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Need help with ImageWriter II printer
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Chris Tobar
2017-08-24 05:01:34 UTC
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Well, I finally got the right serial cable to connect my Apple II+ computer to an ImageWriter II printer. I also ordered a new black ribbon. I was so excited to get this old printer working, but I'm not having any luck! This is so frustrating! I bought a Super Serial Card specifically for the printer.

I have the SSC installed in slot 1. If I type "IN#2" and then press Control + I, I get a prompt that says "Apple SSC," so I think the card is working. I downloaded a manual for the ImageWriter printer and I set the dip switches on the SSC according to the directions. But the printer won't respond to the computer. I tried typing "PR#1" and then tried typing text to send to the printer (again, according to the instructions to test the communication with the printer) and nothing happened.

I ran a self-test on the printer, where you hold down the "form feed" button while pressing the power button, and that DID work. The printer started printing characters and it looked pretty sharp and clear. But the printer won't respond to the computer. Does anyone have any idea of what could be wrong? I noticed that there are also dip switches in the printer itself. Could those be set wrong and maybe that's why it's not responding?

I really hope I can get this working! I just bought an Apple III monitor from 1982 that goes perfectly with the computer. It would be so cool to have a complete vintage computer setup, including a printer! I'd really appreciate any help anyone could offer.
Thanks.

-Chris
Fred Smith
2017-08-24 06:08:42 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
I have the SSC installed in slot 1. If I type "IN#2" and then
press Control + I, I get a prompt that says "Apple SSC," so I
think the card is working. I downloaded a manual for the
ImageWriter printer and I set the dip switches on the SSC
according to the directions. But the printer won't respond to the
computer. I tried typing "PR#1" and then tried typing text to send
to the printer (again, according to the instructions to test the
communication with the printer) and nothing happened.
Is the jumper block on the SSC set for TERMINAL? Otherwise the
Tx/Rx serial lines won't be connected properly.

If you have to pull out the jumper block, turn it around and push
it back in, be really careful. They were easily broken when new
(don't ask...), so something more than 30 years old is not going
to get any less brittle! Try to lever it out a little bit at a
time from both sides.
James Davis
2017-08-24 07:24:02 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
Well, I finally got the right serial cable to connect my Apple II+ computer to an ImageWriter II printer. I also ordered a new black ribbon. I was so excited to get this old printer working, but I'm not having any luck! This is so frustrating! I bought a Super Serial Card specifically for the printer.
I have the SSC installed in slot 1. If I type "IN#2" and then press Control + I, I get a prompt that says "Apple SSC," so I think the card is working. I downloaded a manual for the ImageWriter printer and I set the dip switches on the SSC according to the directions. But the printer won't respond to the computer. I tried typing "PR#1" and then tried typing text to send to the printer (again, according to the instructions to test the communication with the printer) and nothing happened.
I ran a self-test on the printer, where you hold down the "form feed" button while pressing the power button, and that DID work. The printer started printing characters and it looked pretty sharp and clear. But the printer won't respond to the computer. Does anyone have any idea of what could be wrong? I noticed that there are also dip switches in the printer itself. Could those be set wrong and maybe that's why it's not responding?
I really hope I can get this working! I just bought an Apple III monitor from 1982 that goes perfectly with the computer. It would be so cool to have a complete vintage computer setup, including a printer! I'd really appreciate any help anyone could offer.
Thanks.
-Chris
If the SSC is in slot 1, you need to use PR#1 and/or IN#1 (not IN#2, which is for the card in slot 2).
Chris Tobar
2017-08-24 08:22:59 UTC
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Yeah, the jumper on the SSC is on "Terminal."

And sorry, I made a typo in my post! I meant to say that I typed "IN#1"
The SSC is in slot 1, and that's the number I enntered.
cb meeks
2017-08-24 12:42:38 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
I also ordered a new black ribbon.
-Chris
Where did you manage to find a new black ribbon? eBay?
Chris Tobar
2017-08-24 15:25:03 UTC
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Actually, getting a ribbon was pretty easy. I just Googled it, and found a listing on Amazon. The seller specializes in "hard to find office supplies."

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00004Z5J3/ref=psdcmw_172639_t2_B000050ZPL

I ordered 2 ribbons, and they shipped FAST - I got them within just 2-3 days!

