The Printer Works

CX Parts Catalog

Printers and Controllers
Apple LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus

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Apple LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus Printers

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Model Information


Model Number           LaserWriter: M0156
                       LaserWriter Plus: M0188

Introduction Date      LaserWriter: December 1984
                       LaserWriter Plus: December 1986

Original MSRP          LaserWriter: $4,995
                       LaserWriter Plus: $5,799


Distinctive Shape and Color

The Apple LaserWriter looks unlike any other Canon CX-based laser printer. Apple was the only company not to use the standard Canon cover set. The covers were originally molded in an off-white shade of plastic, which was changed in late production to the same battleship gray used for the Macintosh II computers and LaserWriter II printers. Apple documentation calls this color "platinum." Apple also used different colors for the paper input cassette and the output trays. The paper cassette color was usually off-white or gray instead of brown. The two piece output tray was molded in a "black-smoke" colored plastic, as opposed to the "bronze or brown smoke" colored plastic used on almost all other CX-based printers from HP, Canon, and the other Canon OEMs.

A Key Part of the Desktop Publishing Revolution

If the computer business had a hall of fame, like so many professional sports, then the Apple LaserWriter would surely deserve a place in the Computer Products Hall of Fame. It was one of the first desktop laser printers, and it was the first laser printer to contain PostScript, the revolutionary page description language from Adobe Systems that has rightfully become the industry standard Page Description Language (PDL) for professional typesetting and graphics.

The LaserWriter was also probably Apple Computer's most important printer product ever, and it may have saved Apple Computer from financial disaster when many computer industry analysts were predicting Apple Computer's demise. At the time it was introduced, people weren't sure the Macintosh computer was useful for business. They knew it was a neat toy and fun for kids, but they questioned whether the cute little icons, pull-down menus and strange pointing device called a mouse would ever make it as a serious business tool. Then people saw the output from the new LaserWriter and it changed their minds. Its scalable Helvetica and Times-Roman fonts were the best thing since the invention of the daisywheel printer by Diablo Systems in 1972. The LaserWriter even emulated the latest Diablo 630, for compatibility with programs that did not have PostScript drivers. Programmers soon discovered that relatively simple PostScript commands could create professional looking typeset pages. This had only been possible previously with expensive professional typesetting equipment. Simultaneously, Adobe created RIPs (Raster Image Processors) for Linotype imagesetters, and the existence of both allowed the low-cost Apple LaserWriter to become the perfect proofing device for high-end publishing systems.

PostScript made writing a desktop publishing program much easier than ever before. Aldus Corporation (creators of PageMaker) and Manhattan Graphics (creators of Ready-Set-Go) brought out the first truly WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) page processing programs. Paul Brainerd, founder of Aldus Corporation, is credited for coining the phrase, "desktop publishing." The phrase, "WYSIWYG page processing" had been too clumsy and didn't encompass the scope of the vision Paul Brainerd and others, such as Jonathan Seybold, had for this new and wonderful application for personal computers. Without the Apple LaserWriter, Aldus Corporation wouldn't have been able to make PageMaker work as well as it did then, and does now. Desktop publishing would have evolved very slowly. The PDLs of the day were very primitive compared to PostScript. Most were simply extensions of the ASCII character set, with huge lists of "escape sequences" for switching fonts, setting margins and drawing simple lines and bit-mapped graphics.

The LaserWriter and desktop publishing programs suddenly gave people a reason to buy the Macintosh computer, and sales skyrocketed. The Macintosh computer is often credited for creating the desktop publishing revolution, but actually the Apple LaserWriter with PostScript had as much or more to do with it than the Mac. If Apple hadn't connected with Adobe for the LaserWriter, then PostScript probably would have resided only on high-end workstations and the desktop publishing revolution might have been delayed by as much as five years.

The LaserWriter was expensive when introduced. The suggested retail price was $6,995. Towards the end of production it came down to a street price of about $3,800. The price was high because the printer contained far more RAM (1.5 megabytes) and ROM (512 kilobytes) than the computer. At the time, the hot system was a "Fat Mac," which had 512K of RAM instead of only 128K. Two megabytes was considered incredible, especially for us die-hard S-100 bus users who thought 64K was enough for anything an individual user needed to do.

