Dissecting two Word Processors, Brother WP25 and Panasonic W1525

Dissecting two Word Processors, Brother WP25 and Panasonic W1525

Hello and welcome back! What I have here are two vintage word processors. Now, what these are meant to be is sort of
an upgrade from the traditional family typewriter. But, what they really are is, they are all-in-one
computers that are portable and they have printers built into them as well. And they were really marketed towards people
who had a lot of typing to do, but they didn’t want to use a computer, either because they
didn’t have the space for a full computer setup and a printer, or they just didn’t
want to learn how to use a computer. Now, this Panasonic unit here was made in
1992. Now, I know this because it’s written right
on the back. This Brother unit here is a little bit older. I’m not entirely sure on the date. That’s one of the things we’re going to
figure out here in a little bit. Now, this one is very similar to the one that
has been shown a few times on the TV series The Goldbergs. No, put away the word processor, I am not
writing my college essay! The main difference is the orientation of
the floppy drive, but otherwise it is very similar. So, what I’m going to do here is I’m going
to show you how these work, and then we’re going to take them apart and find out what’s
inside. Let’s start by taking a look at the Brother
WP25. These printers are what we used to call daisy
wheel. They rotate around and impressions of the
letters are pressed through an ink ribbon. Now, it’s very unlikely that I’ll be able
to demonstrate this because ink ribbons usually dry out after a few years. Anyway, this is how the ribbons are installed. It has a floppy drive for storing your work. Lifting the back you’ll find the power cable. So, let’s go ahead and plug this in and
see if it still works. OK, let’s flip the power switch. And it seems to come to life. It makes some strange noise that doesn’t
sound right and says the backup memory is cleared. I suspect the belt is broken in the floppy
drive. By the way, on the top it advertises the floppy
drive as being a 240K, which is a really unusual capacity for a 3 and a half inch drive. However, after a moment the noise stops and
everything appears to be working. At the top it says it has about 32K free,
which isn’t exactly a lot for typing a document, and at the bottom, we see copyright dates
of 1988 and over here 1985, giving us an idea of the times this was in production. So, I’m going to take a few minutes to type
something on here just to get a feel for things. I really like the feel of the keys and the
way they click. The screen is a monochrome amber style, but
it is remarkably sharp and clear. One thing I find annoying is the location
of the backspace. It’s not in the same space you would normally
expect it to be on a modern keyboard, or to be honest even a keyboard from the 80s. Anyway, I’m going to try loading some paper
in just to see if the mechanism works. Loading paper in this is actually more similar
to loading paper into a typewriter than it is a printer. In fact, this product actually has a typewriter
mode where you can type directly to the paper without using the word processor. So, I started to type a little bit just as
an experiment, and then after a moment I noticed something miraculous happen. I noticed that after the ribbon moved a bit,
it started to actually print ink on the paper. I was really shocked. You’ll have to forgive my typos, because
much like a real typewriter, once you screw up there is no easy way to fix it. So, since we have ink. I thought, maybe I should try to print the
document I typed up earlier. So, I’ll press PRINT, and then it tells
me to insert paper and press RETURN. Let’s do it. And there is goes. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard
the sound of a daisy wheel printer working! This thing appears to be working flawlessly
now. Admittedly, the ink should probably be a bit
darker than this, but I’m just amazed it is printing at all. Now, this thing also claims to have a spreadsheet,
because these buttons up here do different things depending on if you are in spreadsheet
mode, or word processor mode. But the best I can tell you have to load the
spreadsheet from this floppy disk. However, when I insert the disk, and tell
it to load the directory, the drive motor comes on and it sounds like the belt has broken,
and it just gets stuck trying to read the directory. OK, so let’s take a look at this second
unit, the Panasonic W1525. It’s from 1992, so it is a few years newer
than the last one. This one is kind of weird because the keyboard
is attached to the rear of the device. And the power cable is down in this hole. The keyboard plugs in on the side using an
8-pin modular jack. So, let’s power it on and see what we get. OK, it comes to life as well. This one has a monochrome green screen, which
is also very sharp and clear. There is a lot of glare showing on the camera,
but in person it actually looks much better. In fact, if I turn the light off in the room,
you get a little better idea. Now, unlike the previous model, this one has
a spreadsheet built right into ROM, along with a few other utilities. And, it’s actually pretty simple to use. I would imagine this was used for a lot of
people to do household budgets and mortgage calculations and stuff like that. I have to admit that the keyboard is not as
comfortable to type on. The keys are a bit spongey feeling and unfortunately,
the backspace key is also in the same irritating location. Now, I want to take a look at the ribbon on
this one. While the design looks really similar, something
seems very different about it. Rather than looking like fabric, this has
an almost glossy look to it like I’d expect from a thermal cartridge. And this white ribbon here, believe it or
not, is a correction ribbon so you can back up and it works kind of like white-out. Which, seems kind of silly being this is a
word processor and thus you should be able to fix your mistakes before you print. But anyway, here’s how the ribbon goes in,
and then you just lock it in like this. And, even though I have little hope of this
one actually printing either, I’m going to put some paper in there and we’ll try
it out. First, I’ll type out a little bit more on
the screen. Then I’ll press PRINT, and then return to
confirm. And there it goes. And holy cow, it’s working too! And it’s actually really dark! So, here’s what it printed. It looks like I may have had the margins set
wrong, but you still get the idea. Now, this text is super sharp and high contrast. In fact, here it is compared to the Brother
unit we did earlier. Granted, I suspect that one would be darker
