ImageWriter II

ImageWriter II

The ImageWriter II is a dot matrix printer produced by Apple beginning in 1985. It was a redesign of the original ImageWriter printer first introduced in 1984. The ImageWriter II cost about $600 in 1985. I purchased my ImageWriter II from a seller on eBay for $39 in 2002. It is in good condition for its age. The ImageWriter II was the mainstay of Apple low cost home printing in the late 1980s. It remained so until inexpensive inkjet printers, like the StyleWriter and StyleWriter II, hit the market in the early 1990s, but the ImageWriter II remained popular with businesses for much of the 1990s because of its use for printing forms on track paper. The ImageWriter II can use Bitmap or TrueType fonts created by QuickDraw, the Macintosh's internal language, and sent from the Macintosh through the serial printer cable. Like the ImageWriter, the ImageWriter II has a built-in set of characters that can be used to print text in lieu of fonts sent by the computer.

ImageWriter II
Side view of ImageWriter II

The ImageWriter II came in two models. The older and heavier model A9M0310 (white) or A9M0320 (gray) and the newer model G0010 (C0090LL/A or C009011/A). They both perform and look identical; however some case parts are not interchangeable. Both accept the same AppleTalk add-on card and the ribbons and print heads are the same. The newer G0010 model is lighter in weight due to the use of a switching power supply instead of an AC transformer. My ImageWriter II is an older A9M0320 model.

The maximum resolution is 144 dots per inch. The ImageWriter II has three levels of print quality: draft, standard, and near letter quality. By pressing the print quality button repeatedly, you can walk through the three settings. The quality level is indicated by two LEDs next to the print quality button. Standard quality is on when the right side LED is lit. Draft quality is on when the left side LED is lit. When both LEDs are lit, near letter quality is on. Choosing either standard or high quality in the Macintosh print command dialog box overrides any quality settings set on the printer.

Three levels of print quality:

  1. Draft: 250 characters per second, high speed for printing the least dense characters. Choose draft quality when you want a printout quickly for reviewing or editing. In draft mode, the ImageWriter II uses its own set of built-in fonts and not fonts sent from the computer. Since draft mode does not use bitmapped images or fonts sent from the computer, it can only print text, not graphics.

  2. Standard (called Faster in printing menus): 180 characters per second, medium speed and character density. Standard quality is good for everyday work. Faster mode prints at 72 dot per inch (DPI) vertically and 80 DPI horizontally.

  3. Near Letter Quality or NLQ (called Best in printing menus): 45 characters per second, high density characters for presentations and formal communications. Best mode prints at 144 DPI vertically and 160 DPI horizontally. If you print many pages with large areas of black in Best mode, the solenoids, tiny electromagnets that control the wires in the print head, can overheat. Print such pages one at a time and let the print head cool down in between.

ImageWriter II

This printer is built like a tank. It is shockingly heavy at about 15 pounds. Dot matrix printers like the ImageWriter II produce images by impact: a printing mechanism strikes an inked ribbon leaving an imprint. Characters are formed by tiny dots left by the print head, which contains tiny wires that dart in and out of a vertical array. The ImageWriter II print head contains 9 wires (pins) that produce a dot size of 16 mils (0.4 mm). Print quality depends on two factors: the closeness of the dots left by the print head and the amount of ink left in the ribbon. Ribbons have a long life and can last for years with light usage. Ribbon life depends on the amount of fade that is acceptable by the owner. The ImageWriter II has the capability to produce seven colors. Printing in color requires a color ribbon.

 Click here to learn how to feed track paper into an ImageWriter II

A Vectronic's Apple World reader sent us this email on December 5, 2008 concerning color printing with the ImageWriter II:

ImageWriter II Ribbon While the ImageWriter II can use a color ribbon as you mentioned, its utility is fairly limited because Apple never added color QuickDraw support to the ImageWriter extension (driver).

In order to really make color printing on the ImageWriter II shine, you need a copy of Microspot's MacPalette II software. This software will allow one to print color images to the ImageWriter II and will cause the ImageWriter II to dither the available colors to produce millions of apparent colors. It will also pass the paper through the printer four times (prints, then backs up) so it takes a while.

While the output is not great compared to what is available from inkjets, it is fantastic compared to what you might expect from a dot matrix printer. Faces in photos printed on the ImageWriter II are recognizable. Color accuracy is good.