Another landmark feature of the Apple LaserWriter was the AppleTalk interface. AppleTalk is basically a very low-cost-to-implement network. It made printer sharing easy. The only thing users had to do was plug the cables together and: bingo! All users could share the printer and get intelligent status messages back on their screens for their print jobs. By using the operator's screen as a control panel, the printer didn't need one itself. Apple chose to put just three LEDs on the printer and promoted the notion that the user should never have to touch a peripheral to make it work. The printer was controlled from the operator's desk. Users never needed to walk over to the printer to read a display panel and press form feed if the computer did not eject the page, something they often had to do on non-Apple systems.

The LaserWriter's AppleTalk interface also supported RS-232, so other systems, such IBM PCs and Sun workstations, could connect to the power of PostScript. Sun liked the LaserWriter so well that they OEMed it from Apple and called it the Sun Laser. This is one of the few times since Bell & Howell received black-painted Apple II computers that Apple ever allowed any company to officially OEM an Apple product.

The LaserWriter also included a limited implementation of Xerox's Diablo 630 protocol. The purpose of the Diablo 630 emulation was to allow users to use the LaserWriter like any other dumb ASCII printer for printing from applications such as database, accounting and other DP programs that didn't have PostScript drivers yet.

Even though the LaserWriter was only marketed to Apple Macintosh users, it soon became the preferred printer for desktop publishing programs on the PC, like Ventura Publisher. Soon every PC word processing (such as WordPerfect, WordStar and Word) supported the Apple LaserWriter. Initially, Apple didn't want to promote the fact that the LaserWriter was usable on PCs, because it wanted to sell Macs. Not until 1992, when Apple was tired of seeing HP and QMS sell to the Mac market, did it come out with the LaserWriter NTR, which had a parallel port for the Windows PC market.


The original Apple LaserWriter had only 13 typefaces in three font familes, plus a Symbol Set. The font families included were Courier, Helvetica, and Times Roman, which came in regular, oblique or italic, bold, and bold oblique or italic.

The LaserWriter Plus added 22 more typefaces: the ITC Avant Garde, ITC Bookman Light and Demi, Helvetica Narrow, New Century Schoolbook, and Palatino families, plus ITC Zapf Chancery and ITC Zapf Dingbats.


Although the Apple LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus have been discontinued, The Printer Works offers refurbished printers in like-new condition with a six-month warranty. For a price quote, select the part number of the model that interests you in the ordering information table.

Controller Notes

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Part Number              LaserWriter (original version): 661-0270
                         LaserWriter (revised version): 661-0436
                         LaserWriter Plus (original version: 661-0324
                         LaserWriter Plus (revised version): 661-0437

Designer                 Apple Computer & Adobe Systems

Manufacturer             Apple Computer

Design Similar to        None

Languages (Std & Opt)    PostScript, Diablo 630

CPU & Clock Rate         Motorola 68000 at 11.16 MHz

Resolution               300 x 300

RET                      None

Base/Max RAM             1.5 Megabytes

ROM                      LaserWriter: 512K
                         LaserWriter Plus: 1MB

Control Panel Type       LED Status panel only

Standard Interfaces      AppleTalk, RS-232

The Apple LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus use the same controller board assembly. Only the copyrighted ROMs have been changed to add the additional fonts. The original mass-produced printed circuit board was part number 820-0131-B. This revision B was designed in 1984 and could accommodate only 256K or 512K bit ROMs, not 1 megabit ROMs. The 1.5 megabytes of DRAM typically found in the LaserWriter is made up of 48 256K by 1 chips. The speeds are usually 150 to 200 nanosecond access time; great in 1984, but considered very slow today.

In 1987 the controller was revised for use with 1 megabit ROMs, while maintaining compatibility with either 256K or 512K ROMs as well. The part number of the revised PCB is 820-0131-C. When changing ROMs, the installer must be careful to set the configuration block (Apple Part NO.511-1603 or a commonly available 4 position DIP shunt) at the correct position, as labeled in the silk screen on the PCB. The LaserWriter cannot print a legal-size page without clipping the edges of the output, due to memory limitations.

