Off-Topic: Vista, Laserwriter 12/640 PS, and FoxIt

laserwriter12640I have an old Apple LaserWriter 12/640 PS network printer at home that I bought back in 1997. In those days, I had a PowerBook G3 at 266 MHz, Windows NT was new, and my work computer was one of Sweden’s first 300 MHz Pentium II machines… since then, my home machines have moved from MacOS 8 to Windows NT 4 to Windows 2000 to Windows XP and now Windows Vista 32- and 64-bit. But the trusty LaserWriter remains, keeps printing, and is still on its first toner cartridge!

However, moving to Vista has made the printing bit harder.

In Windows XP, there were drivers available for the printer, since it was fairly recent when XP was released. In Vista, no such luck. So you have to resort to using “LPR” printing (optional install), and using the generic “Microsoft Imagesetter” as the printer profile. This, somewhat surprisingly, works pretty well.

With one exception: Acrobat.

It seems that Acrobat is trying so hard to be smart about printing that it gets confused by the Imagesetter bit, and decides that the thing on the other end is not a Postscript printer. And thus, it needs to have a 600 dpi bitmap of the page being printed sent to it. Needless to say, my old printer with its upgraded 12 MB of RAM (it came with 4, and I scavenged 8 more MB from some old dead PC that passed through my hands in the late 1990’s) usually chokes on this.

When my last XP machine was retired, this did indeed create a problem, since all official online forms tend to be Acrobat-based.

However, by accident and luck I decided to try the Foxit Reader as an Acrobat Reader alternative. This has turned out to be the perfect to solution to my printing woes. With Foxit, a PDF file prints as a small nice regular vector graphics file that my LaserWriter has little problem printing. It makes printing PDFs feasible and reliable again, and means that I do not have to go out and figure out which new printer to buy. It is kind of cool to have such a decade-old technology icon at home, and still in working order.

A final note: 12 MB in my printer. My first hard drive back in 1990 had 20 MB on it. My new desktop Core i7 machine just got upped to 9 GB of RAM. Back in 1991, I had my high school’s most powerful home computer: a Macintosh SE/30 with all of 5 MB of RAM (which cost a fortune at the time).

4 thoughts on “Off-Topic: Vista, Laserwriter 12/640 PS, and FoxIt”

  1. If you do have to upgrade I’m a fan of the almost equally old HP LaserJet 2200DN though they may be getting hard to find on the used market. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be quite as reliable as your LasterWriter, I had to replace the toner cartridge after only 4 years and the new toner cost about 1/2 what the user printer cost. At this rate I’ll soon be in ink jet ranges for ink to printer costs 🙂

  2. I had a printer cartridge I got at a sale back in 2000 for like 10 USD that I started using now… so with some luck, the LW will last another ten years 🙂 No idea how many pages the old cartridge lasted, need to telnet into the printer to ask it.

  3. Note that there is a tip at that suggests using the HP “LaserJet III PS Cartridge v52.2” driver with the similar LaserWriter 16/600. I have tried this, and on my Vista 64 machine, this did produce noticeably smaller print files. About half the size for some graphics-heavy Word documents.

    FoxIt works great to make PDFs printable still, reducing files from 20 MB+ to 200 kB.

  4. I’d recommend the HP LaserJet 4300dtn or tn/4350dtn or tn. They come std with 64MB but take up to 512MB, have 1 2 3 or 4 input trays (up to 1500 shtees for tray 3), optional stacker/stapler, optional base cupboard & castors, and have great PS emulation (I proof FrameMaker and InDesign pubs on it) and have a 200,000 / month duty cycle. The standard EIO card is 10/100 ethernet. I have bought 3 x 4300dtn’s, all second-hand (ex govt contracts) and the base price was $A650. They don’t ever break down, and are as ugly as a hat-full of a-holes . Only option missing is coffee!

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