Now I just hope I can get the printer working right :/
martin.doherty@undisclosed.com
2017-08-24 18:53:45 UTC
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Ribbons can be dicey. The 'NOS' (New Old Stock i.e. manufactured many years ago but never used) are often useless because some internal components are perished simply thru age (e.g. foam rollers crumbling) so to work, ribbons do have to be manufactured in the relatively recent past. I have no clue what the shelf life is, but I'll hazard a guess that you wouldn't want stuff that was made more than 5 years ago.
g***@sasktel.net
2017-08-25 18:13:40 UTC
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Ribbons that have dried out can be somewhat revived by putting a lttle rubbing alcohol on a tissue along with the ribbon in a bag and put them in the freezer over night
D Finnigan
2017-08-24 20:25:07 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
Well, I finally got the right serial cable to connect my Apple II+
computer
to an ImageWriter II printer. I also ordered a new black ribbon. I was so
excited to get this old printer working, but I'm not having any luck!
Nowhere in your post did you mention the select light. That needs to be lit
for the printer to respond to your Apple.

Black ribbons are still manufactured today. They are still office supplies
used in various dot-matrix printers and typewriters. The type you want is
for the C.Itoh printer, as that's what both the old ImageWriter I and
ImageWriter II are based on.

I would avoid eBay for black printer ribbons and instead order from an
office supply store.
--
]DF$
Apple II 40th Anniversary User's Guide:
http://macgui.com/newa2guide/
Matthew Power
2017-08-24 21:01:22 UTC
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Post by D Finnigan
Black ribbons are still manufactured today. They are still office supplies
used in various dot-matrix printers and typewriters. The type you want is
for the C.Itoh printer, as that's what both the old ImageWriter I and
ImageWriter II are based on.
I would avoid eBay for black printer ribbons and instead order from an
office supply store.
I have new COLOR ribbons for your ImageWriter II if you are interested. They are not old-stock, I got them manufactured in May 2017. They work great. Let me know if you would like to obtain one/some. I have plenty available.

matthewmpower at gmail dot com
Chris Tobar
2017-08-25 00:43:23 UTC
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The select light was on. I still can't get the printer to respond to the computer.
Matthew Power
2017-08-25 02:44:52 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
The select light was on. I still can't get the printer to respond to the computer.
Just trying to understand... SSC is in slot #1. Jumpers on the two switch-blocks on the SSC are off,off,off,on,off,on,on (1) and on,off,off,on,on,off,off (2). The jumper is set to terminal. Printer is connected, and the green select light is lit. The red error light is not lit. Boot to a command line interface. Type PR#1 <return> and what happens? The printer should jump and anything you type on the keyboard will go to the printer, not the screen. After PR#1, are you still typing to the screen? If so then I would suspect a bad SSC card.
Chris Tobar
2017-08-25 05:42:35 UTC
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Matthew,

Yeah, the SSC is in slot 1. I just double checked the switches and I did have them set the way you explained, and the jumper is on Terminal. The green select light is on the printer, and the red "error" light is not lit. When I type PR#1, I don't see any ouput on the screen after that, but the printer doesn't respond either. It doesn't do anything, it just sits there.

What I'm also wondering about is the dip switches that are in the printer itself. They're inside, near the left front. I tried looking up information about them, but I haven't been able to find much. I saw something mentioned about "baud" settings on a couple of the switches but I don't understand what that's about. (I'm pretty clueless about how these early computers worked). I wonder if those switches are set wrong, could that cause the computer to fail to communicate with the printer?

One thing I forgot to mention is that there is a small cover missing on the printer. It's on the back top side. I can see a blue connector. I had read that you could have an optional memory add-on, and I assumed that was what the connector is for. I didn't think the cover was a critical part or any critical parts were missing, also since the printer self-test works. It prints the settings of the printer dip switches at the top of the test page. So I don't THINK the problem is the printer.

I also don't think (or at least hope!) that the SSC is dead. I get the "Apple SSC" prompt when I type IN#1. I'm really hoping that I just have something set wrong.

By the way, I'm definitely still interested in getting a color ribbon if I can get the printer to work! I know we talked about that in the earlier topic. I was just given a Visa gift card, and I used it to order the serial card and a couple of black ribbons. If I ever get this dumb printer to work, I definitely want to buy a few color ribbons from you!
Michael J. Mahon
2017-08-25 07:24:56 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
Matthew,
Yeah, the SSC is in slot 1. I just double checked the switches and I did
have them set the way you explained, and the jumper is on Terminal. The
green select light is on the printer, and the red "error" light is not
lit. When I type PR#1, I don't see any ouput on the screen after that,
but the printer doesn't respond either. It doesn't do anything, it just sits there.
What I'm also wondering about is the dip switches that are in the printer
itself. They're inside, near the left front. I tried looking up
information about them, but I haven't been able to find much. I saw
something mentioned about "baud" settings on a couple of the switches but
I don't understand what that's about. (I'm pretty clueless about how
these early computers worked). I wonder if those switches are set wrong,
could that cause the computer to fail to communicate with the printer?
One thing I forgot to mention is that there is a small cover missing on
the printer. It's on the back top side. I can see a blue connector. I had
read that you could have an optional memory add-on, and I assumed that
was what the connector is for. I didn't think the cover was a critical
part or any critical parts were missing, also since the printer self-test
works. It prints the settings of the printer dip switches at the top of
the test page. So I don't THINK the problem is the printer.
I also don't think (or at least hope!) that the SSC is dead. I get the
"Apple SSC" prompt when I type IN#1. I'm really hoping that I just have
something set wrong.
By the way, I'm definitely still interested in getting a color ribbon if
I can get the printer to work! I know we talked about that in the earlier
topic. I was just given a Visa gift card, and I used it to order the
serial card and a couple of black ribbons. If I ever get this dumb
printer to work, I definitely want to buy a few color ribbons from you!
From the symptoms you describe, it seems that most of the SSC is working
and most of the printer is working.