The LaserWriter (non-plus) ROMs exist in several revisions. The part numbers and locations for Revision 2, which was current in December of 1986, are:

LaserWriter ROM Sets

Location     512K ROM Rev 2     512K ROM Rev 47     1 M ROM Rev 47

   L0          342-0081            342-0568            342-0359

   H0          342-0082            342-0569            342-0360

L1 342-0083 342-0570 342-0361

H1 342-0084 342-0571 342-0362
L2 342-0085 342-0572 H2 342-0086 342-0573 L3 342-0087 342-0574 H3 342-0088 342-0575

The LaserWriter Plus ROMs also exist in several versions. The LaserWriter Plus ROM part numbers and locations are as follows:

LaserWriter Plus ROM Sets

Location     512K ROM Rev 2     512K ROM Rev 47     1 M ROM Rev 47

   L0          342-0089          342-0371          342-0363

   H0          342-0090          342-0372          342-0364

   L1          342-0091          342-0373          342-0365

   H1          342-0092          342-0374          342-0366

   L2          342-0093          342-0375          342-0367

   H2          342-0094          342-0376          342-0368

   L3          342-0095          342-0377          342-0369

   H3          342-0096          342-0378          342-0370

   L4          342-0097          342-0379

   H4          342-0098          342-0380

   L5          342-0099          342-0381

   H5          342-0100          342-0382

   L6          342-0101          342-0383

   H6          342-0102          342-0384

   L7          342-0103          342-0385

   H7          342-0104          342-0386

Supplies and Accessories

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You can check prices or order these items from the ordering information table below.


The LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus use the same toner cartridges as all other CX-based printers.


The LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus printers use the same shaped paper trays as all other CX-based printers. All versions are physically interchangeable, but there are slight color differences. (See also Diagram 300, Paper Cassettes for CX Engines.)


The LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus have 1.5 MB of RAM installed on the motherboard. They are not upgradeable.


The LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus printers have standard connectors for AppleTalk and RS-232 Serial.


Option 1: Add software for additional capabilities

External software emulations for PC users are available for both HP-PCL and Epson FX. The Printer Works sells a program called PCL4T that translates HP's Printer Command Language (PCL) Level 4 into PostScript Level 1. If you have a LaserWriter connected to a PC and have ever needed to print from an application, this transparent, DOS-compatible TSR may be just what you need. The Printer Works also markets a program called PSFX, from Legend Communications, which allows PostScript printers to emulate Epson and IBM dot matrix printers.

Option 2: Convert to External Video

The Apple Controller is easily removed and simply replaced by a video interface cable harness assembly. This is a rather unorthodox conversion, because the printer may or may not be Apple-compatible any longer, depending on what is connected to the external video interface. If you are a PC user who has an Apple LaserWriter printer, making such a conversion may be very logical. Some Mac users may have switched to PCs and some PC users may have purchased Apple printers for use on PCs. Other PC users may wish to buy an Apple printer on the used market, since many are available at low prices.

Once the printer has been converted to external video, many other external controllers can be connected to it. (See our page on external and host-based controllers, as well as The Printer Works' SX Catalog for more information about external video controllers.) The control panel LEDs on the side of the printer will still function, as these lights are driven from the printer's DC controller, not from the formatter. If you desire to convert your Apple LaserWriter to external video, we can supply the appropriate cable assemblies.

Some external controllers are also Apple-compatible (SCSI to Video and etc.), but these are rather esoteric and are not stocked by The Printer Works.

Ordering Information

Model Information | Controller Notes | Supplies and Accessories |
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For price and ordering information or to place the item in your shopping cart, select a Part Number in the table.


Part Number          Description

M0156                Printer, Apple LaserWriter, Refurbished

M0188                Printer, Apple LaserWriter Plus, Refurbished


661-0436             Controller, Apple LaserWriter

661-0437             Controller, Apple LaserWriter Plus

M0191                Upgrade Kit, LaserWriter Plus ROMs


M0228                Paper Cassette, Letter, Apple LW (R33-0014-000)

M0229                Paper Cassette, Legal, Apple LW


MAC9                 Cable, DB9 to DIN8 (1 Mac to 1 Printer)

M03-213              Cable Assembly, DB-9 to PhoneNet

M03-202              Cable Assembly, AppleTalk to DB-9

PNK-9400             Cable Kit, PhoneNet (DB-9 to RJ11)

M02-115              Cable, Null-Modem Serial (DB9F to DB25M)

M02-117              Cable, Null-Modem Serial (DB25F to DB25M)


RG9-0124-000         Interface Bracket Assembly, CX Video DB-37

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