• Please review our updated Terms and Rules here

IBM PC Compact Printer

mbbrutman

Associate Cat Herder
Staff member
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
6,276
Printers often don't get documented as well as computers, but this one really seems to be obscure. (If you Google today you can't even find a picture of it.)

I have corrected the injustice:

http://brutman.com/PCjr/pc_compact_printer.html


Fun note - the graphics sample that I used came from a file called 'PAGODA.RLE', which is an old RLE file I picked up from my BBS days. I had a BASIC program that could display it on the screen. To get the printer output I wrote a C program to read the file, convert it to a bitmap, and then create a binary file with the printer codes for this specific printer. Now I can print my 25 year old RLE files! :)

(Does anybody else have RLE files laying around?)


Mike
 

Raven

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2009
Messages
2,752
Location
DE, USA..
Cool! Could you zip up the RLE program you made and any RLE file(s)? That'd be a fun thing to do on my Sr. Partner, which has a built-in thermal printer.
 

JohnElliott

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
588
Location
Sussex, UK
Cool! Could you zip up the RLE program you made and any RLE file(s)?

If you google for "PAGODA.RLE" you can find a download page that has a zip of some RLE files.

Having read this thread, I was inspired to write cistopbm, which will convert between CompuServe RLE and the Portable Bitmap format used by NetPBM. And thence, by the power of NetPBM, to just about anything.

pagoda.png
 

mbbrutman

Associate Cat Herder
Staff member
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
6,276
Cool! Could you zip up the RLE program you made and any RLE file(s)? That'd be a fun thing to do on my Sr. Partner, which has a built-in thermal printer.

Is the printer semi-Epson compatible? The compact printer uses ESC 0 and ESC K for the graphics.

I need to clean the code up a little bit - it was a late night hacking session for me to prove that the printer can do graphics. (The technical reference clearly says that it can't.) I should be able to get you something in the next day or two though.


Mike
 

mbbrutman

Associate Cat Herder
Staff member
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
6,276
If you google for "PAGODA.RLE" you can find a download page that has a zip of some RLE files.

Having read this thread, I was inspired to write cistopbm, which will convert between CompuServe RLE and the Portable Bitmap format used by NetPBM. And thence, by the power of NetPBM, to just about anything.

Ah, I made the mistake of searching without the quotes. I also had a terrible time finding the RLE specification - my old BASIC code was easy enough to port to C, but I was hoping to find the formal spec before I started. I did - after I was done. :) I found the same page you have linked. It's probably time to make a snapshot and hide it. It is surprising to me that it is not documented in other places. Compuserve RLEs were traded before the GIF and before the masses got Internet access, so they are pretty obscure.
 

JohnElliott

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
588
Location
Sussex, UK
I found the same page you have linked. It's probably time to make a snapshot and hide it.

cistopbm includes a brief summary of the format. Most of the RLE files I tested it against don't seem to follow the formal spec terribly well; they omit the end-picture signature, or include fewer pixels than there actually are. Even PAGODA.RLE contains runs of 95 pixels where the spec recommends 94 as the maximum.

Oh, and googling for "esc g h" rle finds a few other mentions of the format.
 
Last edited:

mbbrutman

Associate Cat Herder
Staff member
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
6,276
I had noticed the extra characters before the official signature when I wrote the BASIC program back 20 years ago. I attributed it to people doing some form of ASCII download. The file format uses printable characters (except for the ESC) character, so this would have been possible.
 

JohnElliott

Veteran Member
Joined
Sep 1, 2006
Messages
588
Location
Sussex, UK
Several ones on the CP/M CDROM have what looks like a 117-byte binary header, which contains an approximate file size, the original filename, and a lot of zeroes.

Anyway, I've fixed cistopbm so it can handle them all.
 

Raven

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2009
Messages
2,752
Location
DE, USA..
I have no idea how the thermal printer works in the Sr. Partner, it is integrated with the machine physically, so it just "works", no matter what DOS you boot, there are no drivers or etc.. It's support might be built into the illegal BIOS the machine carries, hehe...
 

mbbrutman

Associate Cat Herder
Staff member
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
6,276
Nah, the printer has its own intelligence. (They didn't start going completely stupid until the Windows 9x era.)

The printer has it's own small CPU and firmware that tell it how to talk to the computer, how to print characters, and how to print graphics (if it is capable of that). Normally the printer prints the text that it receives. If you want the printer to do something special such as print using boldface, change to compressed characters, subscript or whatever you send it special 'ESC' codes that the printer interprets and acts on.

Like Hayes was to modems, the Epson codes are to printers. Many printers are Epson compatible at some level. We need to find out what your printer is capable of emulating.
 

javixu

New Member
Joined
Jul 17, 2009
Messages
2
Hello!

Could you help me, please?

I would like to know in which year this printer was available for the first time in market.

Thanks!
 

