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Thread: Printing from an old computer using a new USB printer

  1. #1

    Default Printing from an old computer using a new USB printer

    You never know how a cow catches a hare.

    A friend asked on a Dutch mailing list what could be done if you wanted to print on a new USB printer using an old computer. He already found https://www.retroprinter.com/ but thought it was a bit expensive for the few pages he had in mind. IMHO the price beats creating your own hardware and software.

    But maybe there are other solutions around that you know of and I would like to hear from them. Thank you in advance!
    With kind regards / met vriendelijke groet, Ruud Baltissen

    www.baltissen.org

  2. #2

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    There are converters like this one:
    https://www.amazon.de/AK-Nord-202573...dp/B01GDUM8PK/

    But unlike the opposite way (parallel printer to USB), this is even more a niche product and hence very expensive.

  3. #3
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    If the old computer can be networked with a new computer, setting up the new computer to act as a print server and pass all printing to the USB printer is an option.

  4. #4

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    The other complication is what "language" does the newer style printer use. Some of them support a text style language like HP PCL, but some also expect everything to be done with fonts and rendering to happen on the computer itself and only a bitmap to be send to the printer.

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    How old is "old"? And what software is running on the old system? There's always TCP/IP printing if the system is network-connected. Wifi print servers are easy.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    How old is "old"?
    Probably pre-Pentium II era, as no USB port would not be an issue otherwise.

    btw, if that "new USB printer" is dumb (e.g. GDI - all work done by the driver, not the printer), there's no way to make it work. The printer must at least understand some language like ESC/P, PCL, PostScript, etc. on its own.

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    USB was present on many P1 boards; was it present on 486 boards? I don't recall.

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    This question requires a lot more information to answer meaningfully. (The big one being the exact vintage and platform.) I've successfully played with LPT redirectors on my lowly Tandy 1000 to print to a file, exit the program, and throw the resulting spool file directly across the network to my networked printer using netcat. As long as these two things are true:

    1: The program you want to print from is willing to accept a DOS redirector (this probably covers most things but DOS being DOS there is going to be some software out there that grabs onto the actual hardware printer port with an iron fist and won't pipe traffic through the virtual port), and...

    2: You can find some common ground in print drivers or are willing to run some conversion software as a separate step.

    You can probably spit-and-bailing-wire some kind of solution. A thing that saves a lot of pain is having access to a "business class" printer that supports a reasonable number of legacy protocols; this is not uncommon for networked printers but, yeah, USB-only printers tend to be dumb as stumps so you'll need to run some conversion software. Explaining the whole mess is probably out of scope here but emulators for Epson, Postscript, and a decent zoo of other formats are out there.

    If we're not talking about a PC Compatible computer then obviously the options differ a bit.
    My Retro-computing YouTube Channel (updates... eventually?): Paleozoic PCs

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    Use a rpi or atomic pi as an intermediary? Not sure of the rpi, but pretty sure the atomic pi has an rs-232/c header.

    This came up a long time ago. Lots of people suggest networking. It may not be as straitforward (that is once you obtain the proper networking h/w for your vintage machine), but a sbc solution seems the most handy to me.

    I've held onto these Pentium MMX sbc's that I got years ago. I was perusing the manual last night and for the first time realized they don't even have USB!! Oi vay. The Atomic pi probably is the best solution as far as I'm concerned, because it can take Win10 and therefore drivers for anything won't be a problem.

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    If you're going to go for an APi, it seems to me that you might as well run the original software on it as well, no?

    Again, we don't have enough information.

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