Apple II, Classic, Craigslist, DIY, IIgs, Macintosh, Networking, Raspberry Pi, Retro, SE, Vintage

LaserWriter Pro 630

May 26, 2018

Recently, I found a Craigslist ad for a working Apple Laserwriter Pro 630 with accessories for $40. It had ports for AppleTalk, AAUI Ethernet, SCSI HD, Serial and Parallel, all of the cables needed and the manual. I rarely print anything myself but a printed schematic or manual to read through would be nice. I also wanted to get a laser printer that I could install for my entire household to use. With the girls doing homeschool, I figured they would use it the most. It would need to work over Ethernet and AppleTalk, and also I needed to know that I could still get new toner cartridges for it or at least refill a used one. I did some research to see if this printer would be able to do what I wanted. I checked lowendmac.com and found all of the information I needed there. I checked Amazon, eBay and Google and found that not only is toner still being made, there are plenty of roller/belt rebuild kits available as well, meaning I could replace the moving components if needed. I answered the ad. The seller replied quickly and we made arrangements to meet in a local shopping mall parking lot. Briefly, here are my rules for buying things face-to-face from online ads: 

  • Always meet people in a heavily populated public place.
  • Make sure it is a place that you know very well.
  • Never go alone.

I took my 19 yo daughter Sydney with me, and we drove to the shopping mall and met the seller. After a brief discussion, I learned that he ran a print shop and this was his work horse laser printer for several years. He bought it new and it has only recently given him the first signs of trouble. He assured me that it always worked after the second or third power cycle. I reasoned that this would most likely be leaking capacitors and that I could fix it. I verified that the accessories were all there, and looked for signs of damage or leaky toner. I decided to buy it. I thanked the seller, made another quick stop and then took Sydney to dinner before driving home.

When we got home, I set the printer down in the lab and fired it up. It booted and spit out an internal test page. It was sold as a working printer, but I knew that eventually, the intermittent boot issue was going to show up. After running a few pre-moistened alcohol wipes over the printer, I powered it down and connected it to my IIgs via LocalTalk cable. I powered it back on, fired up the IIgs, and opened up the control panel and configured the printer. Next I opened up Appleworks GS 1.1, made a test page and clicked ‘File->Print’ It detected the printer as a Laserwriter Pro 630! I gave it the command and it printed!

 
 

I connected the Ethernet via the AAUI adapter and looked for it in my router’s DHCP records before deciding that it was not setup for DHCP. Looking in the manual gave me that answer: it supports EtherTalk, not Ethernet. Big difference. I thought about the computers that I have that would support EtherTalk that would be best suited for using as a print server. The Raspberry Pi! It already has AppleTalk installed and working via Ivan’s A2SERVER software. I searched again and found an article on how to use a Banana Pi as an AppleTalk print server from emaculation.com. This article used A2SERVER as well. Since I already had my Pi configured and running A2SERVER, I skipped through the first two sections of the article and started part way into section 3. I followed the guide to configure CUPS and PAP to be a network print server for AppleTalk Printers. Once I had my printer installed on my iMac running OS X 10.7.5, I installed it on my Color Classic, Powerbook 540c, and my Mac SE. Everything worked. I installed it on my daughters school computers and my wife 2017 Macbook running High Sierra and I found another issue: the PPD for this printer was not longer included in the later versions of OS X. Google to the rescue again. I found a posting in Apple’s discussion forums explaining how to copy the files from an OS X computer running an older version that has the proper PPD for your printer and install it on the newer versions of OS X. I found the file LaserWriter 12_640 PS.gz in the folder System > Library > Printers > PPDs. I copied it to a USB thumb drive and transferred it to the same folder on my wife’s High Sierra computer and just like that, Laserjet Pro 630 was listed as a choice for a printer. I set it up and printed a test page.

All was good. Every computer in the house could print to the AppleTalk printer. I went back to the lab to print something else from the IIgs just for fun. When I got there, I seen that the printer’s ready light was not on. Rather, the paper jam and toner lights were flickering very rapidly. I cycled power and after a brief warm up, it went right back to the same status exactly. I checked the printer’s status on the CUPS admin interface, and it said that the printer was ‘paused’. I figured I had found the dreaded “issue” that the Craigslist seller was telling me about.

I found a service manual for the printer and proceeded to open up the case. The communication board looked fairly clean although it did have 7 of those little SMD capacitors that early 1990s Apple products have been known to see fail and leak. Adjacent to that board, was the DC controller board. It only had two capacitors on it, both of them radial through hole, and both of them showed very bad buildup of leaked electrolytic goo at their bases.

I decided to replace all of the caps. Two on the DC controller and a total of 9 on the logic board (the 7 SMDs, one larger SMD and a radial.) I measured them for height and diameter, wrote down the specs and placed my order at Digikey for the following components:

DC Controller
– 10v 100uF 6.5mm
– 10v 220uF 6.5mm

Communication board
– 16v 220uF 10.1mm
– 16v 47uF x7 6.2mm
– 16v 1000uF 26.6mm

After a few days, the capacitors arrived in my PO Box. I did my very best to remove the old SMD caps without lifting any pads, but I did manage to lift one. Damn! I used a razor knife to scrap back the trace just a bit to expose the copper underneath. I soldered the leg of the new cap directly to that exposed copper. Lucky for me the trace was wide enough to do this.

 
 

Here is the one that I lifted the pad on.

See how the solder on the right side of the cap is drawn out away from the cap? That is where I had to connect it back to the copper trace. Ugly, yes, but working.

Once I had every capacitor replaced, I proceeded to reassemble the printer and fired it up. It booted up and printed a self test page and then I printed a few test pages of my own. Everything was working well. I power cycled it a few times, waiting about 30 seconds between each cycle. It booted every time. It has been a week now since I did the repairs and so far it has booted correctly every single time and has been a very reliable printer. I guess my initial diagnosis of ‘leaky capacitors’ was correct.

Only time will tell.

 

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1 Comment

  • Reply Pawel May 26, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    Very interesting, thank You for sharing.
    Pawel from http://www.appleclub.pl

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