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'[OT] do inkjets and laser printers accept ASCII?'
1999\11\10@100639 by Mark Skeels

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PIC People,

I have an application where I want to send ASCII text to an inexpensive
inkjet printer's parallel port. However, it seems that it ignores my ASCII
output; the same device connected to a dot matrix printer does fine.

Can you shed any light on this?

Mark

1999\11\10@101651 by Paulo Soares

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If it's a 'normal' printer it will work ok but some only work connected
to windows and that may be the problem. I have an (old) hp520 that works
well in ascii and others will do too, just run away from the 'winmodem'
type of printers.

Best Regards,
Paulo Soares

> {Original Message removed}

1999\11\10@102258 by eplus1

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Most inkjet printers are "WINPRINTERS" and do not have the brains to even
decode and format simple ASCII page layout commands like Carriage Return,
Line Feed or Tab. They have no Page Description Language other than the raw
binary picture data they expect from their MS Windows printer driver. This
avoids the need for them to have image buffer ram for the PDL to be rendered
into and saves the software development time for the PDL parsing and
rendering code. I don't know if the data formats are documented anywhere.
There are programs that can translate PCL, Postscript and other PDLs into
image data for inkjets. See http://www.pcltools.com and the other links at
http://204.210.50.240/techref/default.asp?url=language\pcls.htm

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{Original Message removed}

1999\11\10@125109 by M. Adam Davis

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There are two issues to consider:

1) All laser printers and some (few) inkjet/bubblejet printers need to
see a form feed character before printing a page.
2) Some printers have no brains, ie, they don't know how to take ascii
input and form characters on the page, they only put dots where the
computer tells them to.  Often referred to as winprinters, they require
certian commands and codes to be sent to print anything.

Chances are, since you aren't getting garbage output, that you need to
send a form feed (or a few line feeds, ie, it won't print until it has a
few lines of text to print, since the print head may be larger than 1 or
two lines of text) for it to react.  Let's see...  ascii 11 (decimal) is
line feed, 13 is carraige return, I think 10 is form feed, but don't
hold me to that.

Of course, you could always read the printer manual, but chances are it
doesn't have any low level info.  <sigh>  They don't document 'em like
they used to.

-Adam

Mark Skeels wrote:
{Quote hidden}

1999\11\10@131614 by Wagner Lipnharski

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"M. Adam Davis" wrote:
>
> There are two issues to consider:
>
> 1) All laser printers and some (few) inkjet/bubblejet printers need to
> see a form feed character before printing a page.
> 2) Some printers have no brains, ie, they don't know how to take ascii
> input and form characters on the page, they only put dots where the
> computer tells them to.  Often referred to as winprinters, they require
> certian commands and codes to be sent to print anything.
[snip]

Those printers (with no brains) should be extinct at this point, since
thre is a required standard that all printers should print pure ascii
text.  Most of them use Courier 12 points as standard.  To make a test,
just go to a DOS partition and type "COPY C:\AUTOEXEC.BAT LPT1:" and
press enter. If your printer still quiet after that, press your printer
"eject" button, it would print the buffer contents, even if it requires
a "page eject" character "0Ch".

1999\11\10@131619 by eplus1

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Good point Adam....

It is true that some inkjet printers (like the HP 5xx series) do understand
PCL level 3 which includes the ASCII commands listed at:
http://204.210.50.240/techref/default.asp?url=language\pcl\asciiprn.htm and
the Form Feed would be necessary to get the printer to print the page.

If anybody knows where the format for the data sent to the winprinters is
listed, please let me know. The only source of this technology seems to be
http://www.pcltools.com and the site owner does make his living selling
solutions like this (at reasonable prices) so I doubt he will reveal his
sources (and I wouldn't ask him to).


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{Original Message removed}

1999\11\10@134756 by Mike Werner

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Wagner Lipnharski wrote:
> Those printers (with no brains) should be extinct at this point, since
> thre is a required standard that all printers should print pure ascii

Required by who?  Seems many of the printer manufacturers out there must
have never heard of this standard, because thjose lobotomized printers are
still coming out - one example is Canon's BJC-5000.  Another example would
be most - if not all - multi-function devices (i.e. those gizmos that are
supposed to combine printer, scanner, fax machine, etc in one device).
There are still many printers out there that require a platform specific
driver to work.

For the original poster:  What printer is it that you are having troubles
with?
--
Mike Werner  KA8YSD           |  "Where do you want to go today?"
ICQ# 12934898                 |  "As far from Redmond as possible!"
'91 GS500E                    |
Morgantown WV                 |  Only dead fish go with the flow.

1999\11\10@194547 by Wagner Lipnharski

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I was kidding of course.

The ridiculous savings they do in avoid to use internal fonts and a
little processing about ascii data, is at least a big ignorance from
those decision makers.  The need for a "smart" external pre-printing
processor (windows, unix, mac, or other), is at least showing how
ignorant they are, with a bunch of other kind of processing equipments
as monitoring and stand-alone equipments in labs, hospitals and research
environments (that doesn't run any of the above platforms) turn those
printers just scrapped out of the selection list.

