I just got done listening to Rob “Flack” O’Hara’s latest “You Don’t Know Flack” (YDKF) episode #157 called, “Printer Extravaganza.” I thought I would try something different and post a full response on my own blog. This post may be light on some details because it is in response to information specifically mentioned in YDKF podcast, so feel free to listen to that first.
Meanwhile, if you like retro themed podcasts, I recommend you check out the entire You Don’t Know Flack podcast for yourself. You could even go as far as reading his book, called Commodork, in paperback or e-book versions. I found it an entertaining read myself.
Now, back to my blog response…
Great podcast, Rob, and thanks for the mention! That episode brings back my own memories of PrintShop and Newsroom… and even triggering memories of Certificate Maker. I think most Commodore people bought the MPS-803 because of its price point. I believe I paid $99 or something for mine, which was a bargain for someone like me who was only netting about $470 per month in cash assets on his Army paycheck in 1985.
The only problem with the 803 was the friction feed, which “encouraged” paper slippage. The alternative for precision paper feed was tractor feed, but the optional tractor feed add-on for the MPS-803 was rather costly. Therefore, printing a PrintShop banner successfully required careful monitoring of the MPS-803 as it was printing, or the paper would noticeably skew after a page or two. The only way to prevent that was to make sure the feed stack was PERFECTLY aligned with the printer. Very frustrating to set up, much less to correct mid-print on a multi page banner.
As for printer ribbons, I used to (semi-successfully) re-ink my ribbons. There were re-inking kits one could buy from an ad in the back of Compute! magazine, but I wanted to keep my monthly beer budget intact, so I fabricated a DIY method.
The MPS-803 ribbon cartridge left about 4 inches of ribbon exposed in its “storage position.” When the ribbon is installed in the printer, you pull this clip called a “ribbon guide” from the ribbon case and mounted it elsewhere inside the printer. What that process did was unwind a full carriage length of ribbon for the printhead to travel along while printing. Being able to easily pull out the ribbon like this made it convenient to re-ink.
For re-inking, I would stretch out a length of ribbon with the ribbon cartridge out of the printer, lay that exposed ribbon across lint-free towels, and go over it with a re-inking bottle used for rubber stamp pads. Then, I would wind the next length of ribbon through and repeat the process until the first length of ribbon reappeared.
The process would take some time, but at least I could do it while watching television or something. For the most part, the process works well for me and within my limited budget. New printer ribbons were pricy. Sometimes, I would notice spots in the printouts that were either too wet (from over-inking) or too dry (from under-inking). But they seem to correct themselves as the ribbon loops its way through the cartridge through normal use. The unused reserve of ribbon is all jumbled up inside the ribbon case, thus spreading the excess ink to the rest of the ribbon..
Also, Rob, I was hoping you would have mentioned a more obscure Commodore branded printer that was available, the DPS-1101 daisy wheel impact printer, one of which I happen to have in my personal collection. Oh well, I guess I better start writing up my own blog post discussing everything about it!