Buffer/Epson PrintersReviewed by Ken Harms
Practical Peripherals, Inc.
31245 La Baya Drive
Westlake Village, CA 91362
As you have probably noticed the ATARI can put letters on the screen faster than any printer can print them. To compensate for this speed discrepancy most printers have a small amount of "onboard" memory which acts to buffer the incoming data. The buffer fills when the ATARI issues a print command. The fill occurs at relatively high speed. The ATARI then must wait while the printer empties the buffer as it prints at a relative snails pace. This fast fill, long wait cycle repeats until the current print job is completed. It is very wasteful of your time.
If the buffer were larger the print/ wait cycle would be much shorter. Practical Peripherals now sells a buffer for all Epsons which holds over 16,000 characters. This board, the MBP-16K, fits inside the Epson and connects to the ATARI 850 Interface, if you own an Epson, you can add this powerful accessory for $159.00.
I called the Practical Peripherals folks and ordered one. Good service; it arrived in a few days—always a good sign. Even I had no trouble following the simple instructions: open the Epson, remove taped-in plastic door, plug in board (needed a number 0 Phillips screwdriver), dose Epson! plug in printer cable. In less than five minutes, I was buffering!
What productivity! My Visicalc sheet with 50 rows of 17 columns each 12 spaces wide is in the printer in less than 10 seconds!. Of course, the printer churns away for another three minutes but I've gone on to save that sheet, call in another and start modifying it. I don't feel bad running a draft of this article in Letter Perfect—it takes only 8 seconds.
After connecting the Macrotronics graphics interface, I dump a full graphic screen to the buffer in 31 seconds. By my calculations, the ATARI drives the buffered Epson at a rate of 750 to 800 characters per second, about 10 times as fast as the printer without a buffer.
The buffer holds about four pages at a time. The Practical Peripheral buffer handles larger jobs by accepting the first 16,000 characters in one stream and a new line every time a line is printed. While this is happening, of course, the ATARI slows down to printer speed.
I also installed the board in an MX-100 with the new Graftrax Plus; it worked perfectly.
After extensive testing (the publisher owes me a new ribbon! ), I found that the Practical Peripherals MBP-16K operated perfectly, with no hassle, on all tested software. After many contacts to verify the results of my testing, l found the staff to be knowledgeable and helpful. If you have an Epson, I recommend the MBP16K. When you order, be, sure to tell them it's for an ATARI and that you want "Revision 2.11" or later.