The remaining "suspects" are:
1) the cable
2) the printer's RS-232 receiver chip(s)
3) the SSC's RS-232 transmitter chip(s)

If you write a short BASIC program to PRINT something ("Hello World!", for
example) continuously, then RUN it after typing PR#1, you should be able to
detect the serial data stream on the TX line at the SSC's connector.

The detection of the pulse stream can be done in many ways: LED plus
resistor, logic probe, multimeter (fluctuating average voltage), or
oscilloscope.

If the pulse stream is present at the SSC connector, the SSC is probably
fine, otherwise the problem is in the SSC--likely the transceiver chip(s).

Then plug in the cable, disconnected from the printer, and check the TX
line (called RX at the printer end) for the pulse stream. If it's missing,
the cable is faulty.

If both previous tests work, but the printer doesn't, then the transceiver
chip(s) in the printer probably need replacing.

Cables are pretty easy to check with an ohmmeter. All the proper
connections should have good continuity and no shorts to other wires.

Transceiver chips are easily damaged by ESD or plugging and unplugging the
cable without taking the usual precautions (units at both ends off, units
at both ends at same ground voltage, etc.)

It should not be difficult to get your printer working, though serial
RS-232 connections have a well-deserved reputation for having lots of
choices that must be made "compatibly" at both ends.
--
-michael - NadaNet 3.1 and AppleCrate II: http://michaeljmahon.com
Matthew Power
2017-08-25 12:00:20 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
What I'm also wondering about is the dip switches that are in the printer itself. They're inside, near the left front. I tried looking up information about them, but I haven't been able to find much.
I have two working ImageWriters that I never had to adjust those switches on, but I'll check them when I get home today and let you know how they're set.
Matthew Power
2017-08-25 23:12:49 UTC
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Post by Matthew Power
I'll check them when I get home today
In both of my ImageWriter IIs the switches are:

(o)pen (c)losed
o,o,o,o,o,c,o,o (SW1)
c,c,o,o,c,o (SW2)
Chris Tobar
2017-08-26 03:16:55 UTC
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Matthew, thanks for checking the switches on your printers. Mine have the same settings. I double checked the switches on the SSC and I had them set according to the directions in the manual, to configure them for the printer.

So it looks like there is definitely something wrong with either the printer or the SSC :(
I'm kind of leaning more towards the printer. At least I HOPE it isn't the SSC. It would be a major disappointment if it's the printer, but the SSC would be worse because those seem to be pretty hard to find.

Michael, I'm going to try the suggestions you gave, to test the signal output. If it does turn out to be a bad chip in the printer though, I'm really not sure what to do. I took off the cover on the printer and I noticed that all the chips are soldered in. Replacing soldered IC chips is kind of beyond my skills. I'd have to find someone to help me with that.

This really does suck, I was so anxious to get an old dot matrix printer working with this computer. But I guess when you're working with 30+ year old electronics, it's always a gamble.
Michael J. Mahon
2017-08-26 05:24:46 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
Matthew, thanks for checking the switches on your printers. Mine have the
same settings. I double checked the switches on the SSC and I had them
set according to the directions in the manual, to configure them for the printer.
So it looks like there is definitely something wrong with either the printer or the SSC :(
I'm kind of leaning more towards the printer. At least I HOPE it isn't
the SSC. It would be a major disappointment if it's the printer, but the
SSC would be worse because those seem to be pretty hard to find.
Michael, I'm going to try the suggestions you gave, to test the signal
output. If it does turn out to be a bad chip in the printer though, I'm
really not sure what to do. I took off the cover on the printer and I
noticed that all the chips are soldered in. Replacing soldered IC chips
is kind of beyond my skills. I'd have to find someone to help me with that.
This really does suck, I was so anxious to get an old dot matrix printer
working with this computer. But I guess when you're working with 30+ year
old electronics, it's always a gamble.
With an ImageWriter (C. Itoh), the odds are very much in your favor. These
things are still printing multi-part forms all over the world. Since you've
lifted it, you know they are built like tanks!
--
-michael - NadaNet 3.1 and AppleCrate II: http://michaeljmahon.com
Chris Tobar
2017-09-07 18:23:53 UTC
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I figured it out! I finally got the printer working! :D

