The Commodore Years - Hardware - Printers
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Commodore 4022
Commodore 4022 serial 507856 made in Japan.
A slow and very noisy dot matrix printer for PETs. A Commodore version of an Epson printer, it uses a tractor feed and continuous paper to produce a low quality result up to 80 characters wide. Printing is in one direction only rather than bi-directionally as in later printers, meaning that the print head has to return to the left edge before printing each line. True descenders are not possible, so the letters g, j, p, q and y sit on the line rather than having their tails below it.
The printer connects to the IEEE port and if used with a disk drive must be last in line. Originally there was a paper tray attached to the printer.
Commodore VIC-1525
Commodore VIC1525 serial 6 04488 made in Japan.
Also slow and noisy, a dot matrix printer available at the same time as the VIC 20. The 1525 like the earlier 1515 is a Seikosha adapted for Commodore. The printer uses a tractor feed and continuous paper. Useful for listing programs, the printer produces a low quality result. True descenders are not possible. The plastic cover actually reduces the noise level - to plain deafening!
This printer connects to the serial port and if used with disk drives must be last in line. At the back of the printer (above right) is a switch with the options from left to right: T (test print), 5 (device number 5, selected if this is the second printer) and 4 (device number 4, selected if this is the first or only printer). Next to this is the serial connector.
Commodore MPS-803
Commodore MPS803 serial XH5027737 made in Japan.
One of the most common Commodore dot matrix printers. The MPS803 has only 7 pins and so, like the 1525, cannot print true descenders. This printer can be daisy-chained, that is other serial connections can be added to it. At the back (above right) are two switches. The left one is used to select device number 4 (switch to the left) or 5 (switch to the right). The one on the right is the paper feed pitch selector (one sixteenth inch when switched to the left, one eighth to the right). Beside these are two serial sockets, one to connect to the computer, the other to add other printers or disk drives.
Commodore MPS-1230
Commodore MPS1230 serial 0060221990 made in Italy.
The MPS1230 has a 9 pin resolution and a better print quality as a result. Shown here with a sheet feeder, the printer can be converted to take continuous paper with the supplied adaptor. As well as the serial connector, the 1230 has a parallel interface (above right) and so can be used with a variety of computers.
Commodore 120-D with tractor-feed
Commodore 120-D
Commodore 120-D serial 2203921-77 made in Japan.
This is a Citizen printer with a Commodore badge, and my favourite type. The 120-D allows near letter quality (NLQ) printing and a high level of options. The printer has the ability to take a selection of cartridges for different makes of computer and with the Commodore interface (below right) prints the full range of PET characters. It can take continuous paper (above left) or individual pages (above right). Still noisy by today's standards, it was a huge improvement over its predecessors.
Citizen 120-D
Commodore interface for 120-D
Citizen 120-D serial number BU018022 made in the UK.
The Citizen 120-D can be adapted for use with a wide range of computers. I've fitted mine with a Commodore interface. Unlike its well used Commodore counterpart, this one has not yellowed.
Commodore 1520 Printer-Plotter
Commodore 1520 Printer-Plotter AJ5 014612 (Japan). A tube of pens and the pens with their caps.
The 1520 has four small replaceable pens, black, red, blue and green. The pens are tricky to install and must be removed from the printer after use to avoid drying out. The 1520 takes a roll of paper and can be used to plot graphs or to list programs. I never really found a use for it but it can produce good graphics.
All of my printers, except the 1520, are of the dot matrix type. Text or graphics are produced by a column of pins which print or leave a space as required, moving across the paper as they do so. The print quality depends on the number of dots and how close they are together.
The Commodore 1525 in fact has only one pin, or rather a hammer. This moves in and out as required by the software. Behind the paper is a revolving drum or "platen". This has ridges on its surface. Where a dot is required, the print head strikes the ribbon which is then pressed against the paper and the platen. The position of each dot (or not) depends on whether or not a ridge is present on the platen.
 
Sample print from 1525
Sample print from 803
Early dot matrix printers like the Vic-1525 and the MPS803 cannot properly print letters like g, j, p, q and y because the bottom of each letter is on the same line. This gives an adequate result for program listings but is insufficient for most other purposes.
 
Sample print from 1230
Sample print from 120-D
Better quality from nine pins on the MPS1230 and better still in NLQ (near letter quality) mode with the 120-D. This latter gives a result similar to that of an electric typewriter, used in offices until the arrival of the pc. The 120-D allows the printing of true descenders because there are two rows of pins below the line.
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