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The Apple LaserWriter was one the first laser printers available to the mass
market. Combined with GUI-based programs like PageMaker on the Macintosh, it
is generally considered to have sparked the Desktop publishing (DTP)
revolution in the mid-1980s.
Unlike models from HP which had been introduced a few months earlier and
used their proprietary PCL printing language, the LaserWriter included the
PostScript page description language which allowed for far more complex
graphics, high-resolution bitmap graphics, outline fonts, and generally much
better looking output.
The use of PostScript comes at a cost. Unlike PCL and other early printer
control languages, PostScript is a complete programming language and
requires a complete computer to run it. In the case of the LaserWriter this
was a Motorola 68000 CPU running at 12MHz, making it the fastest machine in
Apple's lineup, and the most expensive at $6,995.
At this sort of price point the printer needed to be shared among several
computers. However LANs were both complex and expensive at the time, so in
typical Apple fashion they wrote software to drive the Mac's RS-422 port at
about 250kbps, wrote a protocol stack called AppleTalk to run on top of it,
and delivered the result as LocalTalk (referring to the hardware, cabling
When used by several machines, the aggregate the LaserWriter quickly fell to
an attractive price point. It was unmatched in terms of printing ability,
and could only be fully utilized under a GUI based computer, on which Apple
had the monopoly at the time. Millions were eventually sold, and the
LaserWriter is also credited with saving both the Macintosh, and Apple.