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The LaserWriter was the name for the first laser printer from Apple (then Apple Computer). Later models were targeted toward a variety of uses, from home to commercial.


The first model of the LaserWriter family of laser printers was announced at Apple's annual shareholder meeting on January 23, 1985,[1] the same day Aldus announced PageMaker.[2] Shipments began in March 1985.[3]

The LaserWriter was the fourth laser printer on the market and the first for the Macintosh.[4] It was an integral part of the newly announced Macintosh Office.[5] The printer had a resolution of 300 dpi and a printing speed of 8 ppm, and its raster image processor implemented Adobe PostScript interpreter, a feature that would ultimately transform the landscape of computer desktop publishing.[6]

Unlike HP's PCL and other early printer control languages, PostScript is a complete interpreted page description language. PostScript describes fonts in outline form, which allows arbitrary size, rotation, and position. PostScript handles bitmap graphics and vector graphics equally well, allowing any mixture of fonts, bitmaps, and drawing primitives on a single page (limited by the PostScript interpreter’s available RAM). While competing printer control languages offered some of these capabilities, they were limited in their ability to reproduce free-form layouts (as a desktop publishing application might produce). Negotiations between Apple and Adobe over the use of Postscript began in 1983 and an agreement was reached in December 1983, one month before Macintosh was announced.[6]

The PostScript interpreter in the LaserWriter printer can be used interactively: it is possible to connect a serial terminal to the printer and, by typing “executive”, communicate with the printer’s computer. The printer will also display diagnostic error messages on this link (RS-232, 19200 baud, 8 bits, no parity bit, 1 stop bit).

The original LaserWriter printer used a Canon LBP-CX print engine,[7] which was used by many printer manufacturers at the time. The print engine is responsible for feeding paper, image transfer, and fusing the image. Parts from early LaserWriter and HP LaserJet printers, except for the interface board, formatter, and casing, are sometimes interchangeable as they are based on the same print engine.

Cost and value[edit]

When the LaserWriter was introduced the use of PostScript was expensive. At an introductory price of 6,995 (USD), the LaserWriter was more expensive than non-Postscript laser printers of comparable print speed and quality. The LaserWriter’s high cost was largely due to the extra processing power needed to run the PostScript interpreter. PostScript is a complete programming language and requires a complex software rasterizer program, all implemented in the printer. The LaserWriter had a Motorola 68000 CPU running at 12 MHz, 512KB of workspace RAM, and a 1 MB framebuffer. At introduction, the LaserWriter had the most processing power in Apple’s product line—more than the 8 MHz Macintosh.

Since the cost of a LaserWriter was several times that of a dot-matrix impact printer, some means to share the printer with several Macs was desired. LANs were complex and expensive, so Apple developed its own networking scheme, LocalTalk. Based on the AppleTalk protocol stack, LocalTalk connected the LaserWriter to the Mac over an RS-422 serial port. At 230.4 kbit/s LocalTalk was slower than the Centronics PC parallel interface, but allowed several computers to share a single LaserWriter. PostScript enabled the LaserWriter to print complex pages containing high-resolution bitmap graphics, outline fonts, and vector illustrations. The LaserWriter could print more complex layouts than the HP Laserjet and other non-Postscipt printers. Paired with the program Aldus PageMaker, the LaserWriter gave the layout editor an exact replica of the printed page. The LaserWriter offered a generally faithful proofing tool for preparing documents for quantity publication, and could print smaller quantities directly. The Mac platform quickly gained the favor of the emerging desktop-publishing industry, a market in which the Mac is still important.[8]


Building on the success of the original LaserWriter, Apple developed many further models. Later LaserWriters offered faster printing, higher resolutions, Ethernet connectivity, and eventually color output. To compete, many other laser printer manufacturers licensed Adobe PostScript for inclusion into their own models. Eventually the standardization on Ethernet for connectivity and the ubiquity of PostScript undermined the unique position of Apple’s printers: Macintosh computers functioned equally well with any Postscript printer. After the LaserWriter 8500, Apple discontinued the LaserWriter product line.


The LaserWriter was the first major printer designed by Apple to use the new Snow White design language created by Frogdesign. It also continued a departure from the beige color that characterized the Apple & Macintosh products to that time by using the same brighter, creamy off-white color first introduced with the Apple IIc and Apple Scribe Printer 8 months earlier. In that regard it and its successors stood out among all of Apple’s Macintosh product offerings until 1987, when Apple adopted a unifying warm gray color they called Platinum across its entire product line, which was to last for over a decade. The innovative look of the LaserWriter was distinctive and marked a turning point in industrial design[citation needed] as the zero draft design incorporated into the case allowed the stylish lines to form-fit around the interior mechanism, keeping it small and sleek.

