New Life For An Obscure Apple Plotter

We’ve all at some point or other seen something done online by somebody else, and thought “I’d like to have a go at that!”. When [Phooky] saw the artwork on the #PlotterTwitter hashtag, he remembered a past donation of a plotter to the NYC Resistor hackerspace. Some searching through the loft revealed a dusty cardboard box containing not the lovely Hewlett-Packard he’d hoped for, but instead an Apple 410 Color Plotter. This proved to be such an obscure part of the legacy Apple product line that almost no information was available for it save for a few diagrams showing DIP switch settings for the serial port.

Undeterred, he took a look inside and found a straightforward enough control board featuring a Z80 processor and support chips with 1983 date codes. The ROMs were conveniently socketed, so after dumping their contents, he was able to identify the routine for the plotter’s test program, and thus work from there to deduce its command set.  A small matter of the plotter using hardware handshaking lines to signal a full buffer later, and he was able to use it to produce beautiful plots. Should you be one of the lucky few remaining Apple 410 owners, you may find his software library for it to be of some use.

If you’d like to see some more aged plotter action on these pages, we’ve had an analog Hewlett Packard here in the past, as well as a vintage drum plotter.

Thanks [Sophi] for the tip.

8 thoughts on “New Life For An Obscure Apple Plotter

  1. Very entertaining blog post read. I loved his comment:

    “As charming the idea of rolling wild-eyed into a Genius Bar with a thirty-plus-year-old plotter and screaming “I NEED THIS WORKING BY MONDAY” was, I figured if I really wanted this thing running I’d have to get it chugging myself”

    Thanks for the story, Jenny.

  2. “This proved to be such an obscure part of the legacy Apple product line that almost no information was available for it save for a few diagrams showing DIP switch settings for the serial port.”

    Sounds like an opportunity to make it less obscure.

  3. If I’m not mistaken, there’s one of these in a closet at my parents’ home. Might even have the manual somewhere. I won’t be able to look for some time, though, as they are a few states away.

  4. Very nice post (as usual, this blog redeemed the whole decade for me anyway) super cool plots but wow… To think that all this lost software is kind of unsettling. Remember the 80s? You had to PAY Commodore to get their “includes” libs and make software for their OS.

    1. interesting question, considering the printhead/pen itself is pretty non-standard for those times. That would be a whole project by itself. As the printer is useless when there is nothing printed due to dried-out pens/ribbons/markers/nozzles as most printers will suffer by these days. Not strange after being 30 years in storage.

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