How to use a Smith Corona SE 200 typewriter as a printer

January 2, 2013 at 18:12:02
Specs: Windows 7

I have a Smith Corona model SE 200 typewriter. It uses a daisy wheel for printing. It has a connector on the back that will let it connect to a "Personal Word Processor" which was a stand-alone word processor with a video screen and the capability of storing documents on a 3.5" diskette. This was all made back in the 1980s, I think. The typewriter seems to work and I would like to know if it is possible to connect it to a PC running Windows 7, to let it be used as a computer printer. The manual mentions something called a "Messenger Module" which connects the typewriter to a computer for that purpose. The connection on the back of the typewriter is a 9-pin connector. Thanks for any help.

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January 2, 2013 at 20:20:09

The 9-pin connector is probably an RS 232 port. If it's configured as 8-n-1 (8 data bits, n parity bit, 1 stop bit) then it's a standard PC-type serial port. If it's not, that may be what the 'messenger module' is for. Do you have the manual for it?

If your computer has a serial port you can connect it there once you verify it's configured correctly. You could also try a USB to serial adapter.

If you manage to get that far, I have no idea how the OS will see the typewriter. You may be able to manually install it as a generic daisy wheel printer if 7 has that type.

I kind of doubt you'll ever get it set up but it doesn't hurt to try.

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January 2, 2013 at 21:38:24

Given how cheap most printers are today, it'd be better to invest in a decent stand-alone printer. Hardware of that age wasn't designed for a PC, and the 9-pin port is likely proprietary for the aforementioned Word-Processor screen (likely a monochrome screen with just generic text characters).

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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January 3, 2013 at 00:47:43

Even if you do manage to get it to work, it will be so slow and noisy as to not tbe worth effort. Have you ever heard a daisy wheel printer in full flow? I think modern safety regulations would require you to wear ear defenders.

There is also the ribbons t consider. Are they still available?


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January 3, 2013 at 11:47:40

Not to mention that a replacement ink ribbon for that would probably cost as much as a cheap printer, if you could even find one.

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January 3, 2013 at 15:17:18


But think of the "joy", the sense of accomplishment, if it worked... A bit like finding an olde steam engine; or an early motor car... which you managed to get working with modern fuels... Not to mention the noise, muck - and required time and patience...; and likely the £££/$$$'s spent...

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January 3, 2013 at 15:47:30

According to the typewriter manual, it looks like you have to have the Messenger Module, and connect that to a computer with an RS 232-C serial or Centronix Compatible Paralell Interface. I am going to call Smith Corona and find out if that is available and see what they say about connecting it to later model computers and/or connecting it directly. It looks like this was made in about 1985. But it works, and could come in handy sometimes, I think. I am thinking of multi-part forms that you cannot put into an inkjet printer. Ribbons and correction tape cartridges appear to be pretty easy to find on the internet, and not real expensive.

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January 3, 2013 at 17:48:09

You have to post back if you get this running, as sceptical as I am, I would love to see this work!

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January 4, 2013 at 01:29:42

I'm not sure if Smith Corona is in business anymore so finding that part may be difficult. A google search using "smith corona" "messenger module" turned up some info.

Keep an eye on ebay for it too. I noticed some feedback from an old sale there for the module. Another might show up.

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January 4, 2013 at 02:08:21

Well, Smith Corona is still around, but they are now in the thermal label business, not typewriters. Wikipedia tells the story about them. It is probably a crap shoot whether I will be able to find one of those Messenger Modules anywhere.

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January 4, 2013 at 05:24:26

Hi Rainbow, bear in mind free standing word processors pre-dated pc's as we know them. (some would argue they evolved into pc's).
Thus it is unlikely (although not impossible) you will find a specific (dos) driver for the Corona.

However it should be possible to use the Corona as a standard ascii printer.
It will not have graphics capability.
The fonts and character sets will only be those you have the daisy wheels for.

I think you already have the 'Messenger Module' as it sounds to be the add-on hardware pcb and/or socket.
Was surprised it has a 9 pin socket, as generally Centronics printer interfaces were used then.
Possibily there is a manual for the module itself, as it is an add-on, especially if there are dip switches involved.

The printer should be connected to a pc serial com socket (as it is thought to be RS232).
Note: connecting to the PC printer socket will cause much damage!!

The RS232 connections are not 1 to 1, as handshaking is involved, and a cable may need making, which is not difficult.
Possibly I can advise pin connections, if you advise whether the pc end is 9 or 25 pin.

There is a manual here:-

But the module does not appear to be included.

For multi-part forms a 9 pin dot matrix printer is the ideal solution and should print what you require.
I use and recommend the OKI Microline 192 Elite.
Mine is still going strong after over 20 years with the original print head.
Do not buy one of these types of printer without querying with me first for additional information.

Good Luck - Keep us posted.

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January 5, 2013 at 04:40:41

Thank you, #10. The connection is 9 pin. I have the actual word processor and monitor and it seems to work, but there is a keyboard that is mentioned in the manual, which I do not have, which is required to actually use the word processor. I don't think that the word processor is what is mentioned as the Messenger Module. I also have the manual for the word processor and typewriter. Furthermore, after using Microsoft Word and other word processing programs for years, I'm not really going to put a lot of effort into that monochrome-display word processing system. I have thought about this, and I don't get multi-part forms very often, and when I do, I think it will be adequate to just put them in the typewriter and fill them out manually. I don't think it will be like I need to save them as a document or anything because I am having to fill them out frequently (although that could change). So my thought is that if I can get this typewriter to work off of a computer, that's fine, but I am not going to lose much sleep over it if I can't.

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January 5, 2013 at 05:57:02

You could scan the multi-part forms; then use OCR software to recognise and import them into a Word format. Then fill in form (s) that way...?

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January 5, 2013 at 06:48:13

Hi Rainbow, free standing word processors generally came with their own (non-standard) keyboards.

This was because wp's had differing facilities/functions and thus their kb's reflected this, by often having many additional named (function) keys to the kb's of today. e.g. Delete Line

Please advise the make and model of your WP.

As a matter of interest, where are you located? I am in Hammersmith, West London.

My wp program is Wordstar Professional, which is a dos application running under W2000 and provides everything I require. Why re-invent the wheel if I do not need to.

Good Luck - Keep us posted.

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January 5, 2013 at 07:08:28

I am in Park Hills, Kentucky, USA. The word processor is a PWP (Personal Word Processor) System 14. It used the typewriter as the keyboard. I think the keypad that I mentioned is just a smaller one that has several of the commands, etc., that are not on the typewriter keyboard. I think when you connect the WP up to the typewriter, all key entered information gets sent to the WP, and displayed on the screen, etc., and you have to hit the print key to actually print it. When you disconnect the typewriter from the WP, it types like a regular typewriter. That WP & screen are soon going to be sent to one of these recycling centers where they collect all kinds of obsolete stuff like that.
I think I may have used Wordstar before, but it has been a long time. I am currently using MS Office 2010. Yeah, you're definitely right about reinventing the wheel. Thanks for your comments.

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