Desperately Seeking a Brother WP-500

Back in the late ’80s I bought a dedicated word processor. My main criterion at the time was something that seems silly now: I wanted printed output that would be indistinguishable from a typewriter. So I got a Brother WP-500, which featured a daisywheel printer. This enabled me to produce documents that appeared to have been typed the old-fashioned way, but in reality all my documents were saved to 3.5″ disks.

Besides writing papers for college, I wanted to be able to send letters that would seem to be hand-typed, so that I could emulate Bruce West, author of Outrageously Yours. And indeed I got some good pranks out of this machine. But now it appears the joke’s on me.

After years of lugging that old machine from one residence to the next, in Bloomington and then New Orleans, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife, it finally met its end in 2005, when the federal levees failed and the lower level of our house was submerged in several feet of brackish water. Unfortunately that sort of thing tends to have a negative impact on electronic equipment.

I still have the 3.5″ disks with several years of writing stored on them. And that’s where this little tale of woe gets ugly. It seems that Brother used its own proprietary format on these disks. (Apparently this is the case for all of Brother’s models marketed in the United States that have the WP prefix but no suffix, that is, with no letters after the model number.) Although these are standard low-density diskettes with a 720 KB capacity, Brother’s perverted little format only uses 240 KB per disk, which makes no sense at all to me, but there it is.

The upshot is this. I can’t get the data off the disks. They can’t be read by DOS machines or anything on a typical modern desktop. I thought I could just use a more modern Brother to convert them to RTF or some sort of readable file format, but turns out that’s not possible either. Most data conversion companies can’t handle this format. The few that do are prohibitively expensive. $40 a disk is a bit much for me, since I have 20 disks.

It would be cool if I could get my hands on an old Brother WP-500. Then I could at least print these documents out and scan them for optical character recognition. Trouble is, such machines are hard to find. So I’m posting up here as a way of getting started on the search. I don’t necessarily even need to buy one. I’d be happy to beg, borrow or steal — or rent, at a reasonable price. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a WP-500. I think some of the other older models may be compatible. Problem is, I’m not for sure which models those might be.

So — any tips on finding vintage word processors?

Postscript: One may well wonder why I’m troubling over these old files that I’ve obviously been able to live without for so long. Well. Katrina acted as a giant filter on my life. I lost many old documents, making what I’ve still got all the more precious to me.

Post postscript: It seems I’m not the only one in the Crescent City singing the data recovery blues.

91 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking a Brother WP-500”

  1. I might sell it…or hold onto it for another 10-15 years and sell it then! :) Who knows. It could be a good, long-term investment!

  2. I have a Brother WP 500 works great, missing the latch is all that is wrong with it, so if careful when moving it, no problem. I live in Manitoba Canada, if anyone is interested.

  3. There is a WP-55 on EBay.com now… Google “brother word processor history” to find the unit that was featured on Pawn Stars.

  4. I’ve been offered $100 for my wp-5500 but I just think its worth more…or will be. I could also make an easy $100 doing data recovery for thousands of people in these forums. Anyone have a better offer? I’d be willing to print your data in the meantime…$25 per disk. 423.723.5656

  5. What I need is an old Brother WP 55 and a WP 3900 DS. Both my old word processors were left behind by accident in a move from FL to MS back in 2003, & I CANNOT open any 3.5 diskettes without the word processors that created them.

    Some of the 3900 DS (which is DOS-compatible) ended up on a Brother “Notepad,” which still used 3.5 diskettes. I got a lot of that data into Microsoft Word.

    But NOTHING will open any diskette’s data from a WP 55.

    Anybody out there know of one?
    Thanks!

  6. Is H. Reel still out there on this link? If so, you said you had a Brother WP 55 that worked perfectly, but it was back in the summer of 2010. At that time, my wealthy father-in-law had just died, and Stepmom–StepMONSTER, as we now call her–stole his entire estate and evicted us from our house . . . that HE bought! I had less than nothing that summer.

    I’m a bit more back in the black these days. IF you’re still there, H. REEL, please contact me re: your perfectly working WP 55.

    Thanks.
    Captain Rat (Alice Long)

  7. we have a WP-650 that we are having too much fun with and everyone is gawking at it like its an alien from mars, but it has a floppy drive and screen and it prints.

  8. Hi there –

    We’ve got a Brother WP-55 that we’d love to get into the hands of somebody who wants it. Please email me at [email protected] if you are interested or reply to this thread.

    Also, to the owner of this site, if you’d like me to try to recover your data, I’m pretty confident I should be able to pull the data off of those disks for you. Or I can at least point you in the right direction. I’ve recovered a lot of lost data in my past : )

    Mike

  9. I have one of these vintage word processors that works still. Anyone interested Pps send an email. Thank you

  10. I am seeking a Brother machine to read 720K disks from a Brother DP series machine. I think they are from a DP-540CJ. I still have the Brother conversion software.

  11. I had one of these and it got me through college. I loved it because it was so simple to use and had a built in printer. Maybe brother or another company should re-work the idea and put out a new version — just for writers. Mine went through several family members and was lost but just the other night on the History channel’s Pawn Stars show, a customer brought one into the shop and they gave him 20 bucks for it (that was all they would offer even though t still worked like a dream!). You may be able to contact them either at their Gold & Silver Pawn shop in Las Vega, NV or through the History channel website. It is my understanding that the Pawn Shop DOES ship items all over the country so it may be worth the call to see if they still have it hanging around.

  12. Yes i do still have the machine. Im not sure what to ask for the machine. Make me am offer i suppose. The machine is just sitting in storage so i would be glad to sell it to you

  13. Amando:

    Delighted with your response. Please get in touch with me by telephone, which I believe is the quickest and best way to proceed.

    (715) 423-5732

    Gib Endrizzi

  14. I was responding to Mark as well i believe. I will try to clear up the misunderstanding. I have a Brother WP 500. The machine does work & im willing to sell this machine if someone who would like to get it. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  15. I simply won’t give up. Someone out there has a WP-55 Brother Word Processor that os seeking a good home. Please, please let me hear from you!

  16. I have one that works. i was in the same situation but was able to get mine repaired. i have since printed all my data and scanned it into PDFs.

    it’s now just taking up space in my garage.

    e-mail me and i’d be happy to work something out.

  17. Are you still looking? I have a Brother professional daisy wheel word processor, “wp-5750ds”, with the original box, packaging, and manual. All still works – just tried it today.

  18. We had a customer bring in a WP-55 because the floppy drive went out on it. It is acting more like misaligned heads than a bad floppy.

    Does anyone know of where I could get my hands on either another drive, or a floppy drive alignment disk (3.5″ format), so I can at least fix the drive since it is acting like the heads are out of alignment.

    Thank you
    John

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