My daughter has one BJC-5100, and I got mad about it, not because the
lack of ascii support, but also because it comes with two ink
cartridges... one mixed cartridge has a mini-cartridge with the basic 3
colors, and an attached mini-cartridge with black, the second black
muscular cartridge (I don't know, probably 2 ounces of ink).  Well, you
can mix it all, use two color cartridges or two muscular black ones...
problem is, if you use the standard setup, you can not use the muscular
(second cartridge) black with the color... it means, if during regular
color printout the mini-black goes empty, you simply don't have any
black to print with colors, even with the big black one full... at
least... ridiculous. It only serves if you choose "print all in gray" at
the setup...  To tell you the truth, right after print less than 100
pages of regular school material, this daughter's printer got its
mini-black empty... I am seriously thinking to return the unit.  Are you
thinking it is a negative adv for Canon? you can be sure it is.

You know what? I think it is time for those crazy guys to *talk* to the
consumer, and try to understand what we want.

Mike Werner wrote:
{Quote hidden}

1999\11\10@212234 by hgraf

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{Quote hidden}

    Well this is certainly nothing new, I think the consumer has to weigh
the cons (capital) and benefits in searching for a printer. When I bought my
inkjet it was $800 (an HP560C), it was almost top of the consumer 8 1/2"
inkjets out there. It has a big black cartridge and a seperate 3 colour
cartridge. Many higher end HPs still have it this way, but many Canon's and
others do it the way you describe. Again, it depends how much you print. I
don't go through many pages in a month (that's why I got an inkjet instead
of a laser) but I can't imagine what it would have been like going through
small cartridges like that. Plus, have you noticed that the small catridges
don't cost much less than the big ones? Guess where they are making money?
For example for my printer there are two capacities of black cartridges, one
has I think about half the ink, but the smaller is about $30 CND and the
larger $40 CND, not a linear scale there! :) TTYL

1999\11\11@082228 by paulb

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Wagner Lipnharski wrote:

> I was kidding of course.

 I think we knew.  :)

> You know what? I think it is time for those crazy guys to *talk* to
> the consumer, and try to understand what we want.

 I think they know what the consumer wants, and you picked the right
word.

 You and I Wagner, and most of this list as I would see it, are *not*
their target audience.  We are by and large *much* too discerning, which
means we are far too troublesome as customers.  Better we didn't
purchase the cheap trash in the first place.

 The target market are people who are *happy* with a lifetime measured
in months, or dozens of sheets.  If you buy the special "photo quality"
paper, then you'll just about match ink and paper costs.  It's still
cheaper than the photo shop anyway.

 I've mentioned before - I frequent garage sales.  It can be
challenging, for example I saw one of those $120 printers on a table
(in a plastic bag, sitting in the sun which I never like) a few
Saturdays ago, asking $50.

 Owner had purchased a BJC-5000 or something near - it was obvious as
the box was sitting nearby with other junk for sale in it.  Every
picture tells a story.

 Well, I thought for rather too long, not whether to pay $50 for the
device, which was "almost new" and did look pretty clean, because I had
not the faintest intention of paying that.  No, I was considering
whether to offer $20 or not, and hesitating not because my offer might
be considered rude (I've long since realised the reality of the
situation), but whether I would really use the printer having paid $20
and bought a cartridge for it as well (I knew it was empty).

 The consideration that this was a Winprinter (I'm sure there must be
Linux drivers available) didn't occur to me.  It needn't have mattered
much as all I want is a colour printer for home use - kids projects and
the like.

 And for this use it matters little - efficiency and need to run
Windoze, though if you did want an output device for an embedded system
you would certainly be up a tree.  But for most of these applications a
conventional dot-matrix isn't so bad surely?

 (So what happened?  Well, I do work part of Saturday mornings and when
I came back after lunchtime, he had "shut up shop".  I presume he still
had the printer, and I kept my $20.)
--
 Cheers,
       Paul B.

1999\11\11@100110 by eplus1

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I would guess that the major savings in not supporting a Page Description
Language is that no ram is required in the printer for the image to be
rendered into. At 720dpi, a letter size page would be around 5 mega bytes
uncompressed. RAM is still expensive and was more so when these printers
were designed. Also, developing a PDL requires the development of a driver
to translate Windows GDI calls into your PDL. You can't make the PDL = GDI
because the GDI is 700 or more functions so you have to try to implement the
more common and send rasters for the rest (asking windows to render the
unsupported functions to a bitmap for you). Since you ALWAYS have to write
the bitmap stuff anyway, why not just ask Windows to render the whole damn
thing and only support bitmaps? You also don't need as powerful a processor
in the printer (a PIC will do and does nicely). Its a logical chain of
events in my mind. The only time that it doesn't make sense to do this is
when the ppm speed of the printer exceeds the speed with which image data
can be transferred to the printer. So the fast, high-res. lasers still have
PDLs.

Re: the ink cartridge. Look about for a good recharging kit. Its the only
way to win with an inkjet.

