PDA

View Full Version : IBM 4201 001 (Proprinter)



Ole Juul
December 11th, 2011, 05:27 PM
I just got an old system and am trying to grok the parts. Does anyone have any history on the IBM 4201 printers?

All I can find is that it is an "award winning design" and "best seller". Also, there was a 1981 article on "first impressions of the IBM PC" in Byte magazine which showed what looks like the same printer which it refers to as "an IBM-labelled Epson MX-80. However this one does say "Manufactured by IBM, Armonk, New York." Serial number 47 2526428, copyright 1984, 1985. There is nothing which hints at Proprinter I, II, or III.

mbbrutman
December 11th, 2011, 06:12 PM
The original printer that IBM relabeled from Epson is a 5182. The Proprinter came much later - maybe around 1985.

They are pretty common - you should not have any problems finding information about them. I've sold a few that I obtained with PCjrs.

Ole Juul
December 11th, 2011, 06:46 PM
The original printer that IBM relabeled from Epson is a 5182. The Proprinter came much later - maybe around 1985.
Thanks Mike. That clears up the Epson thing then. Yes, with the '84 '85 copyright notice that makes sense. The system is a 5155, but I haven't opened it up yet to see what year.


They are pretty common - you should not have any problems finding information about them. I've sold a few that I obtained with PCjrs.

They appear to be common, and I've seen lots in the past, but after two hours with Google I have yet to find much. There's lots of Proprinter II mentions, but nothing specific - and nothing about the model I or un-numbered. I was hoping to find some ads or manuals so I could place it properly. Technical stuff, like printer codes and drivers, isn't what I'm looking for. What computers was it first sold with?

mbbrutman
December 12th, 2011, 05:11 AM
I'm thinking they are either late in the PC-AT product life or early in the PS/2 cycle.

I still have a Proprinter or two here, and a manual. I'll dig the manual out tonight and some of my other IBM propaganda from the era and post it.

I get the impression that IBM needed a printer for the launch of the PC, hence the re-badged Epson MX-80 with the graphics chip. The Proprinter was their second major pass at a printer for the PC series. (The PCjr had the compact printer and there was an early inkjet based on another mfg, but those did not sell in the same volume as the dot matrix printers.)

mbbrutman
December 12th, 2011, 06:57 PM
Factoids from the first edition of the Guide To Operations manual, printed in 1985 ...


Up to 200 CPS in draft mode, 40 in near letter quality mode
Uses cut sheets, continuous form paper, and mulitple sheet forms up to 4 sheets
Has room for 94 downloadable custom characters
Parallel or serial interface (I suspect most were parallel - I've never seen serial)

Ole Juul
December 12th, 2011, 10:22 PM
I'm thinking they are either late in the PC-AT product life or early in the PS/2 cycle.

I still have a Proprinter or two here, and a manual. I'll dig the manual out tonight and some of my other IBM propaganda from the era and post it.

I get the impression that IBM needed a printer for the launch of the PC, hence the re-badged Epson MX-80 with the graphics chip. The Proprinter was their second major pass at a printer for the PC series. (The PCjr had the compact printer and there was an early inkjet based on another mfg, but those did not sell in the same volume as the dot matrix printers.)

Thanks for that Mike. I think you're about right on the money with the Proprinter's role. The '84-'85 copyright fits well, the Portable and PCjr coming out February and March of 1984, and the AT coming out August of that same year. It's funny though that I can't seem to find the exact date of announcement though. I'm hoping someone here will come across a magazine article or advertisement. Google seems to have taken a dislike to me lately. :)

I did find an interesting piece of information and just went back there and see there is a little story broken up into tiny pages. Engineering Systems Research Center, University of California at Berkeley reports the following:


The Proprinter is a dot matrix printer designed and manufactured by IBM in the 1980's. The Proprinter was designed to be a low cost printer for use with the IBM personal computer (IBM PC). It embodies a new design trend in industry - developing products without screws, springs, pulleys, or belts; and with as few parts as possible. These steps make manufacture on an automated assembly line possible.

I think they got that wrong - lacking academic integrity and painting with too broad a brush. However, apparently a five member team was assembled to figure out how IBM could make a competitively priced printer. The Proprinter was the result. The rest of the story is here. (http://bits.me.berkeley.edu/mmcs/PROPRNT2/WELCOME.HTM) Charley Rogers was product manager of the Proprinter team so now I'm off to Google his name. With that as bait perhaps I can catch something.