with a new ribbon. But, here’s where things get really interesting. If I pull the ribbon out now and have a look
at it, check this out. You can actually see where the letters were
printed. This type of technology is called carbon transfer,
and it is sort of similar to when you use carbon copy paper. This was used on high end printers and of
course the ribbon is a single use, once it reaches the end, you have to replace it with
a new one. OK, so what we’re going to do now is take
these things apart, and see if we can figure out what sort of computer architecture that
they actually run on. In fact, that was the main reason I wanted
to make this video is I wanted to find out what kind of secrets these things have inside
of them. The second reason that I wanted to make this
video might be somewhat less obvious. And that’s because I’ve got 3 other video
projects that are currently in the works, but for one reason or another I’m waiting
on various parts to show up or whatever I need to complete those videos. Speaking of that, maybe somebody could help
me out because one of the things that I’m in desperate need of that I’ve just not
been able to find is, I either need to buy or borrow a Commodore PC-1. And these just, I’ve just not been able
to find one, so if you happen to have one of those, I need that for an upcoming video
on Commodore history, so shoot me an email if you’ve got one. I’m hoping this metal plate on the bottom
will give us some access to see the motherboard. I am not seeing any other real obvious ways
to take this thing apart. And to my amazement, I believe this is the
motherboard right here. Let me see if I can pull it out. Yeah, sure enough. I’ll just need to disconnect a few of these
wires so that I can get a good look at it. And here it is. So, looking at the board, this is the CPU. It is a Hitachi 64180, which is basically
a traditional Z80 CPU with a memory management unit and a few other goodies packed in with
it. So, this machine runs the same machine code
that you would find in a CP/M machine like the Osborne, or even the Sinclair Spectrum. This next chip here is the 6445 CRT controller. It is very similar to the 6845 CRT controller
used in literally hundreds of different computers of the 1980s, including the Commodore PET
and pretty much every graphics card for the IBM PC. These two chips appear to be 64K of dynamic
RAM. Interestingly enough, there appears to be
another 8K of static RAM here, which I suspect is used as screen buffer RAM for the video
chip. Down here we have 32K of ROM. And here is another EPROM, but I can’t tell
what size. And down here is a massive 512K worth of ROM. I suspect this contains stuff like the spell-checker
and thesaurus. So, that means there is at least 640K of addressable
memory on this board, which is quite a lot for a Z80 based system. Now, I can’t tell for sure what these two
chips are since they are custom chips. But, I suspect one of them is an input/output
chip for controlling things like the disk drive, keyboard, and printer. The other is probably some glue logic. Anyway, so now we know what everything is
on here, I’ll go ahead and put this back together. I’m really amazed how simple it was to get
to this, I figured I’d have to tear this thing into a million pieces to get to the
board. So, that was great of Brother to make this
board so easily serviceable. OK, now it’s time to take a look at the
Panasonic unit. This design should be at least 6 or 7 years
newer than the Brother unit, so it should be interesting to see what it uses. I see it has a similar looking metal shield
on the bottom, so I’m going to cross my fingers and hope this also reveals the motherboard. And, it turns out it does. And even better, I don’t even have to mess
with it to get a look at it. So, I didn’t have as much luck identifying
components on this board. This, is the CPU. It’s a Hitachi 6303, which is actually a
micro controller based on the Hitachi 6301 CPU, but also contains 24 general purpose
I/O pins, along with a tiny amount of RAM, some timers, and other stuff. Over here is an 8K Static RAM chip. I believe this chip is probably used in combination
with the CRT controller here, which is not one I’m familiar with, but at least I can
identify it as an off the shelf CRT controller. Now, down here is another 4K of Static RAM. But the rest of the chips I simply cannot
identify. Obviously some of these have to be ROM chips. But more importantly, I cannot figure out
where the 64K of RAM is, that this system is supposed to have. So, this one is quite a bit of a mystery. I tried looking through old catalogs to see
if I could find out what these units cost, but the closest thing I could find was this
1991 sears catalog which has a very similar looking Brother model, although the model
number is different. Anyway, the price is 495 Dollars, but I find
it interesting that it is advertised to play Tetris as well! That’s pretty cool. One other thing I noticed is if you look closely
at the picture, you’ll see that the floppy disk is actually inserted backwards into the
drive, which is absolutely crazy. Typically most floppy drives will not allow
you to insert the disk backwards. Like this one, for example, this is as far
as it will go. Interestingly enough, the drive on the Brother
model will let you insert the disk pretty much all the way, so that’s kind of weird. So, this brother unit is actually pretty cool
because if one had the time to spare, it would actually be a pretty cool hacking project. Because, one of the things you could do, since
it has a Z80 compatible processor and a lot well-documented, off-the-shelf hardware, you
could in theory remove the word processing software ROMs and then replace it with some
sort of BASIC, or even some games or something like that. Now granted, I doubt that the video chip supports
any sort of bit-mapped graphics, but I’m sure you could do like Commodore PET style
graphics or something like that on there. You know, I used to see machines like this
in the store when I was a kid, and I used to play with them a little bit and I was always
really disappointed because I was like, “wow, it’s like a little portable computer. This would be so cool, you could carry this
around.” And you know, they didn’t cost nearly as
much as some of the other portable computers that had come out at the time. But, my only disappointment was that they
didn’t run BASIC. They didn’t have a serial port, you couldn’t
connect them to a modem, you couldn’t run any other software on them. So anyway, it would be cool if I did have
the time to actually hack it to make it actually possible even though it would be 30 years
to late. Anyway, that about wraps it up for this episode,
so as always, thanks for watching!

