Casiowriter CW-16: Fax rolls and batteries
What can I say? It was $5. A significant problem with these old things is that the cartridges/cassettes/ribbons/whatever are proprietary and no longer getting made. On the other hand, this old Casio can print thermally as well as using ink, and I have a bunch of old fax rolls kicking around.
Here is the test page (insert paper, hold down ‘code’ while turning on). It actually looks a lot better than this scan.
Did not come with a carry bag or AC adapter, but runs fine off 4 D-cells. Of course, they are worth more than the machine is.
At first it would not print properly using ink. It turned out the little cog that drags the tape through the cassette had come off. I found it inside the machine and, with a bit of jiggery pokery and a little dismantling and remantling, got it to work again. That was pleasing. Here is a fuzzy picture of the ‘compliance plate’. According to http://typewriterdatabase.com/, 1034105 is as unknown as all the others. I think they came out around 1984 or so.
So the consumables are the batteries and the fax paper, and the ribbon, but at least the ribbon is optional. You can have ribbon and plain paper or no ribbon and fax paper. Options, 1985 style.
This is the cassette. They are meant to be used once. If you rewind it, you can see the letters that have been pressed out of it. When these kinds of machines came into offices and such, this became a security concern. I have not bothered to read the previous owner(s) correspondence, but I did rewind the tape a little just to see if I could rewind it. It works pretty well. Not very well, since where the ink has been used there is no ink at all, but it was just an experiment. You can see the sticky tape I put on it (the clips that hold it together did not work too well on reassembly…)
Oh, here’s the LCD. It does not hold a lot of words, but it is useful, and easily viewable in bright light, unlike the screen on a modern laptop. Indeed, this is quite a reasonable machine for typing outdoors.
Actual user review: This was a fairly low-end machine in its day, but it is quite usable. It can print 12 or 10 pitch, double width, bold, underline. It has direct print (like a normal typewriter), line print (print a line once it is finished, either by return key or reaching the margin) and a reasonably effective fully justified mode, in which when it hits the right margin it adjusts word spacing before printing the line. It is easy to fix spelling mistakes, though much quicker if you don’t need to use the spell checker. The keyboard is not great. It lacks the positive feel of a good computer keyboard (say IBM-M), and also the sensitive touch of a modern keyboard. I found when I tried to type fast I often dropped letters. That’s probably the main failing, really. It’s quite large, not really compact, either. For example, does not fit in a standard-size briefcase. So it is a bit odd — it can run off batteries, as if it’s meant to be ported around, but it has a large footprint and is bulky to carry — bulkier than, say, an Olympia SF. (Which was not the last, was it?)
The 24-pin dot-matrix type is a bit spidery, especially thermally, though there are 5 impression levels. There is a good range of characters, including proper superscript 2 and 3, a few Greek letters and mathematical symbols. Can set line spacing, tabs, margins, etc. Recommends against using textured paper.
Conclusion: In 2017, even free is probably too expensive, but in its day it would have been a useful compromise between price, portability and capability. At least the thermal printing means the lack of replacement cassettes does not brick it.