I still have my MX-80 programming manual, complete with a 3-part fold-out circuit diagram of the printer, and instructions for installing GRAFTRAX ROMs to add a graphics-printing option. This manual wasn't an option, it came with the printer.
The Raspberry Pi OS plunged another knife into the dark heart of Flash this week while adding drivers for Epson printers. The release notes for the latest version of the diminutive computer's operating system detail the inclusion of Chromium 86.0.4240.197 and, note that "Adobe have end-of-lifed Flash Player", the removal of …
My first Epson was the FX-80, which was attached to my Commdore PET 2001-8 (yes, the one with the chiclet keyboard) via an IEEE-488 to parallel interface box. Worked fine for about 3 years and then blew its internal power regulators up requiring a quite expensive repair. The FX-80 limped on for another couple of years before it got traded in for an HP DeskJet Plus - this was back in the days when HP printers were still good workhorses and not just crappy devices for marketing ink at gold bullion prices. Nowadays I wouldn't touch either Epson or HP printers having been stung by their more recent (i.e. anything post 2000) pieces of utter shite!
My FX-80 was replaced by a LaserJet 4L. That (and others I supplied to clients) just kept on going and going on cheap toner refills until the lack of parallel port PCs made them obsolete with probably years more oomph in them. Must have been 15 years.
Only problem is HP did too good so screwing replacement kit demand. Hence their move into a free inkjet printer with every cartridge. Perhaps they should change printer interfaces more often ;-)
until the lack of parallel port PCs made them obsolete
USB to parallel port adapters are still available as are network print servers, and for those early pre bi-directional port printers an Arduino can be taught to sit between a PC and one of those printers.
Perhaps they [HP] should change printer interfaces more often
For a while they used what I think were HD-36 connectors instead of the standard Centronics 36pin; they looked similar to the HD-50 SCSI connectors that replaced the C50 for narrow SCSI.
Probably a DC-37. If it comes to that, there is no such thing as an "HD-50" connector. That'd be a DD-50. The whole series is DA-15, DB-25, DC-37, DD-50, DA-9. Then there's the VGA connector which is an HDB-15.
Probably a DC-37. If it comes to that, there is no such thing as an "HD-50" connector.
No he was right, they're just not members of the D subminiature family. Plastic shells, two rows of pins at 0.05” pitch. Most familiar as the HD50 and HD68 connectors for fast and fast/wide SCSI, although I do recall the parallel port on some SPARCS was HD26 or HD36 (can't remember now). The latter could be confusing since they looked very much like the half pitch centronics connectors also sometimes used, but different enough not to mate together.
For some obscure reason I came across a cable with a miniaturised C36 one end, a DB25 the other. "3M" molded into the cover of the DB25, no other markings. The mini C36 is constructed just like a standard 36 pin Centronics, with a ridge down the middle, contact fingers both sides, about half as long. Also, locking clips in the shell.
 The reason I have such a cable in the first place is what is obscure as I haven't had a printer that it might have been used on. But adding it to my
junk pile Extensive Stash of Potentially Useful Tat is just second nature.
HP now do Instant Ink which is a subscription service where you get to print a number of pages per month for a tiered cost. Starts at zero for up to 15 pages a month, which is more than I print.
They send you the cartridges in the post when they receive a signal to say your old ones are low.
Not surprisingly, these cartridges last about 10 times as long as a normal off the shelf one.
Connecting a device, which rarely sees updates but does see all your important documents, to the internet and is on 24/7. What could possibly go wrong?
But yes, LX80... FX-80... Printshop and banner makers.... a terrible time for printing, but the computers were fun.
And MX-80 on Apple, Research Machines and BBC micro.