100 thoughts to “Dissecting two Word Processors, Brother WP25 and Panasonic W1525”

  1. Guess What? they are selling old Atari consoles at Dollar General But they are brand newly boxed and made Like if you have seen them at Dollar General

  2. @The 8-Bit Guy Hello, would you happen to have free time to dump the rom contents of the brother machine?
    I have a hungarian version made under license (Rosytext mini from rolitron). It would be interesting (and also give some free hints) to compare the content of the two firmwares.

  3. I always dreamt of having a machine like this when growing up (never having heard of word processors before this; I always envisionned a cheaper, more limited laptop). Wish these were still common place – an organizational tool with integrated printer sounds AMAZING

  4. I was surprised by how much faster the Panasonic unit is. I still have the Brother word processor my mom bought when it was new. She bought all the blank floppies for it, ink ribbons, daisy wheels, and assorted spare parts she could get. Dozens of these things just in case the machine and its parts stopped being manufactured. Up until I got her a new laptop a few years ago she was still using the old word processor to do all her typing. Hers has a 2 line LCD display of usable typing space. And like in this video you can type directly to the paper.

    Her machine is quite a bit slimmer and has a built in handle on the bottom. Although I must say the one you used is so much quieter than what she owns 🙂

  5. that brother was like my roommates 'computer' when I was in University back in 1992. I was running a 386 at the time I think using wordperfect 5.0 – so long long long ago.

  6. I still have my brother word processor, similar or the same as the first one featured. bought it around 1990…it was a major improvement for doing papers for grad school and my stories and plays. I haven't tried plugging it in in years. I should.

  7. Brought back memories. My sister had a chunky Brother WP with a daisy wheel. I had a somewhat sleeker Panasonic. It was about half the height of the WPs in this video. It had a hardshell cover you put over the keyboard and screen, and had a small flip up LCD screen that displayed, I think, something like 4-6 lines of text. I don't remember the print mechanism but it was not daisy wheel (because my sister's, you could buy different wheels for new fonts and I was bummed I didn't have that option).

