The mid-1990s were a transitional time for me. I moved from Merseyside to go to college in Huddersfield. Holiday time meant that I did the whole thing in reverse. I needed a printer set up that was light, portable, reliable and provided high quality prints for college assignments and job applications. Costco had opened in Liverpool, so I had access to good quality ‘Conqueror’ paper and needed a printer that could handle it.
For the princely sum of 130 GBP I settled on an Apple StyleWriter II. The printer came in a grey plastic colour that was slightly different to the beige boxes that passed for computing equipment back then, with a detachable paper feeder and a front hatch that allowed you to access the printer innards it was simplicity to look after.
It connected to my Apple PowerBook via a mini DIN socket and cable which Macs used as serial ports back then. It printed presentation foils with special acetate sheets, and printed three pages a minute at 330 dpi resolution (or about as good as the average office laser printer). Its cartridges were an easy to find variety of Canon cartridge which was a boon compared to trying to get print jobs done on-site at the university computer facilities and print bureau.
It handled mail-merges from ClarisWorks with aplomb and printed on envelopes as happily as the paper. It didn’t break ever.
The machine could be disassembled into a compact unit. I even took the printer on my travels to see family in Ireland so that I could continue on with my work and on a trip to Boblingen in Germany; where I printed out extra copies of documents I was likely to need and put together a series of notes from each days interviews that I had with a large American technology company.
In fact, the only reason why I no longer use it is that Apple moved to USB and stopped making drivers for the printer. I couldn’t replace it with a new version as Steve Jobs took Apple out of the printer business; refocusing the company and its product line to try and stem the huge business losses that the company was making in the late 1990s.
Looking back over the decade and a half; printers haven’t functionally moved on that much. You only need so much speed out of a home printer and the technology in them hasn’t moved at the same space as the computers themselves. I now have a relatively rarely used Konica Minolta colour laser printer and shudder to think how much the likely cost of the new toner is likely to be; in fact I may just replace it instead. The colour laser was a welcome break from a number of HP and Canon printers which were bulkier than the StyleWriter II and seemed to break surprisingly soon after the 12-month warranty gave out.