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{Original Message removed}

1999\11\11@141045 by William Chops Westfield

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   The consideration that this was a Winprinter didn't occur to
   me.  It needn't have mattered much as all I want is a colour
   printer for home use - kids projects and the like.

Yeah.  The sad part from an "ignoring the computer" point of view is
that most of these printers are REALLY LOUSY for the application you
mention.  They're generally designed for "business graphics" - mostly
black text with an occasional color graph or piechart or something.
Start printing those KIDPIX drawings, which tend to have a full page of
your kid's favorite color and a resolution that is actually rather
coarse, not to mention really uneven color usage that wrecks havoc on
multi-comparment cartridges.  Bah.  I wonder if anyone comes close to
having a printer that is optimized for children's use.  You really
want something along the lines of a plotter that take crayons :-)

BillW

1999\11\11@150315 by eplus1

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There has been a line printers made using wax thermal transfer technology or
some such buzz phrase which basically WAS printing with crayons! For a kids
printer, however, they were only in the price range of Richie Rich!

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{Original Message removed}

1999\11\11@153222 by paulb

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James Newton wrote:

> I would guess that the major savings in not supporting a Page
> Description Language is that no ram is required in the printer for the
> image to be rendered into.  At 720dpi, a letter size page would be
> around 5 mega bytes uncompressed.  RAM is still expensive and was more
> so when these printers were designed.

 Perhaps, but...

 The printer still requires enough RAM to load enough data for a swipe
of the printer head.  In that respect, it's no different from a
traditional dot-matrix printer, except that it has more jets, more DPI
and runs faster so on-the-fly computation is more difficult.

 Only the latter consideration really explains why the printer couldn't
have a limited-font character mode to print from ASCII under DOS.  The
older dot-matrix *were* sufficiently slow to look up the Character
Generator ROM for each character in the line and convert it to dots.

 Having to use two or more swipes to render a line of text (or
graphics) was never a great problem, and there is a trend to faster MCUs
so this latter can't be a real limitation either.

 It comes back to "The User doesn't want to do it, so why provide it".

> The only time that it doesn't make sense to do this is when the ppm
> speed of the printer exceeds the speed with which image data can be
> transferred to the printer.  So the fast, high-res. lasers still have
> PDLs.

 Exactly.

William Chops Westfield wrote:

> Yeah.  The sad part from an "ignoring the computer" point of view is
> that most of these printers are REALLY LOUSY for the application you
> mention.  They're generally designed for "business graphics" - mostly
> black text with an occasional color graph or piechart or something.

 I take this to mean they are simply badly designed mechanically.
Software should by-and-large do what it is told to - if it it told to
put the dots there, it puts them there.
--
 Cheers,
       Paul B.

1999\11\11@162002 by Wagner Lipnharski

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I know somebody at Canon, called him today, and asked about those stupid
brainless printers.  He answered with a question; "Do your computer send
ASCII to your video monitor?", I answered; "Ok, tell me where can I buy
a PCI printer "driver card" that can do the same job to the printer as
video cards do, when I poke ASCII chars to PC video memory address
B800h-BFFFh in text mode DOS, and I will accept your question as a good
answer.

He assumed he never knew it was possible to write ASCII directly to
video memory in text mode... he is an EE, then you can understand why
things are done this way... "the past doesn't exist, even if it carries
marvelous solutions"

Somebody said, and I agree, we are getting old, grumpy, and trying to
keep things the "good" way they were, but it is impossible.  Probably
when processors will be running at 8GHz and I/O speed would be around
2Ghz, someone crazy enough will come up with a solution to have all our
printers dealing with TCP/IP and plugged directly to the net, so to
print a regular letter will still taking a whole minute, the same as
today in Windows, the same as yesterday in DOS with a 8MHz IBM PC-XT and
a dot matrix LX-80.

Wagner Lipnharski
---------------------------------------------------------
UST Research Inc. - Orlando, Florida
online classifieds? http://www.ustr.net/classifieds.shtml

1999\11\11@172856 by Clyde Smith-Stubbs

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On Thu, Nov 11, 1999 at 04:17:40PM -0500, Wagner Lipnharski wrote:

> Somebody said, and I agree, we are getting old, grumpy, and trying to
> keep things the "good" way they were, but it is impossible.  Probably

Actually, I don't agree. The problem with printers that rely on a Win95
driver to work at all is that you then can't drive this printer from
Linux, BeOs, or whatever other O/S you might prefer to be using - or
from something like a PIC.

However, you can buy printers that understand either ASCII or a standard
PDL (e.g. PostScript) - you just have to pay more for them.

> printers dealing with TCP/IP and plugged directly to the net, so to
> print a regular letter will still taking a whole minute, the same as

But we already do that - our office network has 5 printers on it, all
TCP/IP interfaced. One laser printer, one inkjet (both PostScript) and
three dot-matrix. The first two have built-in ethernet interfaces, the
dot-matrix printers run off a TCP/IP print server box. It's fast!
There is less than one second delay from sending a print job
to when the dot-matrix starts printing.

So, really the answer is to buy the right kind of printer. There are some
at reasonable prices (e.g. HP) that understand PCL and ASCII.


--
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