The Retro-Printer Module

The Retro-Printer Module – showing the centronics port which accepts data sent from the Computer

The Retro-Printer connects to any standard Centronics cable to capture the output sent by a retro computer, DOS software or industrial equipment.

The module plugs into a low cost Raspberry Pi computer (which has a very small footprint) and acts as a printer server. The Raspberry Pi then processes the output, and uses standard Linux printer drivers to send that output to any printer connected.

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B in all its glory

The Raspberry Pi 2 Model B in all its glory

This enables you to use any modern printer with your equipment, without any user intervention. There is no need to change any settings in your program, simply connect the Retro-Printer to your parallel port and use it as though you had an Epson FX-80 or other ESC/P2 printer attached.

The only setting up you will need to do is to set up your new printer from within the Retro-Printer’s control panel. Full instructions on how to do this will be supplied with the Retro-Printer, or, if you purchase the complete Retro-Printer package, we will be able to set it up for you if you confirm which printer you intend using.

Why the Retro-Printer is Needed

  1. The computer / DOS based program / equipment sends text and graphics to a centronics port (LPT1 on many computers). The text and graphics may also be sent to a standard centronics interface connected to a serial port.
  2. In the past, the printer would convert the text and graphics to a series of dots to be printed to the page using its in-built fonts and routines. Unfortunately, there are now very few printers which are capable of supporting this (mainly expensive dot matrix printers).
  3. The Retro-Printer replaces stage (2). It accepts the text, graphics and ESC/P2 control codes sent to the centronics connector, and then converts these to a pdf file which is stored temporarily on the connected Raspberry Pi, running Linux.
  4. Linux then uses its built in printer drivers to print the PDF to the connected modern USB Printer (or network printer).

But Google shows plenty of USB to Centronics convertors?
That is true, but those convertors are to allow you to connect an old style (centronics) printer to a modern computer which has a USB socket.

The Retro-Printer is designed to do the exact opposite – to allow the Centronics port on a vintage computer (or equipment) to connect to a modern USB printer.

When researching this project, we have only found one pre-existing solution on the market, which costs $600 (and only supports a limited number of USB and network printers) – we wanted to produce a lower cost simpler device which would support the latest range of low-cost printers.

In fact, the Retro-Printer can be used to connect anything with a centronics port to any printer which is supported by Linux, including USB printers, Network printers, and even a centronics printer if you have a USB to centronics adaptor (in the last instance, you may in fact need the Retro-Printer if your equipment does not have a suitable printer driver for the centronics printer).

Continue reading – Supported Applications