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Thread: Typewriters that acted as printers

  1. #1

    Default Typewriters that acted as printers

    Back in high school over 30 years ago I had a daisy wheel typewriter, and I recall a removable panel being on it's side which looked like it could accept an interface card. I can't recall if it was an Epson, Brother, or Panasonic.

    Was there such a thing as a convertible typewriter? What else could that port have been for? Just thinking how it would've been a blessing to use opposed to the Commodore 1526 I was using.

  2. #2
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    IBM had the Wheelwriter, a typewriter with an optional parallel port. Olivetti and Smith Corona had similar machines. There were a lot of them out there. Have a review from the time of one https://www.nytimes.com/1984/02/07/s...uble-duty.html

    The port could be for other uses as well. Brother had a number of typewriters with a port for a memory card but no connections for a computer.

    The problem was that the options needed to turn a typewriter into a printer cost more than a decent letter quality printer. The typewriter was also a lot slower.

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    In the 1970s our company used Honeywell Keytape machines, which were direct replacements for the earlier card punching machines but using standard half inch magnetic tape instead of cards. Card images were written onto the tapes for input to the mainframe computer. The benefit of these machines was that card punch operators could move over to using these machines with very little retraining. The logic boards that I am using as a source of components for my Honeywell 200 computer project are from all seven Keytape machines that the company eventually scrapped as these boards were from standard H200 stock.

    In addition to providing data input two of the machines had output interfaces to IBM Selectric golf ball typewriters. These were used to provide prestige documents for use where standard line printer documents from the mainframe would have looked shoddy. At first just high quality policy documents were produced this way as the typewriters needed text strings with control characters rather than line printer print image files, so special programming was needed on the mainframe to create the correct format tapes. To overcome this problem I wrote a conversion system that would take any standard line printer print image file and create a Selectric serial printer format tape from it. To maximise the printing speed the system was given a list of tab stops that the typewriter operator would set up for the particular type of documents being printed and it would then choose the fastest combination of tabbing, character and line spacing operations to type all the text. Each tape sent to the Keytape department was accompanied by a control sheet printed by the system containing the tab settings and stationery type to ensure that the typewriter was configured correctly for that batch of documents.

    The result was that the COBOL programmers writing the mainframe programs to produce these documents could disregard the fact that the final output would be typed by typewriters and treat the output as going to a normal line printer. It also meant that they could use the mainframe line printer for tests and not take up valuable time testing on the typewriters as the conversion system always produced the equivalent typed documents.

    The Keytape machines with Selectric typewriters replaced a previous Dataplex machine, a word processor that used magnetic cards, that produced the prestige documents and even before that a Flexowriter was used with paper tape. The Flexowriter had a Selectadata paper tape reader with it. This device had a double speed search facility which enabled it to find blocks of text on a master tape containing a template document image. Variable data for each document was fed into the Flexowriter's own tape reader and merged with the template text to produce the documents. The master template tape was looped so that the Selectadata reader could read it repeatedly. I acquired all this equipment when it was scrapped but the typewriters for both the Dataplex and Flexowriter were entirely worn out, so now I just have the processor and magnetic card drives from the Dataplex and the paper tape punch and two readers from the Flexowriter. I am hoping to build an interface between my Honeywell 200 replica and the Dataplex so that the H200 can use magnetic cards for storing data. I could also maybe interface it to the paper tape devices as I took the precaution of buying a box of reels of paper tape when I acquired them many years ago. I also have a stock of magnetic cards for the Dataplex drives. This old equipment is of little use if you can't get the consumables for it any more.

    I also have a daisy wheel printer from a Wang word processing system but that doesn't have an integral keyboard, so can't strictly be regarded as a typewriter in this context.
    Last edited by RobS; January 5th, 2020 at 03:37 AM.
    Rob - http://www.honeypi.org.uk
    The Internet is a winch to get your project off the ground ... but always have a parachute handy.

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    I have one: A Silver Reed, of Japanese manufacture, which was essentially a copy of the Olivetti machine. In addition to being an "electric" typewriter it had an interface that allowed the typewriter to accept data from a PC.