The RM 380Z (I think that's the model) only had 7 bits on the port. We modified a few to have 8biits. The I/O chip and the OS supported 8 bits (needed for graphics or extended characters), so the missing wire was a strange decision by Research Machines. As was having the bus ribbon cable on the top of the cards on the shoebox case instead of various other possible methods that would let you swap a card without unplugging all of them. It seemed a big step back from S10, 0 bus machines. A little later we had the Act Sirius 1, which was far superior to the IBM PC which arrived in the UK slightly later. Victor 9000 in USA, where the IBM was earlier.
IBM original: No graphics, no HW clock, no audio, low capacity floppy, shiny screen, edge connector ISA. Parallel and Serial needed an option card.
ACT Sirus 1: 800 x 400 graphics, matt screen, HW clock, Audio, parallel, serial and maybe GPIB? High capacity floppies. Though you could blow the fuse in the monitor if you set a wrong refresh rate.
You could just about cut stencils with the 9 pin Epson DMPs. We had a 132 column Epson up till late 1990s. The MX80 maybe bought in 1981 or 1982.
Brother Duplex Colour laser / scanner now.
I do have USB parallel and serial ports that are not that old. Work on Linux and Windows. Also I have HP and Dlink print servers. I've been meaning to see if my Roland A3+ plotter works on one. I did find that on Windows it doesn't work properly on parallel and much searching was required to find a serial cable from 9 pin to 25 and wired to suit. I've toyed with getting a knife blade to cut vinyl or a UV led with a set of adapted pen bodies to vary the spot size to expose either UV film for screen print or a PCB. But it's cheap to get PCBs in China or Eastern Europe and really a mill is better for instant PCBs than UV plus etching. I did have a mill set up for 0.8mm thick double sided PCB prototypes. Slow but less messy and more accurate than etching and faster than ordering.
My coat has a booklet of Epson DMP commands.
I've been meaning to see if my Roland A3+ plotter works on one.
We just got hold of a Roland CM24 cutting plotter, and after trying a bit to get it to work using an USB-parallel converter I remembered the two Axis540 network print server dongles that should be Somewhere In The Pile Of Tat. Found them, checked those out, configured one of them, plugged it in and told CUPS about it.
The Axis540 speaks lpd, and offers eight logical ports. Default it sends some ESCP/2 codes to reset the printer before and after each job, but I thought it prudent to blank those strings. CUPS is configured to use it as 'generic - raw', and this is what inkcut's HPGL output is sent to.
Worked right from the first attempt.
"They send you the cartridges in the post when they receive a signal to say your old ones are low."
A neighbour uses that service. During last summer's lock-down the automatic resupply system in the UK apparently ground to a halt. For several weeks the neighbour was sending me emails with attachments that needed printing. Some were for his sons' home-schooling activities - others were pre-paid courier labels for parcels.
You might enjoy Curiousmarc on Youtube.
Tweeting from a 1960's teletype:
Using an even older one as a Linux terminal:
Both teletypes have an interesting repair and refurbish playlist.
First "proper" printer I used was an LX-80 hooked up to a ZX Spectrum to which my Dad had also added a decent Saga keyboard and Opus disk drive. And then he caught me playing Daley Thompsons' Decathlon on it and was promptly banned from touching it ever again unless using Tasword for a school project under strict supervision.
And now I can't remember the last time I actually used a piece of paper for anything work related.
And now I can't remember the last time I actually used a piece of paper for anything work related.
Is that because you simply don't use paper any more, or that you just can't remember anything?
 as the "paperless office" is still anything but, I'm strongly disinclined to believe that.
Me neither. Working from home (lockdown) and Skype-ing with colleagues means I screen share if i need to show or discuss something with a colleague - which means no printing.
I honestly haven't printed anything for work for about a year now.
Creating an ebook and copy to Kobo or Kindle isn't bad to avoid paper. Especially to proof novels.
Sony also did Digital Paper, large up to nearly 14" eink based tablets for PDF after they stopped doing ebook ereaders.
Some companies still make them. But they are very expensive and awkward to copy back annotations or notes. Some use a Wacom pen.
