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Thread: IBM Compact Printer video (Watch it Print!)

  1. #1

    Default IBM Compact Printer video (Watch it Print!)

    About 10 years ago I played around with an IBM Compact Printer, including doing some programming to exercise the graphics mode. Two house moves later the printer was nowhere in site and I had an itch to update the web page that I wrote so I started looking for another printer. After a few months one showed up at a reasonable price and it arrived yesterday. (Don't worry, the original printer is around here somewhere ...)

    For those of you not familiar with the printer - it is a small serial printer that uses thermal paper. The print quality is dreadful and it is slower than most any other printer ever created, which is quite an accomplishment. We are truly spoiled by modern laser printers. More details can be found here:


    The first problem I ran into was loading the paper. I think the printer has a small problem with one of the pinch rollers not disengaging, which made it difficult to get the paper fed. It is on a roll so that was just irritating for 20 minutes.

    The next problem was remembering how to print to it. Text is easy but I wanted to test the graphics mode. I have a test file that is a binary file already formatted for the printer (using the escape codes for graphics), but it kept cutting the print short for some reason. I thought it was overrunning the serial port so I played a bit with the MODE command, but it was simpler than that - when copying binary files on DOS to non-file destinations always use the /b switch to indicate a binary copy. Otherwise an embedded CTRL-Z in the data stream will end the data transfer.

    Then my Xircom Ethernet adapter packet drive would not load. I checked the power a few times and then realized that the @#$@# BIOS moved LPT1 because the printer was plugged in. (#justPCjrThings)

    Anyway, for your amusement, the IBM Compact Printer in action:


    For bonus points try to identify all of the stuff on the workbench. ;-0

    PS: Has anybody bought paper for this recently? It is just thermal fax paper on a 1/2 inch spool. I've seen some six packs at Office Depot and on Amazon, but before I commit I want to see if anybody else has recent experience. (1 roll is a lifetime supply. To use 6 I'm going to have to make an "8 bit Photobooth".)

  2. #2

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    I think the Atari 1027 printer has it beat in terms of slowness, and at least yours is still working, unlike pretty much every 1027 made at this point, due to their disintegrating rubber print wheels.


  3. #3

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    That's a neat little printer; the print wheel arrangement is new to me. (I'm familiar with the IBM Selectric "golfball" and daisy wheel letter quality printers.)

    And yes, that was painful to watch - it is *very* slow.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbbrutman View Post
    PS: Has anybody bought paper for this recently? It is just thermal fax paper on a 1/2 inch spool. I've seen some six packs at Office Depot and on Amazon, but before I commit I want to see if anybody else has recent experience. (1 roll is a lifetime supply. To use 6 I'm going to have to make an "8 bit Photobooth".)
    I bought a 6-pack from Staples. Email me with shipping address if you'd like a roll.
    Offering a bounty for:
    - The software "Overhead Express" (doesn't have to be original, can be a copy)
    - A working Sanyo MBC-775, Olivetti M24, or Logabax 1600
    - Music Construction Set, IBM Music Feature edition (has red sticker on front stating IBM Music Feature)

  5. #5
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    Massachusetts, USA
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    IBM typically did not design their own printers for their IBM PC line. I believe the 5152 Graphics Printer was essentially an Epson MX-80 with altered firmware. Does anyone know if the Compact Printer was a rebranding of another cheapo serial thermal printer? I suspect it is, and I also think it is likely that the information has been lost to time.
    My Retro Computing and Vintage Gaming Blog : http://nerdlypleasures.blogspot.com/

  6. #6

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    That information is probably not lost to time. It's probably just a matter of opening the printer and having a look at the circuit board and other parts.

    Also, IBM made cash registers at the time. It's possible this printer was homegrown.

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