Clacker Hacker: Popping A Cap In A Brother EP43 Thermal Typewriter

A few months ago, I fell down the internet rabbit hole known as Ted Munk’s typewriter site. I don’t remember if I just saw this Brother EP43 typewriter for sale and searched for information about them, or went looking for one after reading about them. Either way, the result is the same — I gained a typewriter.

Now I’m not really a typewriter collector or anything, and this is my first word processor typewriter. When it arrived from Goodwill, I anxiously popped four ‘C’ cells in and hoped for the best. It made a print head noise, so that was a good sign. But almost immediately after that, there was a BANG! and then a puff of smoke wafted out from the innards. My tiny typewriter was toast.

21st Century Typewriter

Speaking of toast, this typewriter is thermal, which is why it takes such awesome battery power. Thermal is probably the absolute best feature it could possibly have, because as long as there is electricity and thermal fax paper to be had on Earth, this typewriter can be used endlessly, no ribbon necessary. And that’s a good thing, considering that replacement ribbon cassettes are about $95 each.

There are a ton of other reasons that this typewriter is still awesome today. First off, the obvious: distraction-free typing. Like all word processors, you get a buffer of characters that can be corrected before they’re committed to paper.

It’s very small and lightweight compared to most typewriters and word processors. Really, it’s the pinnacle of print on demand. Seriously, the only thing smaller that qualifies is an embossing label maker or Braille writer.

As you can see by the demo sheet, there are a ton of word processing features that take the guesswork out of making documents look pretty. It does bold, underline, and right margin flush with just a few extra keystrokes. There’s even a four-banger calculator if your adding machine is too far out of reach!

Physically speaking, the whole thing is adorable, especially the little print head. And it has ISO enter, which is labeled RETURN. I keep meaning to cut some of my fax roll down into sheets, but once I made a paper dispenser with two 3D printed triangles and a dowel rod, I was far less motivated. Also, it’s really easy to tear the paper off by just tearing it against the clear plastic ruler guide.

The only real cons of this machine are that I can’t connect it to a computer, and I can’t connect a more ergonomic keyboard to her. I’m good for about a page, single-spaced, and then my wrists start complaining.

Back to the Smoke Monster

Note the ribbon cassette. Now it’s a souvenir on my bulletin board.
It just had to be the one cemented to the inductor that blew.

After I opened it up and surveyed the damage, I found that one of the big capacitors had been what blew. I decided to just order all new electrolytics for it to get ahead of future problems. This was especially wise considering how difficult this thing is to put it back together.  The plastic ribbon cables are quite fiddly.

In the end, I replaced all but two of the electrolytics. One of them I just couldn’t find a replacement for. The other I couldn’t replace because the one I ordered ended up having too big of a footprint. I was so focused on getting short-enough replacements for the big boys, that I screwed that one up completely.

After replacing the caps I got my Hello, World on. Now I type on it whenever I can, usually about once a day. Naturally, I think more fondly of it because I nursed it back to health. Here’s to another thirty or forty years of distraction-free clacking, thermal-paper supply willing!

23 thoughts on “Clacker Hacker: Popping A Cap In A Brother EP43 Thermal Typewriter

  1. Considered converting it to i.e. USB power? For a stationary thing like this, might make sense so that you don’t need to change batteries from time to time. And if you’re ever to try and figure out a way to connect it to a computer, the data pins in the USB cable will be there, waiting ;-P

  2. You should buy a wrist rest (or whatever it is its name in english for that long cushion made of gel that you put in front of the keyboard and allow you to rest over it your wrists :-D ). Since I started using them for both keyboard and mice, my wrist problems literally disappeared.

      1. Well obviously if you’re in pain something is wrong. But physiology and technique vary from person to person and so solutions vary as well. If a gel pad didn’t work for you it doesn’t mean it won’t work for others.

        Not sure what you’re getting on about regarding bacteria. Keyboards are filthy in general.

  3. I used this (or one of its direct lineage forebearers) for a little while many many many many many winters ago. It was not destined to be my friend. My biggest issue was the slight delay it had when pressing a key and the print head moving (to allow for correcting mistakes, or in the case of Japanese, to pick the the right character). But it sure was pretty compared to the thousand pound monsters folks back then called portable computers.

  4. I have a similar one, made by Casio (Casiowriter CW16). Aside the now unobtainable cassetes, I had trouble finding a suitable external power source for it – and draining four D-cells quickly is terrible.

    Started thinking about some way to connect it to a computer (maybe hooking an ESP or arduino-ish mc to the keyboard pins rather than interfacing it with the memory/processor), but got way too lazy… after all, it would turn into a slow noisy text-only thermal printer…

    …which, by the way, would also be fun as a completely useless log printer. :D

  5. I had one of these – with an optional 25 way D type serial port and acoustic coupler. Or maybe it was an updated model, I honestly don’t remember.
    They came with small plastic toilet roll holder style adapters that could be slid in to slots at the back to support a fax roll.
    Still have the modem, not sure where the WP disappeared to tho.

    1. In a general sense that’s completely incorrect, in modern electronics it’s super important not to add wiring length to most capacitors. However, if you just meant for 1980’s electronics, knock yourself out with wires :)

  6. I HaD one of these back in the 80s. Typed hundreds of page on it and back then the ribbon cartridges were very affordable. Never thought of it as a computer, just a budget typewriter with a lot of options. It was the bee’s knees!

  7. Wait, so is it a thermal printer, or does it use a ribbon? The article text says it’s thermal, but there’s clearly a ribbon in the picture, and the article mentions it as well.
    Is it some kind of dual-print hybrid?

  8. Of course it’s the capacitor that is glued to the inductor that fails first. More thermal stress, and depending on the trace layout it might even be the capacitor that gets to handle the bulk ripple currents too, stressing it even more…

  9. I have an ep-43. Every thing works except end of page audible alarm – two beeps – which results in me typing over the last line.
    Anyone knows how to fix it? The bell for end of line works so I assume the speaker is fine.

  10. Great post! Anyone listening on this thread…I too just acquired one of these, and it would not work via AC adapter or batteries. About the 3rd time I tried, some smoke found freedom :) I took the machine apart, and there is no visible evidence at all as to which part fried, capacitor, IC, resistor, or diode. Anyone learn enough about these to guess? I suppose I can suspect your same cap, but it looks fine.

    @Kristina_Panos, on mine there is a fuse next to that inductor, where it appears you may just have a wire shorting it. Did you do that, or did it come that way?

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