    I bought this in 1982 at the same time I purchased a Kaypro II computer; both were acquired from a local typewriter shop with the intent of facilitating invoicing for my small business. The typewriter featured carbon ribbons and a lift-off tape as well as interchangeable daisy wheels. It was slow and each sheet had to be fed by hand, so within a year or so it was replaced by another Silver Reed, also daisy-wheel but with a dedicated Centronics port, tractor and friction feed and no keyboard. This was essentially equivalent to the Xerox Diablo 650.

    I still have both; both still work.

    -CH-

  5. #5

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    Swintec Model 1146 CMP. This is the exact model of typewriter I practised document processing on in high school.

    Note the big Centronics port on the back, and the presence of an "On Line" key (missing from the 1146 CM model, which lacked printer capabilities).

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    My first printer was a Brother Daisy Wheel. Don't remember the model number, but it had a parallel interface box that went between the typewriter and the computer. I can't seem to find an image of it now.
    VERY SLOW! After I had it awhile, something would cause the print to get real light if you printed any lengthy document.

    I replaced it with an HP Laserjet Series II. A quantum leap in printing. A warehouse was having a closeout and I was able to get it for $1200. It listed for $1800- $2000 before the sale.
    Last edited by Chuckster_in_Jax; January 5th, 2020 at 10:11 AM.

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    First impact printer was a Diablo Hitype 1200 daisywheel with the OEM interface (i.e. 25 bit raw parallel). I probably have the code to drive the thing somewhere; I think I used a PT 3P S100 card. What I remember most about it was that the external power supply was loud (it had 3 fans)--and you could do serious bodily harm by sticking your fingers in the works. Very controllable. I think I've still got a NEC Spinwriter somewhere in my pile.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    ... I think I've still got a NEC Spinwriter somewhere in my pile.
    Hope you're not planning to use it; I just gave away a half-dozen NIB ribbons and a couple of thimbles...

    A while ago I finally scrapped a HiType, a real monster; still have a TTX daisy-wheel, what a difference

    And then there were the Selectrics with interface that I scrapped years ago...

    Back 'in the day' I was involved with a company that manufactured after-market computer interfaces for various models of 'normal' electronic Olivetti typewriters; gave away my only typewriter but still have some interfaces.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moondog View Post
    Back in high school over 30 years ago I had a daisy wheel typewriter, and I recall a removable panel being on it's side which looked like it could accept an interface card. I can't recall if it was an Epson, Brother, or Panasonic.

    Was there such a thing as a convertible typewriter? What else could that port have been for? Just thinking how it would've been a blessing to use opposed to the Commodore 1526 I was using.
    There definitely were such things. I have (inherited) a 1980s Carrera Olympia which was sold as being able to connect to a computer through, indeed, a small removable panel on the side. I'm unsure whether it was meant to act as just a printer, or also a keyboard. I've hung onto it for ages intending to see if I can figure out the protocol and use it for vintage-style printing. Unfortunately something about the daisywheel drive mechanism on mine has not aged well so it's yet another thing I need to learn to repair (that's why we do this stuff, right? it's what "fun" is?)

    I believe there are two basic ways 80s typewriters implemented "printer" features: either the typewriter just has a parallel port (perhaps in disguise so they can sell an expensive proprietary cable), or it has an odd/proprietary connection that deals in the typewriter's own keycodes and went to an external box that did the conversion to parallel port. I am pretty sure mine is the latter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeS View Post
    Hope you're not planning to use it; I just gave away a half-dozen NIB ribbons and a couple of thimbles...

    A while ago I finally scrapped a HiType, a real monster; still have a TTX daisy-wheel, what a difference
    No, I have extra thimbles and ribbons, but can't for the life of me figure out why I wanted to use it. I had an Olivetti daisywheel that nobody wanted; I finally resorted to giving an ATT 6300 away with it as an inducement.

    I managed to find a home for a Diablo 630 a few years ago; most people don't want to pay for shipping on the things. I remember the multi-printhead super-wide carriage Hitypes used in banks for check writing.

    One oddball Diablo that I used for a time was a Diablo dot-matrix. About the same size as a Hitype and just as heavy. Incredibly loud--it used Rockwell PPS microprocessors (a couple of them) to do the work. I don't know if the thing was a prototype or if Diablo actually assigned a model number. Used tractor-fed forms.

    My favorite low-cost printer of the time was the Teletype Dataspeed 40 line printer. A couple of companies OEMed the thing, packaged it in their own sound-deadening cases and interfaces.

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