Alphacom 42 Printer

reviewed by Alan Tims


Issue 10

Jul/Aug 84

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Are you interested in a relatively cheap printer?

The Alphacom 42 is a small, lightweight, and fast thermal dot-matrix printer which plugs directly into the serial port of the Atari, or disk drive or 1010 cassette, using a special interface cable. The printer can be used with other computers, provided the appropriate interface cable is purchased.

The printer comes complete with its own powerpack and cable and the special interface module which plugs into the rear of the printer, rather like a cartridge. Some care is needed to plug this in as the module contains a slightly protruding PCB but, once safely installed, the module can be left in position. Also provided is a roll of white 4" thermal paper, a separate instruction booklet for setting up and a fairly comprehensive booklet for Atari-specific print instructions. The manufacturers claim a life of 10500 x 40 character lines for each roll of paper. There are two buttons on the front of the printer, one for power on/off and the other for paper feed. The instructions describe the use of these buttons for a self-test mode which prints lines of 1's and 8's and the character set.

In use, the printer is reasonably quiet and is certainly not as noisy as some other, more grown-up, printers such as the 1027. Print quality is reasonably good, being blue on white, although I understand that black on white paper is available, and true descenders are provided. The printer supports ALL the Atari text characters and graphics symbols, even in inverse video, and including the ESC-CTRL characters such as the clear screen 'bent-arrow' symbol. Something which I believe Atari's own printers do not do. The usual print commands can be used such as LPRINT, LIST "P:" and OPEN #n,0,0,"P:".

Using special commands described in the booklet it is possible to obtain complete screen graphic dumps, although I must confess that sometimes the results are not always predictable. This is however possibly more of a shortcoming of my programming than of the printer!

The printout photocopies quite well and it would probably be possible, with careful cutting and pasting, to produce a reasonable quality larger document.

Given the limitations of the printer - only 40 columns, no expanded or double-height text, not logic seeking etc. - I feel that it is ideal for program listings, for debugging, disk cataloguing, record-keeping etc. and could also be used for casual correspondence or even writing this article! As such it represents good value for money at 99.90 inc. VAT with paper at 6 for 5 rolls.

The Alphacom can be obtained from some Spectrum Computer Centres or direct from DEAN ELECTRONICS LTD., GLENDALE PARK, FERNBANK ROAD, ASCOT, BERKS. TEL. 0344 885661 but you will have to add p&p. The firm will send you further information and sample printout on request (please mention PAGE 6 magazine). The printer is also advertised as being available from Smiths, Laskeys etc. but I have not seen it and you may have to ask.