Ole Juul
December 13th, 2011, 01:07 AM
This time Google came through, and I found out that the Proprinter came out in late 1985. The XT came out in '83 and the AT in '84 so although the PC was still in production up until 1987, I don't think the 4201 was particularly intended for sale with that model as suggested by the Berkeley report.

The New York Times has an interesting article called Revving Up The American Factory (http://www.nytimes.com/1987/01/11/business/revving-up-the-american-factory.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm) published in 1987. I recommend reading this if you're interested in American manufacturing history.

So in 1983 I.B.M. decided to go into the PC printer business, and in May 1985, it opened its airplane-hangar-sized Proprinter plant in Charlotte, N.C., which ties together 200 workers with 50 robots and 160 computers. Although many analysts criticize I.B.M.'s computer operations, few have unkind words for the Proprinter operation. Since I.B.M. started churning out its Proprinter 20 months ago, it has become the leading model and, according to Dataquest, captured almost 18 percent of an American market that the Japanese had easily dominated.

InfoWorld 5 Aug 1985 has an article (http://books.google.ca/books?id=AC8EAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA21&ots=VFvQ8y7h-4&dq=IBM%20Proprinter%20plant%20in%20Charlotte%2C%20 N.C.&pg=PA21#v=onepage&q=IBM%20Proprinter%20plant%20in%20Charlotte,%20N.C .&f=false) about the new Proprinter.

Proprinter Has Them Jumping - Competitors look for ways to weather IBM's expected onslaught in the low cost dot-matrix printer market. Printer manufacturers faced with softening prices are already scrambling to reposition their low-cost dot-matrix machines in the wake of early shipments of IBM's homegrown Proprinter.

So, in August of '85 we were seeing the first Proprinters on the market. I feel like I've gotten a bit of a grip on the 4201 printer. This is a significant model in the early consumer market. Now, I just need to figure out the model numbers. From what I've seen on the net, that is not easily doable and I may have to give that a pass. I found an IBM document which starts out like this:

4201-1, 2 Proprinter I, II, III, XL

This device is no longer offered for sale by IBM.

DIMENSIONS Width Depth Height
Metric 421 mm 343 mm 133 mm
English 17 in 14 in 5.5 in

Am I correct in assuming that all those models had the same form factor? It looks like it. Was there a difference between the "Proprinter" and the Proprinter I"? Why are some labelled "001" and some "002"? Perhaps I'll never know.

Agent Orange
December 13th, 2011, 07:42 AM
Ole:

FWIW - this is a liitle late and it looks like you got the info you wanted. I bought a DMP-130 in 1986 and it emulates the ProPrinter 100 except for the extended IBM character set.

dave_m
December 13th, 2011, 07:48 AM
Here is a link that references some part models with part numbers. My father had a Proprinter in the mid 80's that had a Lexmark label.
http://www.warpspeed.com.au/cgi-bin/inf2html.cmd?..%5Chtml%5Cbook%5Cddk%5CPRINTER.INF+ 1099

nige the hippy
December 13th, 2011, 07:57 AM
I used to work on them.
they need a drop of silicone lube on the guide rails
watch out for snappy plastic clips. (4 slots to take the lid off, but slide the keypad up & off first! Clips were prone to snapping even when new.
Paper & home sensors prone to chad in the optos
head ribbon cable gets occasional open ccts on one side of the page where it stretches round the corner.
beware of over or under lubing the ribbon drive "ratchet" spring - degrease, but add a drop of light oil.
front panel buttons do a variety of functions in different combinations when held on power on, including font selection & head alignment.

I thought they kind-of matched the PS2 but I was working on them rather later than when both came out.

Ole Juul
December 13th, 2011, 02:36 PM
dave_m:
Here is a link that references some part models with part numbers. My father had a Proprinter in the mid 80's that had a Lexmark label.

That seems to give a hint at the nomenclature.

IBM 4201 Proprinter Model 1 (4201-001)
IBM 4201 Proprinter Model 2 (4201-002)
IBM 4201 Proprinter Model 3 (4201-003)
It almost looks like "Proprinter I" would mean "4201 001". Is that the sytem? My particular unit does not have a I, II, III, XL, or any of the other numbers suggested by IBM and others.