Sadly MacPalette is no longer sold and is rarely seen on the used market. However, one of their programmers is subscribed to the Classic Computer list and he told me that they still have a few copies in stock. One would need to contact Microspot for pricing.

Jeff W.

The ImageWriter II is designed to use track paper that is fed through a slit on the back. It has the ability to feed regular sheets of paper, but this requires a special feeder attachment called an ImageWriter II SheetFeeder. Regular paper can be used without the SheetFeeder, but must be feed in one at a time. The ImageWriter II can also be used to print labels and envelopes. The ability to tractor feed paper makes the ImageWriter II an excellent banner maker. BannerMania, a 68K Mac program, makes great use of the feature. I have used it to make banners on a Classic II, SE, and LC III. This program demonstrates the power of QuickDraw.

BannerMania - "Vectronic's Apple World" is set to print over 10 track fed pages

ImageWriter II
ImageWriter II with SheetFeeder attachment (Apple Inc.)

Connectivity Options:

ImageWriter II

The ImageWriter II is compatible with every Macintosh with a serial printer port, going back to the original Macintosh. It is also compatible with every model in the Apple II line, the Lisa 2 (Macintosh XL), and even the very rare Apple III. There are two ways to connect the ImageWriter II to your Apple computer. You can use a printer cable or an AppleTalk network. The ImageWriter II must have an AppleTalk Card installed to connect it to an AppleTalk network. This card was an upgrade option. ImageWriter IIs did not ship with the card by default. The Macintosh 128K, Macintosh 512K, and Macintosh 512Ke require the use of a Macintosh Peripheral-8 Cable. The Apple IIc requires a special Apple IIc Peripheral-8 Cable. Beginning with the Macintosh Plus, Macs began using a mini DIN-8 serial printer port. For these newer Macs, use a mini DIN-8 serial cable.

ImageWriter II
Apple IIe Printer-8 Cable, Part No. A9C0313

ImageWriter II
Macintosh mini DIN-8 serial printer cable (made by Belkin)

ImageWriter II

Apple Inc.
Apple Super Serial Card (Apple Inc.)

The Apple IIgs and Apple IIc Plus use the same mini DIN-8 serial printer cable as the newer Macs. The Apple II, Apple II Plus, and Apple IIe require a card to connect to the ImageWriter II. Apple recommends using an Apple Super Serial Card. An Apple IIe Printer-8 Cable is used to connect an ImageWriter II to the Super Serial Card. The card must be configured to work with the printer. Click the image below to view page 35 of the ImageWriter II Owner's Manual. The page describes how to set the switches on the Super Serial Card so it will work with the ImageWriter II. I use the ImageWriter II with my Apple IIe Platinum that has a Super Serial Card installed in slot 1 (PR#1). The Apple IIe Printer-8 Cable that works with this configuration is very hard to find. I was lucky to acquire it at the same time I purchased the ImageWriter II.

Apple Inc.
(Click) Super Serial Card switch settings
Copyright 1985, Apple Inc.

How to use an ImageWriter II from the Apple IIe command prompt:

You can print out your Applesoft BASIC program code on an ImageWriter II printer directly from the command prompt. First, you must load a program into RAM with the following command, where PROGRAM is the name of your program:


Or for testing purposes, you can write a simple program and save it to RAM by typing the following and pressing enter:


As I stated earlier, the Super Serial Card is installed in slot 1 on my Apple IIe's motherboard. To access that slot, you have to use the PR#1 command. If you have it installed in slot 2, you would use PR#2 and so forth. Type the following:


The command prompt will disappear from the screen. That is because all the output is now going to the printer but the ImageWriter II is not printing yet. It is still waiting for you to type a print command. Type the following command and press enter:


You won't be able to see on the screen what you are typing. If you misspell the command word and press enter, you will hear a beep denoting a syntax error. At that point, you can try again. Once you get the correct command typed and press enter, the Apple IIe will "list" the program code, but instead of going to the screen, it will go to the printer. You could also type:


This would cause the output of your program to output to the printer.

How to perform a self-test:

ImageWriter II

The ImageWriter II has a test mode that can be accessed by performing the following steps:

  1. Turn the ImageWriter II off by pressing the on/off button.
  2. To start the self-test, press the form feed button and hold it down while you press the on/off button. Release both buttons simultaneously. As soon as the print head moves to the left margin, the printer will begin printing the self-test.

The self-test lists some useful information like the ROM version and DIP switch settings.

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