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DOS Printer Needed?
Due to the size and range of printers, we do not carry a large stock of printers and would like to set up a network of second hand dealers who may be able to meet your requirements.
We have decided to concentrate our efforts on printers which can be used with the various retro computers still in use (for example, the Sinclair QL, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and BBC Micro).
Using printers with DOS
Anyone who uses an older type of computer, or DOS based programs will notice that it is becoming harder and harder to find new printers which their computer/program can support. Many old computers did not come supplied with a parallel interface, but a serial only port for connecting to serial printers. However, the centronics standard soon became adopted by Printer manufacturers, and many of these printers will work with the older style of computers, provided that you can obtain a suitable centronics (parallel) interface (or have a built in parallel port) - we provide serial to parallel converters for the Sinclair QL, ZX Spectrum and Cambridge Z88 computers. We may also have a few cables available on our miscellaneous page.
The other problem which faces older computers and DOS
is that many modern printers now presume that they will be
graphics only. They do not possess any in-built
fonts and rely on
Windows doing all the conversion work for them - if you
want to see if
a printer will support direct text output, ask the shop to
to a PC. Then open a DOS prompt and enter the
This attempts to send a directory listing direct to the printer as plain text. Many printers will fail to output anything. This can be overcome if you can find a fully ESC/P2 compatible printer, such as the Epson 850 Colour Inkjet Printer, or use an Epson compatible dot matrix printer.
Both the HP Apollo P1200 and Olivetti JP-192 are fully
and Windows (although they will only print in black and
white from DOS).
Using printers with Retro-Computers
Many retro computers (made during the 1980s and early 1990s) are either DOS based (such as Amstrad PCW machines (although PCW 8256, 8512 and 9256 will also require a special printer interface and/or extra memory - contact LocoScript for details) or send plain text directly to their serial / parallel port together with any specific control codes embedded within the software being used (generally EPSON control codes are catered for).
Although the HP Apollo P1200 and Olivetti JP-192 can be used quite effectively with the various retro computers, (provided that you do not need colour printout) you need to be aware that they use the PCL 3 programming language rather than standard EPSON control codes - you will therefore need access to the HP PCL programming reference guide.
You may also want to consider splashing out on a colour
many of these include both HP PCL-3 and Epson compatible
modes and in
the long run can work out a lot cheaper than an equivalent
the inks do not deteriorate once printed). One
printer we would
recommend is the Minolta/QMS 2300 DeskLaser which can be
found on Kelkoo.
An option for those still dependent on printers with a
parallel port and supporting the ESC/P2 control codes
from DOS) is also to look at the Samsung ML-2250 black and
printer and the Epson EPL-6100L (laser printer) .
A Software Solution to Printing from DOS
If you use an emulator or a DOS program on a Windows based machine and find that your program outputs data in raw text direct to the parallel port, then you may want to avoid purchasing a second hand printer or reverting to a dot-matrix. We have recently tested a program (Printfil by Davide Guolo) which acts as a printer filter and can either monitor the parallel port (LPT) or a specific file (you would need to set your program to print to file) and when any data is sent to that port or file, then Printfil translates the data and provides you with the ability to print it out under Windows. This is an excellent utility, although it currently does not support all of the EPSON ESC/P2 control codes, which may mean that you need to adapt your programs or the configuration file. If your program needs more support for EPSON codes, please use QPCPrint below.
Printfil even permits you to save the output file as an Adobe Acrobat file (.pdf), send the file as a fax (via 3rd party software) or print the document landscape on A4. An excellent utility, which we have used successfully with Sinclair QL and ZX Spectrum emulators. Cost is around £45 for a single licence - £25 for two or more licences. We feel that this is more than worth it.
There is now also a second option. Having written a successful print filter for the Sinclair QL QPC2 emulator, QPCPrint has been adapted to work in a similar way to Printfil. Aimed specifically at programs written to send output to an ESC/P2 EPSON printer (or plain text), QPCPrint handles a lot more EPSON codes than Printfil and is easy to set up and use. You may however, need to set up a batch file which starts "net use" each time the PC is reset. The big advantage of QPCPrint over Printfil is that it can even handle graphics.
QPCPrint costs only £45 (for email version with copy on CD). Instructions on how to use it as a virtual printer for DOS programs, appears on the QPC Print author's website.
A Hardware Solution to Printing from DOS and Retro Computers / Equipment
For those who need to connect a modern printer to older equipment which just has a parallel (centronics) port, or even a serial port with a centronics adaptor, we have created our own hardware module Retro-Printer.
The Retro-Printer connects to any centronics lead, and captures the output sent to it by older equipment and computers. It then uses the built-in Raspberry Pi computer to convert this output to PDF and print it using any USB printer connected to the Raspberry Pi.
This provides a simple low cost hardware solution, which should work with any equipment which outputs plain text and/or ESC/P2 graphics. The Raspberry Pi runs a version of Linux, and therefore can be connected to any printer which has a Linux printer driver.
For more details visit the Retro-Printer website.
Programming Printer Drivers
If you are interested in changing your printer driver, we would recommend that you download the ESC/P programming manual (last updated in 1997). Unfortunately, this does not cover programming the higher 1440dpi and 2880 dpi modes - if you want details on programming for printers which support these, you will have to register as an Epson Developer. The HP PCL programming reference guide is available, although this does not cover the latest implementations of this language.
you need help in setting up a printer for use with any
under Windows/DOS, please do not hesitate to contact
Second Hand Printers for Sale
We now list any available
second hand printers on SellMyRetro.com
- which is a site dedicated to traders in retro
electronics and computers.
NOTE TO SUPPLIERS: - We would like to set up a network of people who can supply second hand printers. It is impossible to hold sufficient stock of second hand printers to meet all needs and therefore it would be nice to be able to retain a list of people who may be able to supply the odd printer or two when we are asked by potential customers to find a replacement model. If you offer second hand printers for sale, then please get in touch with us.