It was also the first peripheral to use the LocalTalk connector and Apple’s unified AppleTalk Connector Family, designed by Brad Bissell of Frogdesign using Rick MeadowsApple Icon Family designs. The connector’s design was used on all of Apple’s peripherals and cable connectors for the next 15 years and influenced the connectors used throughout the industry as a whole[citation needed].


The LaserWriter was a laser printer with built-in PostScript interpreter introduced by Apple in 1985.[9] It was one of the first laser printers available to the mass market. In combination with WYSIWYG publishing software like PageMaker, that operated on top of the graphical user interface of Macintosh computers, the LaserWriter was a key component at the beginning of the desktop publishing revolution.[10][11][12]

LaserWriter Plus[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter Plus

The LaserWriter Plus is mechanically identical to the previous LaserWriter; the only difference between them is the expanded ROM which contained seven additional fonts: ITC Avant Garde, ITC Bookman, New Century Schoolbook, Palatino, ITC Zapf Dingbats, ITC Zapf Chancery and Helvetica Narrow, a variant of Helvetica squashed[13] to 82% of the original width.[14][12]

LaserWriter IISC[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter IISC

The LaserWriter IISC formed the low end of the new LaserWriter II series, based on the Canon Inc. LBP-SX engine also used in the HP LaserJet II. Costs were cut by forgoing the PostScript interpreter for QuickDraw, and the network connection for a single-PC connection via SCSI, hence "SC."[15] This allowed a slower microprocessor and less memory to be used, and eliminated the network interface. The Personal LaserWriter SC was similar in these regards to the later Personal LaserWriter line.

LaserWriter IINT[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter IINT

The LaserWriter IINT was intended for workgroups, forming the mid range of the new LaserWriter II line based on Canon's LBP-SX print engine. Like its predecessors, it featured a PostScript Level 1 interpreter running on a Motorola 68000 microprocessor and a LocalTalk network link. It was sold from 1988 to 1991.[16]

LaserWriter IINTX[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter IINTX

The LaserWriter IINTX formed the high end of the new LaserWriter II line, based on the Canon LBP-SX print engine. It included a 32-bit Motorola 68020, like the contemporary Macintosh II. A new feature was an HP Printer Command Language interpreter in addition to Adobe PostScript Level 1. Like its predecessors, it connected to an Apple LocalTalk network through a serial port.[17]

LaserWriter IIf[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter IIf

The LaserWriter IIf was an updated version of the LaserWriter IINTX high-end network printer.[18] New features include a Motorola 68030 microprocessor, PostScript Level 2, and HP PCL 4+. Its network interface is a LocalTalk serial port. It was sold from 1991 to 1993.

LaserWriter IIg[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter IIg

The LaserWriter IIg was introduced alongside the LaserWriter IIf as a higher-end sibling.[19] It features a faster Motorola 68030 microprocessor and an Ethernet link in addition to the LaserWriter IIf's features of Adobe PostScript Level II and HP PCL 4+. It was sold from 1991 to 1993.

LaserWriter 4/600 PS[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter 4/600 PS

The LaserWriter 4/600 PS is a low-end laser printer that succeeded the Personal LaserWriter 320, offering improved resolution.[20] Like its predecessor, it is capable of four pages per minute, and supports only PostScript Level 2 as its language, requires a LocalTalk network, and is based on the AMD Am29000 architecture.

LaserWriter 16/600 PS[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter 16/600 PS

The LaserWriter 16/600 PS whose name was a description of its characteristics, it has the printing speed of 17 pages per minute and 600 dots per inch.[21] This model is equipped with an AMD 29300 RISC processor as its RIP while the preceding models use CISC processors from Motorola.

LaserWriter 12/640 PS[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter 12/640 PS

The LaserWriter 12/640 PS was the successor to the LaserWriter 16/600 PS, and was equipped with a faster processor and more memory.[22] Available options for the LaserWriter 12/640 PS included a duplexer (allowing printing on both sides of a page), and a 500-sheet-capacity lower tray (giving users two paper sources from which to choose).

LaserWriter 8500[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter 8500
LaserWriter 8500
Introduced August 5, 1997
Discontinued January 1999
Type Laser
Processor AMD 29030
Frequency 60 MHz
Memory 16 MB–48 MB
Slots 1
Ports Serial, Parallel, SCSI, LocalTalk, Ethernet
Power consumption 840 Watt
Color 1
DPI 600
Speed 20 Pages Per Minute
Language PostScript Level 3
Weight 70.4 lbs
Dimensions (H x W x D) 16.2 x 23.2 x 17.9 in

The LaserWriter 8500 was the last version printer of the black and white LaserWriter series.[23] In fact, it is the model with the fastest processor, most memory and best PostScript interpreter out of all the black and white models. This printer also prints pages in A3 as well as A4 format. The printer was supplied with a SCSI port to enable the storage of fonts on an external hard disk attached to the printer. Local storage of fonts speeds up all printing, especially of A3 pages, by avoiding the need to download fonts. Note the printer cannot be connected to a computer via the SCSI port.

