Sun LaserWriter

342 words

3K on disk

December 1986

Sun LaserWriter

Re-Badged Printer

As a kid I remember seeing a white LaserWriter with the distinctive SUN logo on it in a university computer lab, probably around 1987. Thinking back on that memory recently, I started to wonder what this odd output device was. Would Canon and Apple really have allowed Sun to re-badge one of their most important products? Or had some prankster simply put a spare SUN badge on the side of a standard Apple peripheral?

This is one of these questions is which is hard to Google, because of the age of the products involved. But it turns out the truth is exactly what I remembered: Sun sold a version of Apple’s laser printer, even calling it the “LaserWriter,” for use with Sun3 workstations. We can find a few mentions of this product starting in InfoWorld, December 1986 and continuing on to an Australian Unix Users’ Group newsletter in early 1987. Finally, the Spring 1986 BMUG Newsletter confirms “the exact same specs as the original Apple LaserWriter. It is meant to be a printer for the Sun line of computer workstations and communicates over an RS-232 communication port.”

The original Apple LaserWriter also had this RS-232 port, in addition to the serial/LocalTalk 9-pin DIN connector, so it’s possible that the Sun variant had the Mac-centric port as well. Either way, the printer I saw in 1987 was connected to an IBM PS/2 Model 60 (long story) which was doing print serving for a whole lab of PS/2 Model 30’s, so it would have gotten along just fine with the traditional serial port.

An intriguing glimpse into the market positioning of this Sun LaserWriter was the mention in the Australian journal of a bundled software package from Adobe called “Transcript.” Transcript turns out to be very hard to dig up information about, but it seems to have been a commercial troff tool, and thus would have been useful on SunOS workstations to prepare documents to send to the laser printer.

Anyone with a Sun-badged LaserWriter should take a picture and send it in…

Sun LaserWriter
Kind: Re-Badged Printer
Size: 3420 bytes, accounts for 3K on disk
Where:Hardware, internal drive
Created:Thursday, December 25, 1986 at 1:42 AM
Modified:Wednesday, January 25, 2012 at 2:14 AM