    Mine also took SS DD disks. No, it doesn't mean same [stuff] different day. Single Sided Double Density. Of course it was a rather obscure disk in the very early 90s. Plus you couldn't just hop online and look them up or try to buy them. I finally found out I could use a double sided disk, it just wouldn't use the other side (I guess I found this out from an in store worker).

  8. Ive always wondered something, it seems that older products have darker colours of plastic most often, is this a design thing or does it have to do with discolouration/degradation from old age and exposure?

  9. This is probably the display they were inspired by creating the Pip-Boy for Fallout 3 and New Vegas. The Brother one I mean.

  10. i also have a word proccesor, it's way less complex. it also has a typewriter mode, and has a text lcd screen, but it does get a job done.

  11. Learned to type on an electronic type writer then did reports on a word processor. Good back in their time.

  12. We cast you out of the Cult of Nerd for having NOT watched Discovery. You Dirty Mainstream Heathen, you.

  13. Probably the floppy is inserted in reverse to show that it is a disk for the purpose of the advertisement –or at least I hope so! 🙂

  14. Good video, but it did seem rushed. I would of liked this to be at least a few minutes longer, or, better still one unit per video, including the repair of the Brother disk drive. I know, it's a lot of work putting together video, but, just my opinion. Very enjoyable though.

  15. Hey i have a dell optiplex with pentium 3 windows 98.

    i do not know op still get that, but i'm good at that.

    And ran a little.

    I wanted to make a sliper out of the case. or do you want to have this beautiful piece of history? call me back

  16. This is a test. Of course there is no inmk.
    Wait a minute, saomething is comimg out°
    there is ink!

  17. WP ink ribbon leaves empty spaces where the letters are punched in

    My 30 year old typewriter ink tape that has been used multiple times and still writes crearly

    Y to SHAME

  18. I had a grey version of the Panasonic in middle school, and I wrote so many papers on that thing. Never realized the ribbon worked that way.

  19. This is kind of an odd experiment idea, but have you ever tried rehydrating an ink ribbon? (assuming they used water soluble ink and not polymerizing oil base or something) I'd suggest just taking the side off the ribbon cartridge and putting it into a steamer for a bit. I make no guarantees it would work, but it could be a fun experiment. And if it did work you could have a lot more printer fun.

  20. Change the display to LCD and it can be used again. It would be very funny to submit a unique typewriter style project to submit in school. Other kids will bring their latest font prints. But the typewriter one will be cool

  21. The industrial design of that Brother one is actually pretty cool and attractive. The Panasonic, not so much, though having the bigger screen is nice.

  22. The 8-Bit Guy This word processor Brother isn't WP25. This is Brother WP-85 ! Look on front of the case of Brother word processor.

  23. Wouldn’t it be possible to trick the computer into loading “Spreadsheet” software form the disk drive?

  24. Woah pal, slow down! Your channel is becoming way too awesome!
    Seriously though, that sub count is nearly at 1 mil! Keep up the fantastic work!

  25. I imagine the photographer for that catalog purposefully stuck the diskette backwards in the machine to show the more distinctive gate end, so that it's more recognizable as a diskette drive.

  26. I had a Brother wp like this one all through college (dating myself here). I think mine was a bit further along. It had a green screen and it had a ribbon setup like the Panasonic. Yes, it had a spreadsheet mode, and yes it could play Tetris!

    I don't think that grinding sound you heard at startup was a bad drive; mine made that noise every time I powered it on

  27. Staples sold these things.
    Never saw anyone buy them.
    Back then a lot of paper forms were used.
    So a type writer was useful. But any cheap type writer will do.
    And DOS, ProDos and Mac word processors were well established.
    Most people used WordPerfect on DOS and Macs.

  28. I beleive its possible to respool ribbon from an IBM wheel writer, with plenty of tender love and care of course.


  29. carbon transfer: back in school i had a typewriter with that lift-off correction. the teacher never found any corrections. very nice and clean looking. think of the transfered letter is lifted-off from paper with something like tesa strip not overpainted with white color

  30. The photographer thought the disk looks better backwards 🙂 I had an electric typewriter that had memory, so when you made an error, you could erase what you wrote. That's probably the lowest level of word processing. I did still get some money from it when I graduated and sold it.

  31. I just love the way the first machine prints. Both seem like very practical usable devices for their time.

  32. They still make ribbon cartridges for many model printers, type writers, and word processors. I just bought a few for my Epson DX-20 daisy wheel.

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