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Old parallel port printers, making them work

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Getting a very old parallel port (or RS232C) printer to work can be a real pain in the butt!

I installed various very old pre-1990 printers, and found out the following:


1) The parallel port mode is very important. If it is not correct, the communication will appear to be working even though it is actually not! Very old printers, especially matrix printers, or those with parallel or/and also RS232C connectors, will usually want the parallel port mode to be "bi-directional". A very few may need "normal" parallel port mode.

Note: Choosing EPP or ECP or "EPP + ECP" mode will most probably not work on pre 1995 or so printers!


2) These really very old printers are actually quite rare, and the ppd file which gets installed during printer-install is frequently incorrect. This is because so few people actually use these printers, that hardly anyone finds out the wrong ppd file is being installed by default! Therefore after first making absolutely sure the parallel port communicates correctly, and then after that, if the printer prints alphabet soup instead of letters and stripes instead of images, your next step will be to check if you have the correct ppd-file installed.

Just one example for many: The 1989 HP DeskJet PLUS wrongly installs the following PPD-file by default:

"HP Deskjet Plus Foomatic/plc3... pcl 3.ppd.gz" THIS IS WRONG! Letters become alphabet-soup and stripes instead of grapics.

Correct for this printer is "HP Deskjet PLUS Foomatic...ppd.gz" (without the mention of pcl 3)


3) If the printer head on an old inkjet gets terribly clogged and does not seem to come clean, you may want to try to dissolve the clogged ink with the help of luke-warm water. If that does not work, you could try household window cleaner, the sort with a mild ammonia content. (Windex, Ajax glass clean, etc) The head (and only the head!) neads to be immersed in in it. Expect about a quarter of an hour, maximum one hour to get the head working again. In hopeless cases, overnight.

Caution: Never use alcohol, it can easily destroy the head! Never use strong-smelling ammonia solutions, that would dissolve parts inside the actual head! Do not bang, push or rub anything pointy on the head, it easily becomes mechanically damaged. A clean soft sponge thoroughly wet with window cleaner may be used for cleaning or massaging prt-heads. Always take your time, forcing it clean will ruin it!

Btw: My oldest HP inkjet printer from1989 still has its original head, often cleaned and refilled countless times. Good luck!



Edited by Helmut

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