|wickensonline.co.uk Retrochallenge 2010 Winter Warmup Entry La75plus|
LA75 Plus Printer
I like ebay. There i said it. For all its faults, and they are numerous, it does
bring hobbyists and vendors selling retrogear to my virtual doorstep. Can you
tell a story is coming? Well, to cut it brutally short I'd been watching a
vendor selling brand new DEC LA75+ 80 column dot matrix printers. List price was
something like £150, but through my lacklustre and apathetic 'campaign' of
pestering him once every three months or so managed to secure one for £70 just
If I was 10% less apathetic and 10% more perverse I would have youtubed an
unboxing video. In reality I was hoping I hadn't just spent my money on a
retro-doorstop. I also got paranoid about finding a ribbon (as the original one
supplied was clearly past its best) but in the end secured two suppliers, one of
which was charging a satisfyingly small £1.75 each!
The ribbons are compatible with a few other printers, including some Apple and
The printer connects via either a decconnect serial cable or a standard
centronics parallel cable. The decconect cable can be plugged into a VT
terminal, decserver or vax/alpha box. All of these configurations have their
merits - the most flexible for quick prints is plugging into a terminal - no
printer setup required except on the terminal - you simply either 'print screen'
from whatever box you happened to be logged into or use the 'automatic' mode to
print stuff out as it appears on screen. Remote software such as ALLIN1 can be
used to select the locally connected printer aswell.
Probably due to the proliferation of multi-part forms that have been the staple
diet of dot matrix printers for a number of years the America standard 'letter'
size dominates tractor feed paper supplies when dealing with narrow-carriage
printers. It works out as 80 colums and 66 lines with standard printer settings.
I run the printer with 132 colums set as default. When printing via a decserver
from the VAX I have to create a 'virtual terminal' which acts as the conduit
between the VAX and decserver running over ethernet. The virtual terminal is
actually configured like a terminal, so I have to set the LINES to 66 and the
COLUMNS to 132 to get the right output when printing without any formatting.
Setting up a VMS print queue is fairly straightforward after configuring the LAT
terminal device and you can specify all sorts of burst and flag page options.
My last dot matrix was a Panasonic KX-P 1124 ditched (not really by choice)
about 10 years ago. In draft mode it produced a horrible text by using alternate
pins of the 24 pin head to produce wavy text. The DEC produces great draft
quality, and letter quality (who remembers that phrase?) is very nice.
I've configured the printer up to work from a linux box and it will happily
print graphics and text (once an appropriate LF/CR filter is applied)
The great thing about a retro printer for retro computers is that it is
flawlessly compatible and that most compilers and assemblers of the era produce
listing files that are designed to be printed on tractor feed paper.
There is something highly civilised about perusing a listing printed on
continuous paper. I love it!