Drivers are currently built into Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X for the Ethernet protocol and Mac OS 9 for LocalTalk. The simplest way of connecting a PC is to use an IEEE 1284-C compatible Micro-Centronics parallel cable, however there are reportedly ways of connecting via Ethernet.

From Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the Mac no longer supports the AppleTalk protocol that was often used with the LaserWriter 8500. In order to use the printer with 10.6 and newer, the LPD protocol must be used.[24] This allows a Snow Leopard Mac to access the printer over an Ethernet connection.

Personal LaserWriter[edit]

Personal LaserWriter SC[edit]

The Personal LaserWriter SC was introduced in March June 1990. It is similar to the LaserWriter IISC in its interpreter and interface: it uses the same QuickDraw language as the Macintosh, and connects via the SCSI peripheral bus. However, it uses the Canon LBP-LX engine rather than the LBP-SX, printing at four pages per minute rather than eight.[25]

Personal LaserWriter NT[edit]

Personal LaserWriter NT was introduced in 1990.[26]

Personal LaserWriter LS[edit]

The Personal LaserWriter LS was sold from March 1991 to May 1993.[27] It connects to a Macintosh serial port and uses the QuickDraw graphics language. Its functionality was like a dot-matrix or inkjet printer, but with the quality of the Canon LBP-LX laser print engine.

Personal LaserWriter NTR[edit]

Personal LaserWriter NTR was introduced in March 1992.[28]

Personal LaserWriter 300[edit]

The Personal LaserWriter 300 was introduced in 1993. It replaced the Personal LaserWriter LS and has generally similar functionality: it connects to a single Macintosh and understands the QuickDraw graphics language. It weighs half as much, however, and has a lower rated longevity, due to its use of the Canon LBP-PX print engine.[29]

Personal LaserWriter 320[edit]

The Personal LaserWriter 320 was introduced in 1993.[30]

LaserWriter Pro[edit]

LaserWriter Pro 600[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter Pro 600

The LaserWriter Pro 600 was sold in 1993.[31]

LaserWriter Pro 630[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter Pro 630

The PostScript Level 2 LaserWriter Pro 630 was sold from 1993 to 1994.[32] Functionally similar to the LaserWriter IIg, it redesigned to use the Canon LPB-EX print engine found in the HP Laserjet 4M. Many mechanical parts, including toner cartridges, fuser assemblies, and feed rollers are interchangeable between the the two.

Although the printer has an Ethernet port, it uses Apple's proprietary AAUI connector, so requires an external adapter for connection to 10BASE2 or 10BASE-T Ethernet cabling. Moreover, the Ethernet port supports only the AppleTalk protocol, which limits connectivity. To use the LW Pro 630 on a network without AppleTalk requires some device to act as a print server, routing PostScript or PCL print jobs between another protocol such as TCP/IP and AppleTalk so that they can be sent to the printer.

LaserWriter Pro 810[edit]

Main article: LaserWriter Pro 810

The LaserWriter Pro 810 is a laser printer manufactured and sold by Apple in 1993.[33]

LaserWriter Select[edit]

LaserWriter Select 300[edit]

The LaserWriter Select 300 was sold from 1993 to 1995.[34]

LaserWriter Select 310[edit]

1993's LaserWriter Select 310 is noteworthy for being a non-networked PostScript printer. The only available interfaces on the device were a Mac serial and a parallel port for use with Windows computers.

This arrangement required the 310 to have its own driver, one which was not updated to the feature set of the LaserWriter 8.x driver (which added options such as n-up printing) [35]. The driver was completely broken by Mac System 8.5, and not updated by Apple.[36] However, some Mac owners found that the 310 could be used as a network printer (with the standard LaserWriter driver) by using a network print server intended for use with Windows machines, and plugging its parallel connection into the 310. It is an economical printer that supports the Adobe PostScript Level 1 programming language.[37][38]

LaserWriter Select 360[edit]

The LaserWriter Select 360 was sold from 1993 to 1996. The LaserWriter Select 360 used a toner cartridge of normal size but configured for this printer, so it was not easy to find off-brand cartridges. However, the print quality was outstanding, with dark, even blacks and great clarity. The machine is light in weight, easy to carry, and has a very long life.[39][40]

Color LaserWriter[edit]

Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS[edit]

Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS
Apple Color LaserWriter 12-600 PS.jpg
Introduced June 1995
Discontinued October 1996
Type Laser
Processor AMD 29030
Frequency 30 MHz
Memory 12 MB–40 MB
Slots 2
Ports Serial, Parallel, SCSI, LocalTalk, Ethernet
Power consumption 1100 Watts
Color 4
DPI 600
Speed 12 Pages Per Minute in B&W, 3 Pages Per Minute in color
Language PostScript Level 2
Weight 110 lb
Dimensions (H x W x D) 18 x 21 x 23 in

The Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS color laser printer was a PostScript printer intended for small business and consumers with high printing requirements.[41] The printer was released one year before it was replaced by the Color LaserWriter 12/660 PS which has same specifications as the Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS but at a lower price.