Also laptop screens are often now 1080 tall rather than 1200 and 16:9, both of which is less good for the paperless office than laptops 2002 to 2005.
The FX80 was never the height of luxury, rather it was a "cheap" jack of all trades, but of course any full page printer at all was pretty luxurious in itself - even a 9 pin dot matrix would have been at least £500 of real money in the early 80s. The real luxury option would have been a Diablo 630 for text and/or an HP or Roland pen plotter for colour and graphics. If you thought dot matrices were loud you've never heard the machine gun that is a daisywheel.
Whilst I agree that the FX-80 had limitations, it was a product of it's time.
It was the dot matrix printer to aspire to when printers at home started appearing. This was mainly because it was the printer that was badged by IBM (with a custom ROM) with the IBM PC, but it was already carving out a particular niche before then.
What it did was introduce a printer language (I won't call it a PDL, because it was more like terminal escape sequences than something that describes a printed page), which because of market penetration, made other printer manufacturers copy it. So may printers implemented what became ESC-P, but it was always desired to have the original printer. And if you were wanting software on your BBC micro or Apple ][, or any of the other home computers that bothered to have a parallel printer port, there would always be drivers available for Epson FX-80 printers.
I think that the readership here who are criticizing the FX-80 are forgetting all of the other printers that have dropped from memory because they were so nasty. Seikosha GP-80 anyone? (which is strange, because Seiko and Epson were part of the same industrial group)
The FX printer family of printers started a line that led on to the RX (cheaper), LQ (24 pin), and LX (cheaper 24 pin) impact dot matrix printers of increasing print quality and eventually the Stylus range of ink-jet printers (which still understand ESC-P2 even today).
Of the other impact printers around at the time, probably the Star LC-10 would have been the FX-80's biggest competitor, and that was often badged by other companies.
I found that the much more expensive Oki printers were more sturdy workhorses than the Epson ones, but for home use, FX-80 (especially the later marks which were less bulky) were just fine. And we had Qume daisy wheel printers for quality work on the systems I looked after in the early '80s.
"[...] the machine gun that is a daisywheel."
IIRC with enough carriage return recoil to walk itself off a smooth desk.
I hacked my Apple II text editor in 1979 to allow me to insert escape sequences for the printer's enhancement capabilities. Now it occurs to me that they looked a bit like HTML tags.
Yes. There was a reason the acoustic hood was made from thick gauge steel. The bands (or worse, the chains in a chain printer) could break, causing it to fly into the side of the hood and do significant damage.
"Attaching a tractor-fed Epson LX-80 dot matrix impact printer was the height of luxury (second only to plugging in a floppy disk drive)."
Me, me, me. You are my technology doppelganger, however, you missed a step. On BBC Micro, which it seems like you're alluding to, you needed a Disk Interface, preferable DFS 0.9 with an Intel 8271 floppy disk controller, then a disk drive could be attached.
Ahh just read your bio, "intern 2018". I suspect the venerable Beeb was long gone, I'll mumble to myself. Error excused.
I too have the 3Tb version tucked behind my TV and serving the PI video.
Web interface is now dead to me...
Content is still usable but management is not.
Aparently the firmware can be flashed with something usable, but be warned, never herd reset it as then you can never create a new account to use it.....
[Too] Many years ago, our group had a dot matrix Epson which was used for multi-part stationery. It used to make a real racket so was kept in a cupboard with a piece cut out of the door to let the cables in.
When we moved office, there wasn't a cupboard available so I requested an acoustic hood for it.
The bean counters said "No! there's no need!" (esp as they were on another floor in a separate wing of the building). I argued but in vain.
My inner BOFH was awoken.
So I got hold of a box used for paper delivery (strong and conveniently sized), made a hole in the side and put it and the printer, in the middle of an open plan office (printer on top). The box + hole was just like a guitar's sounding box.
Cue a massive print of a job with loads of bar codes [especially noisy] on a fairly frequent basis on single part paper, thus requiring at least 4 times as many prints as really needed. My team, being forewarned, found reasons to be elsewhere.
