Brother’s Last Word Processor

The eBay seller of this AX-45 couldn’t hide her enthusiasm for the typewriter (or the sale):

“This is a rare and rather beautiful machine. The product of a bygone friendly low-tech era.”

Couldn’t agree more, except to say the function-rich AX-45 was not so “low tech” at the time of its release in November 1987.

This one was sold with two “spare” ribbon cassettes (pictured below) that aren’t compatible with AX series portables.1

A generic no-name “Word Processor” User Guide (also pictured) didn’t seem to fit either:

After a little research, I was able to identify the machine depicted in the guide as a Brother WP-100L: the recipient of a “Good Design Award” in 1989 according to a Japanese website:

No reference to a model number anywhere in the guide, which refers only to “the last Brother Word Processor”. Perhaps “the last Brother Word Processor” (based on word processing typewriters of the AX series) at the time the guide was written, but definitely not the last.

A generic user guide suggests the WP-100L was either sold under various guises, or that the guide is applicable to a range of machines with different display specifications.

To some extent, this might include the AX-45, even though it’s a “Word Processing Typewriter” rather than a “Word Processor”. What’s the difference?

The difference is described in the user guide for the WP-100L, which has two modes of operation “Word Processing” mode and “Typewriter” mode”. Typewriter mode has two submodes “Type” mode and “L/L” Line-by-Line mode:

The AX-45 and other “word processing typewriters” are limited to Line-by-Line mode. which is described in the WP-100L guide as “a simple word processing mode”.

Since the AX-45 is an antecedent of the WP-100L, the keyboard layouts of the two machines are similar. The mapping of the function keys, however, are very different.

This from a German user guide for the AX-45 I found online:

Both machines have the same TW/WP mode key to the left of the main keyboard. For Line-by-Line mode on the AX-45, the important information above is:

Um die in Klammern (< >) gesetzten Funktionen auszlosen, betatigen Sie Bei niedergedruckter STATUS-Taste die entsprechende Zifferntaste.

To select the functions in brackets (< >), press the corresponding number key while holding down the STATUS key.

After toggling TW/WP mode, this allows me to switch to L/L mode rather than “Type” mode. The WP-100L doesn’t have a STATUS key, but instead has an OPERATE key directly below the TW/WP mode key.

Both machines have “word-spell: functionality and an IC Memory Card slot at the front right-hand side of the machine:

Both have the same platen knobs with variable line spacer button:

Both have the same cord compartment at the rear of the machine:

The obvious difference is the difference in display screens – the WP-100L has a 14 line by 80 character screen.

A parallel AX (18, 22, 24, 26, 28) series of e.t.s (mostly made in Japan but later also assembled in the USA and the UK) appear to be identical – with the top of the range AX-28 being on a par with the AX-45.

In the USA, the AX-28 was also sold as the ZX-50:

1 I’ve got more than enough Brother AX series ribbons. Spare ribbons for my Brother Super 7300, on the other hand, are hard-to-find.