Color LaserWriter 12/660 PS[edit]

The Color LaserWriter 12/660 PS is a color laser printer introduced by Apple in October 1996.[42] The printer became a workhorse used in Kinko's copy stores across the United States. The printer's weight, size, speed of printing, and high cost of purchase, operation and maintenance were its chief drawbacks.


  1. ^ Jim Bartimo, Michael McCarthy: Is Apple's LaserWriter on Target? In: InfoWorld, Volume 7, Issue 6, February 11, 1985. Pages 15-18.
  2. ^ Aldus Announces Desktop Publishing System ... BusinessWire, January 23, 1985.
  3. ^ Macintosh Timeline
  4. ^ Benji Edwards: Apple's Five Most Important Printers., December 10, 2009.
  5. ^ Owen W. Linzmayer. Apple Confidential 2.0. ISBN 9781593270100. Retrieved 2009-09-23.  Chapter Why 1984 Wasn't like 1984. Pages 143-146.
  6. ^ a b Pamela Pfiffner: Inside the Publishing Revolution. The Adobe Story. Adobe Press, 2003. ISBN 0321115643. Chapter Steve Jobs and the LaserWriter. Pages 33-46. A PDF of the chapter is available at "Inside the Publishing Revolution". 2002-12-03. Retrieved 2011-02-08. 
  7. ^ "Canon LBP-CX Engine". Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  8. ^ CNBC On The Mac Vs PC Fight
  9. ^ LaserWriter: Technical Specifications
  10. ^ H. A. Tucker: Desktop Publishing. In: Maurice M. de Ruiter: Advances in Computer Graphics III. Springer, 1988, ISBN 354018788X, P. 296.
  11. ^ Michael B. Spring: Electronic printing and publishing: the document processing revolution. CRC Press, 1991, ISBN 0824785444, Page 46.
  12. ^ a b Apple LaserWriter and LaserWriter Plus laser printers
  13. ^ Adobe: T1 to OTF FAQ. Section B: ChangesMade in the OpenType Conversion.
  14. ^ LaserWriter Plus: Technical Specifications
  15. ^ LaserWriter IISC: Technical Specifications
  16. ^ LaserWriter IINT: Technical Specifications
  17. ^ LaserWriter IINTX: Technical Specifications
  18. ^ LaserWriter IIf: Technical Specifications
  19. ^ LaserWriter IIg: Technical Specifications
  20. ^ LaserWriter 4/600 PS: Technical Specifications
  21. ^ LaserWriter 16/600 PS: Technical Specifications
  22. ^ LaserWriter 12/640 PS: Technical Specifications
  23. ^ LaserWriter 8500: Technical Specifications
  24. ^ Updating Laserwriter 8500 for OS 10.6
  25. ^ Personal LaserWriter SC: Technical Specifications
  26. ^ Personal LaserWriter NT:Technical Specifications
  27. ^ Personal LaserWriter LS:Technical Specifications]
  28. ^ Personal LaserWriter NTR: Technical Specifications
  29. ^ Personal LaserWriter 300: Technical Specifications
  30. ^ Personal LaserWriter 320: Technical Specifications
  31. ^ LaserWriter Pro 600: Technical Specifications
  32. ^ LaserWriter Pro 630: Technical Specifications
  33. ^ LaserWriter Pro 810: Technical Specifications
  34. ^ LaserWriter Select 300: Technical Specifications
  35. ^ LaserWriter Select 310: No support for 8.x Driver
  36. ^ Mac OS 8.5: LaserWriter Select 310 Compatibility
  37. ^ LaserWriter Select 310 Developer Note
  38. ^ LaserWriter Select 310: Technical Specifications
  39. ^ LaserWriter Select 360: Technical Specifications
  40. ^ LaserWriter Select 360 Developer Note
  41. ^ Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS: Technical Specifications
  42. ^ Color LaserWriter 12/660 PS: Technical Specifications

External links[edit]

LaserWriter Driver for Mac OS 8.6.1 LaserWriter Driver for Linux Color LaserWriter 12/600 PS driver for Windows 95

Category:Apple Inc. printers Category:Non-impact printing Category:Snow White design language