most of what it needs. I’ve got a five-year-old Brother that’s already on its last legs; no comparison whatever, but then no comparison in cost. LW II NT was $3500 in 1989 dollars. Upgrade to IIg another $750 a few years later. My Brother HL5250DN cost $190 – practically a throwaway, which is probably what I’ll do with it. If one of your readers wants a real challenge I still have an ImageWriter LQ available for adoption.
    Seth
    November 20, 2011 at 11:13 AM

    Michael said…
    I have resurrected one of these beauties from my basement just a couple of weekends ago and it is still working… sort of. It is slowly clearing some streaking on the pages ( getting better with each use ) but I am having driver problems just using a generic postscript driver. I am wondering if there is a better print driver I could be using with my 10.5.8 OSX?

    If anyone has a solution please email me rolling @ rogers.com.
    Thanks in advance!
    September 23, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    Adam Rosen said…
    You’re printing to a LaserWriter II from a Mac running OS X 10.5.8? How are you communicating with it? The Generic Postscript driver may be the best you’re going to find – or perhaps save your documents as PDF and print them from an older Mac with the actual LaserWriter printer driver?
    September 23, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Apple LaserWriter 4/600 PS free to a good home. Currently using it with iMac on OS10.5.8 but it won’t work when I upgrade the OS. Also included is Farrallon adapter to link through Ethernet cable. I’ve got the original manual, sales brochure and a copy of all files on a CD.
    It has a toner cartridge but its almost empty.
    You need to arrange to collect or pay delivery.
    Contact me on tenaj009 @ yahoo.co.uk
    October 13, 2012 at 4:49 PM

    Anonymous said…
    Anyone want an unopened Toner Cartridge for an Apple LaserWriter NT?
    Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
    January 30, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    • Shelley says:

      If anyone has a working Apple Laserwriter IINT that they are not using, and want to sell, I am in need of one. Please contact me at: ShelleyLBP@aol.com
      I live in Brooklyn, NY and will pick it up
      Thank you
      Shelley

  2. Lois Rogala says:

    Greetings,
    I have a Apple LaserWriter ll if you are interested. It has been a few years since I have used it, but it was still working then.
    Thanks
    Lois

  3. Julie says:

    I’m looking for an apple laser writer 4/600 ps. If anyone knows of one, please let me know. Thank you.

    • John says:

      Julie, I’ve been looking to see if I can get anything out of this 4/600 or just throw away or save for posterity. don’t really know if it works but I do have one. Wish I could send a pic.

  4. Voiceman615 says:

    Hi there to all!

    I have a LaserWriter IINT in (what was when I last turned it off years ago) excellent condition. If someone has interest in purchasing this wonderful (and formerly quite expensive) piece of Apple Magic.. let me know?

    Voiceman615 Voiceman615@Commercialtalent.com

  5. Ward Degler says:

    I have an LaserWriter II to give away to anyone who will pay the shipping (I am in Indiana). I inherited it when my office upgraded to newer Mac equipment, but I have never used it. I don’t know what letter of the alphabet this model is (it doesn’t say).

  6. Matthew Bergeron says:

    Adam, just picked up a LWII!!! Replaced power supply, AC supply board, fuser and pickup roller!!! She’s as good as new!!! I also retrobrited her!!! She’s putty gray new!!!

  7. Michael says:

    Any idea how to connect an old Personal LaserWriter (Serial/LocalTalk) to a modern day MacPro (G5/DualCore)?
    Thanks

  8. Christine says:

    I have a LaserWriter llcx which I had upgraded to xante Accel-A-Writet. I’m remembering that it had better quality printing with the upgrade! Lol I bet it still works!!

  9. Martin Olley says:

    WANTED – A working Apple Colour Laserwriter 12/600PS. Please call if you can help on 07774 882346

  10. Frank Atencio says:

    I have a Apple LaserWriter 12/640 PS prints B&W only that I dearly love. It has served me with very few problems since I purchased it new. Lately it has been jamming and I was told it was the cassette pickup roller. I removed it. The rubber seemed remarkable flexible and I assumed that it was not picking up because of the “paper dust” from the paper. I cleaned the rubber portion with Goof Off and it seemed ready to go. When I tried to replace the roller one of the little plastic fingers that holds it in place broke. I love this printer. Does anyone have a non working 12/640 that I can have the pickup roller. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  11. jane hamilton says:

    i have a IINTX (works) that i would like to find a home for. just pay shipping. i live in SW Virginia. janehamilton@verizon.net

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