June 8, 1984: Thunderscan

by Chris Seibold Jun 08, 2011

In the early days of the Mac, things that seem positively cheap today were prohibitively expensive. Scanners, to cite but one example. Luckily for Mac users, a clever company managed to provide a low-cost scanning solution for the Mac.

The product was called Thunderscan ("High Resolution Digitizer for Macintosh") and it worked by leveraging a piece of hardware most Mac owners already owned. The hardware? A lowly dot matrix printer known as the ImageWriter. By replacing the print heads with a piece of hardware capable of scanning, users could import a wide variety of documents into their Macs.

The solution was slow because the ImageWriter was none too fast, but the Thunderscan's great output combined with its low cost made the device a huge hit. Genius Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld joined the Thunderscan project in June of 1984 shortly after he took a leave of absence from Apple.


  • I had all but forgotten the ThunderScan.

    Radio station I worked at in the eighties got one early on and I used it all the time for program guide graphics and in-house stuff.

    Yeah, sinfully noisy, but did the job.

    A good example of someone thinking backwards and making something neat happen.

    James Bain had this to say on Jun 08, 2006 Posts: 33
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