It turns out there was NOTHING wrong with the Super Serial Card or the printer. I was using a cable I had bought online, and apparently it's actually supposed to be for a modem (?) Or maybe null-modem, I guess. I'm still kind of foggy on the terminology.

http://www.kraydad.com/apple-mac-6-ft-imagewriter-i-printer-cable-8-pin-db25/

It physically connects the serial card to the printer perfectly fine, but the actual wiring is different. I downloaded a manual for the SSC, and I remembered seeing where it mentioned that with the jumper block set to Terminal, you shouldn't use a separate modem eliminator, otherwise the connected device wouldn't work. I thought that MAYBE the cable I was using was doing exaxtly that. Maybe it wired for "null-modem" and that's why it wasn't working. So on a hunch, I set the jumper block to Modem instead. It worked!

When I typed in "PR#1," the printer carriage moved. I typed in some other random stuff and pressed enter, and the printer printed "Syntax error," exactly like it should. Ha! I'm so excited! After all that frustration, it's finally working! Now I just have to get some authentic continuous feed paper (putting in single sheets is a royal pain).

I have a complete vintage computer setup :)
Michael J. Mahon
2017-09-07 18:57:49 UTC
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Post by Chris Tobar
I figured it out! I finally got the printer working! :D
It turns out there was NOTHING wrong with the Super Serial Card or the
printer. I was using a cable I had bought online, and apparently it's
actually supposed to be for a modem (?) Or maybe null-modem, I guess. I'm
still kind of foggy on the terminology.
http://www.kraydad.com/apple-mac-6-ft-imagewriter-i-printer-cable-8-pin-db25/
It physically connects the serial card to the printer perfectly fine, but
the actual wiring is different. I downloaded a manual for the SSC, and I
remembered seeing where it mentioned that with the jumper block set to
Terminal, you shouldn't use a separate modem eliminator, otherwise the
connected device wouldn't work. I thought that MAYBE the cable I was
using was doing exaxtly that. Maybe it wired for "null-modem" and that's
why it wasn't working. So on a hunch, I set the jumper block to Modem instead. It worked!
When I typed in "PR#1," the printer carriage moved. I typed in some other
random stuff and pressed enter, and the printer printed "Syntax error,"
exactly like it should. Ha! I'm so excited! After all that frustration,
it's finally working! Now I just have to get some authentic continuous
feed paper (putting in single sheets is a royal pain).
I have a complete vintage computer setup :)
Nice diagnostic work, Chris!

Mis-labeled (or unlabeled) cables are one of the major arguments for the
LED-indicating RS-232 breakout adapters. I've never seen a 9-pin or
mini-DIN version, but they must have existed.

In this case, with a breakout adapter or a resistor+LED, you would have
observed a signal on the *printer's* TXD line when attempting to print,
instead of on its RXD line.

Glad to hear you found the problem!
--
-michael - NadaNet 3.1 and AppleCrate II: http://michaeljmahon.com
Chris Tobar
2017-09-07 19:49:13 UTC
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When I bought the computer, it came with a box with a bunch of other things, including some programs on floppy disks. One of them is a word processing program called "Magic Window." It's from 1982! Luckily, it also came with the original instruction manual. I've been playing around with it and I mostly figured out how to use it. Now that I have a working printer, I'll be able to actually write things with it. It may seem strange to be excited about writing papers on a 35 year old computer, but this is all new to me. It's amazing to see equipment this old being fully brought back to life.
Matthew Power
2017-09-07 21:04:16 UTC
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Nice diag!
Chris Tobar
2017-09-07 21:45:29 UTC
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Thanks! I'm just relieved! I was about to give up, thinking that I was going to have to hunt around for someone who could help me fix the printer...replacing chips just isn't my thing! I wonder if anyone else has run into this problem - trying to buy a modern 3rd party cable to revive an old ImageWriter printer, and finding that it won't work with the jumper set per the SSC instructions. Well, then again I guess someone with more Apple II experience would figure out that the cable was mislabeled.
Fred Smith
2017-08-26 00:19:47 UTC
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Post by Matthew Power
Post by Chris Tobar
What I'm also wondering about is the dip switches that are in the printer itself. They're inside, near the left front. I tried looking up information about them, but I haven't been able to find much.
I have two working ImageWriters that I never had to adjust those switches on, but I'll check them when I get home today and let you know how they're set.
Careful, I think those switches (or some of them) are associated
with printhead pin fire timing and shouldn't be touched.
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