As for the Lexmark name, that is interesting. My unit says it was made in Armonk, New York, yet the original factory was set up in Charlotte, N.C. It's a mess and I'm not sure I care to sort it out at this point since it looks like a lot of work. :)


nige the hippy:
I used to work on them.

they need a drop of silicone lube on the guide rails, watch out for snappy plastic clips. (4 slots to take the lid off, but slide the keypad up & off first! Clips were prone to snapping even when new. . . .
I thought they kind-of matched the PS2 but I was working on them rather later than when both came out.

Interesting. There's obviously a cost to the consumer from not using screws - and it's not obvious when you first buy it.

I think you're right about matching the PS2. These printers were around for a while and you're giving us real world information. The PS2 came out in 1987 and I bet the Proprinter would have been a good choice at that time.

billdeg
December 13th, 2011, 04:25 PM
I got a Proprinter in1987 with my PS/2 Model 25.

Ole Juul
December 13th, 2011, 09:05 PM
. . . My father had a Proprinter in the mid 80's that had a Lexmark label.
That's very interesting. Wikipedia says:

Lexmark was formed in 1991 when IBM divested its printer and printer supply operations to the investment firm Clayton & Dubilier, Inc.

I did figure out a few things though. The aforementioned New York Times article puts the release of the 4201 at March 1985. I also found another InfoWorld review (http://books.google.ca/books?id=EC8EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA51&dq=IBM+4201&hl=en&sa=X&ei=oxnoTrSMCsatiALb9smHAQ&ved=0CDkQuwUwAA#v=onepage&q=IBM%204201&f=false) dated 1 Jul 1985. It also says the printer was manufactured by IBM in Armonk NY. The factory being reported as built in Charlotte, N.C. confused me, until I talked to the guy who gave me the printer. As mentioned earlier, he had a career with that company. As it turns out, the factory was indeed in N.C., but the company headquarters was in Armonk. That was apparently a relatively small building, but the address was the one used when they said "manufactured in".

The Info World review had an interesting tidbit. RS-232C serial interface and 5K print buffer will be available during the third quarter of 1985.

CSBM5
March 27th, 2012, 01:28 PM
Ole Juul,

I was a member of the Proprinter development group in Charlotte, but I came into the game a bit late (early 1988 ). IBM setup a completely separate business unit for the Proprinter, and initially, the entire operation was in a secluded setting on IBM Charlotte's huge property (just west of the I-85 / WT Harris Blvd junction). The development, marketing, planning and purchasing groups were in an office building that adjoined the manufacturing floor specifically setup for the automated assembly of the Proprinter. By the time I transferred into the group in early 1988, the manufacturing operation had already been transferred to IBM's Lexington KY lab. Rumors were everywhere over the following year or so about the rest of the printer development in Charlotte being moved to KY, and they finally came true in 1989 when IBM consolidated most all of their printer development in KY. IBM Charlotte had other printer development groups also that were a part of the "rest of IBM", a low end laser printer group (headed by the future Lexmark CEO Paul Curlander) and a high speed line printer group.

By the way, IBM developed their own printhead for the 9-pin Proprinter that went into production with the Proprinter II model I believe. It was assembled in Arkansas by a subcontractor. The Proprinter III had an even faster version of this IBM developed printhead. I was plopped into the group right when the crunch was on to get the Proprinter III out the door on schedule (it ended up being late), so we (the entire organization) were on enforced overtime (with no additional pay of course) including Saturday hours. The 24-pin Proprinter X24 models all used an Epson 24 pin printhead which was incredibly complex compared to the awesomely simple design the Proprinter engineers came up with for the IBM 9-pin printhead.

It has all grown up around that area now, and IBM long ago sold the property (although you'll see there is still the road labeled "IBM Drive" around the rest of what was IBM's Charlotte lab site), but here is a link to google map's view of the original IBM Proprinter building (development and manufacturing as I described above). It's apparently occupied by Morris Costumes now:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=charlotte+nc&hl=en&ll=35.307158,-80.788919&spn=0.008502,0.011759&sll=35.306396,-80.789734&sspn=0.008502,0.011759&t=h&hnear=Charlotte,+Mecklenburg,+North+Carolina&z=17

It's been a really long time, but I might be able to answer a few of your questions.

Madrobby
July 1st, 2018, 06:38 PM
Late to the party, but there’s a great YouTube video that shows how it was designed to be easily assembled and serviced.

https://youtu.be/spDYSKl3kmo