Complaints arrived and it was pointed out that bar code labelling was a contractual obligation and that I had requested a hood but was turned down.
In less than a week, a hood magically appeared. To this day I don't know how it was funded (not from my project's budget) - could even have been a whip round from the others in the office for all I know.
Mine was a NEC P7, also 24 pin. Indestructible; the only downside was that the ink ribbon was exposed over the entire 15" width of the platen, so you had that length drying out when not using it. Its successor had a more sensible ribbon cartridge that sat on the printhead carriage.
It was quite noisy indeed, but it came with a piece of damping foam that fit underneath, and the same stuff covered most of the inside.
Although when I needed to print 30k barcode labels I kicked off the print job after a brief test, then left the house. Four times in total; the software only managed one column where the label stock was two wide, 15k labels per box.
I had a P7, too. Great machine for the time. It was the drying out issue that sent me down the route of self-inking ribbons!
Before that, I had the Atari 1027, and that WAS a beautiful printer if you wanted letter quality. I also managed to acquire a 1020 plotter shortly before I went PC.
Wasn't that a thermal printer? The prints used to fade after a couple of months exposure to daylight as I recall. Much like a lot of till receipts nowadays, which is a pain if it's the receipt for a modern Epson printer and you're trying to get a refund when it inevitably breaks not long after you've bought it.
No, it was an electrostatic printer. It used a spark to burn dots onto horrible metallic paper. They gave off a horrible smell as they vapourised the thin metal layer of the paper.
There were some third-party printers for Sinclairs that did use thermal paper, which may be what you're thinking of.
Original anon - according to wikipedia - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZX_Printer - no, it was a spark system that burnt off bits.
I'm assuming the downvote is somebody who's got issues with comments against modern thermal printers but to be frank I've got plenty of blank bits of paper around that used to be receipts so I will heartily agree with that statement.
I worked in a district council mid '90s. The Finance director didn't trust magnetic tape backups so insisted everything was printed off and stored in a huge basement under the town hall. I took a barrow load across once and got a look at the stash piled floor to ceiling for about 25 metres.
Obviously nobody would be able to find anything, and it was a huge fire hazard, but also the print had all faded.
I suggested reusing the older blank 'backup' paper rather than buying new paper, but local council so I was admonished for cheek.
Ahh, happy days. Mr Doggy does a Poo sounds a bit like a modern day update of a Speccy classic that I wrote soon after the launch of the rubber-keyed powerhouse. Tophat man takes a Dump. Astonishingly, I found a C12 Cassette the other day with this early masterpiece of mine on it, which depicts the heartwarming story of a man in a top hat who goes for a walk across the screen, occasionally depositing turds behind him.
I told my kids about its genesis on graph paper, working out how tophat man should look (not entirely unlike a skinny, armless, crap version of Jet Set Willy, as it happens) and how how the large dumps should look. I don’t think they cared - but they did show mild interest in the crap that he deposited.
Perhaps I should post it to the internet?
Epson still makes dot matrix printers tho.
Although they have technically regressed through the years. Color dot matrix printers are apparently now a lost art. Also, their prices have sorta stayed the same over the years.
I do miss them tho. Being able to talk directly to the printer and send control codes directly instead of using blackboxed APIs.
I have fond memories of my little Epson dot matrix in the mid-80s. Attached to my PCjr, it was my High School homework printer. I did not have another printer till after leaving the Navy in 94. The HP Laserjet I purchased from auction got me thru University. A huge lumbering beast with odd noises, the toner cartridge weighed more than my Epson had.
Similar. Started out with a Star LC-10 (I think) for BBC Micro with WordWise at school. Then a DeskJet 500 with PC for Uni. Then blagged various old lasers from work.
Just looked on eBay. Absolutely crazy prices on lc-10 and old dot matrixes in general.
Under vintage computing. Lol.
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