Jorg

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2003
Messages
1,322
Location
Switzerland
I remember a very neat and compact HP thermal printer or inkjet printer that we used in our research labs around 1988. I can't remember what it is called though- and googling for 'HP Printer', well....

Does anybody have a clue? They were using tractor feed, but the printer was not much wider than the paper, a small square box.


By the way, should I start making pictures of my Oki 192 and IBM Graphics Printer? I'm afraid I dumped my Seikosha GP100 years ago, how stupid.
(*remembers still wants an HP7574 plotter...)
 

mbbrutman

Associate Cat Herder
Staff member
Joined
May 3, 2003
Messages
6,276
By the way, should I start making pictures of my Oki 192 and IBM Graphics Printer? I'm afraid I dumped my Seikosha GP100 years ago, how stupid.
(*remembers still wants an HP7574 plotter...)

I think there are still a billion IBM Graphics Printers out there, so don't worry too much about it. The Oki's were very nice printers too, but I haven't seen one in 15 years.


Mike
 

MikeS

Veteran Member
Joined
Dec 23, 2005
Messages
7,506
Location
Toronto ON Canada
I remember a very neat and compact HP thermal printer or inkjet printer that we used in our research labs around 1988. I can't remember what it is called though- and googling for 'HP Printer', well....

Does anybody have a clue? They were using tractor feed, but the printer was not much wider than the paper, a small square box.
Well, I've got a little DeskJet 320 here (battery powered); it doesn't do tractor feed paper but I suppose you could feed continuous forms through it since it's a straight-through paper path. It does have an optional sheet feeder though.
By the way, should I start making pictures of my Oki 192 and IBM Graphics Printer? I'm afraid I dumped my Seikosha GP100 years ago, how stupid.
(*remembers still wants an HP7574 plotter...)
Too bad; I've got an HP 7475 here looking for a home...
OKI, Seikosha... names fondly remembered, along with Citizen, Star Micronics, Raven... some of those in the basement somewhere as well...
 

Jorg

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2003
Messages
1,322
Location
Switzerland
Well, I've got a little DeskJet 320 here (battery powered); it doesn't do tractor feed paper but I suppose you could feed continuous forms through it since it's a straight-through paper path. It does have an optional sheet feeder though.

Too bad; I've got an HP 7475 here looking for a home...
OKI, Seikosha... names fondly remembered, along with Citizen, Star Micronics, Raven... some of those in the basement somewhere as well...

Well.. I guess almost *everybody* must have used or owned a Star LC-10..
My first printer for the PC I bought was a Citizen 120D. It did quite a nice NLQ for a 9-pin...but printing 25 page documents, I let it do that overnight.
Oh, to sleep with the soothening noise of a matrix printer in your room..

No, the HP was not a Deskjet. It dates from before they invented 'Deskjet', I believe.
I can't remember if it was ink or thermal.

EDIT: Bingo, some little wires in my head suddenly connected:
It was a ThinkJet, ofcourse
 

Jorg

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2003
Messages
1,322
Location
Switzerland
I think there are still a billion IBM Graphics Printers out there, so don't worry too much about it. The Oki's were very nice printers too, but I haven't seen one in 15 years.
Mike

My remark about the graphics printer needed ironic tags.
Oki, don't worry. Your grandson will probably find one while digging in the garden in 80 years. Working.
 

Trixter

Veteran Member
Joined
Aug 31, 2006
Messages
7,333
Location
Chicagoland, Illinois, USA
Necroposting in case anyone decides to try to use their Compact thermal printer -- I had a tough time figuring it out tonight and thought my experiences could save pain in the future:


  • If you have have nothing installed, the printer shows up as LPT1 or COM1.
  • If you have a modem installed, the printer shows up as LPT1 or COM2 (modem is COM1).
  • If you have a parallel-port sidecar, the printer shows up as COM1 (parallel port takes over LPT1).
  • If you have both modem and parallel-port installed -- which I do -- printer shows up as COM2!

Also, whenever I tried to print, I got timeouts and "printer not ready" errors. This fixed it:

Code:
mode COM2: baud=1200 parity=n data=8 stop=2 retry=p

The "retry=p" is to tell MODE to go resident and continuously retry sending data to the printer.

And finally, if your software won't let you specify COM2, this will redirect LPT1 to COM2:

Code:
mode LPT1=COM2

This was required to get PrintMaster Plus working, which has an "IBM Compact Thermal" driver but doesn't let you specify a port or destination.

Hope this helps someone, someday!
 

Great Hierophant

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2006
Messages
1,921
Location
Massachusetts, USA
I'm far from an expert on vintage dot-matrix printers. Is the output on Mike Brutman's page the best the compact printer could do? It seems hard to believe people would tolerate crooked and not-even particularly uniform text darkness, especially from IBM.

How useful was this thing if your software did not have a driver for the printer? It sounds like that without a driver, it may work as a generic ASCII printer, but not much else. I bet few drivers were written for it once the Jr. was discontinued. Can you bold, underline or italicize text?
 
Top