I'm in the process of working on three of these, bought over a couple years on eBay. There is a description of the MW4 on the Wiki page, which I will add to once I have made enough progress.

First thing was none of the units came with power supplies, they run off 4 NiCd cells (20mm x 40mm each), via a drop down resistor. I am using a 9V regulated supply, and later on will try out some unregulated ones. Once charged the NiCds hold the voltage to around 5.6V (4 x 1.4V).

The connector is a DC power plug, size is 5.0mm outer diameter and 2.5mm inner diameter, tip negative / sleeve positive (opposite way round to the norm). The plug I have (like most on sale) is 9.1mm long, this only just reaches, and on one MW4 the plug falls out, so I have some long reach (14mm long) plugs on order which hopefully will be a better fit.

Once the battery has changed the unit can be switched on, I was lucky as all mine responded to the keyboard straight away.

The best site I've found on learning to the keyboard is


The manuals are finally on the web, thanks to Bill Buxton (and oddly enough Microsoft):


(I haven't fully explored his site, but any VCF fan is bound to find something of interest there.)

Having learnt the alphabet (then 0 to 9 and basic punctuation) the next thing are the commands. These are explained in the user manual but basically there are two groups of commands - shifts to change the characters entered on the keyboard for the same finger pattern, and word processing commands to delete, add tabs, change printer baud rate etc.

One key command I needed was to reset the settings; 'as is' my Microwriters powered on with a line length setting of 0 or 1, which resulted in the display locking up every 8 characters - very frustrating and without the manuals I would have given up trying to fix it.

The LCD display contrast is adjusted using a variable resistor on the PCB near the display.

I have some new NiCds on order, these are 4/5 C cells which measure a bit shorter than the original cells but should work fine.

The bottom of the unit has a 37 pin connector, this appears to be an expansion of the microprocessor bus. Top of the unit has a 3.5mm audio jack to connect a cassette recorder - I haven't tried this yet.

There is also a 25 pin D type connector on the top of the unit, manual says this can be used to connect to a printer (RS232 serial), and also to an accessory called the 'Display Screen Adapter' or DSA. I have one of these (came with the last MW4 I bought), it has four connectors, power, video out and TV out (UK spec UHF modulator), and a 9 pin D type. The power socket is the same as the MW4, and when I plugged it in I got a random assortment of characters on the TV (16 lines of 64 characters) - wonderful!

Next problem is working out the cable to go to the MW4. The Microwriter has to be in a 'display out' mode rather than a 'use printer' mode, and when in display mode the 25 pin connector stops being a RS232 interface and becomes something similar but not quite. I have a RS232 break out box and all I have worked out so far is that pin 5 from the MW4 is some form of signal, and most of the DSA pins are inputs - using a pair of wires results in a blank character being continuously written on the TV - I need to analyse what is going on.

In summary an intriguing device, with more features available than a quick glance would lead you to believe.