Thinking From the Box

Basilisk II: Solving the Printer Problem

David G. Bell - 2002.05.15

There are a lot of inexpensive printers out there. The overwhelming majority were built with parallel ports and aimed at the vast PC market. The latest hardware uses USB and Windows drivers, a combination with some advantages that is pretty well useless for low-end users.

There are two problems to deal with. The first is the hardware problem of running a printer off a Mac serial port, and the answer is to get a serial-to-parallel converter. These are not so easy to find and can cost more than a low-end Mac.

For those who want to use the Basilisk II Mac emulator, this is no problem at all. Just go to the "Ports" tag (in Windows, run BasiliskIIGUI.exe) and set the Mac's printer port to the system's hardware printer port - on a Windows PC this is usually LPT1.

The second problem is the printer. Instead of one of the many types of Apple printer, for which the Mac OS comes with the necessary drivers, you have to find some other driver.

The solution I found, which turns out to be buried in the usual FAQs, is Chuck's Printer Driver. (There's also a serial mouse driver. Have you noticed how few ADB mice come up on eBay, compared to keyboards?) This provides the printer driver code for Epson-type dot-matrix printers (and most are compatible with this standard) and LaserJets that support PCL4 or later.

Installation is easy. Unstuff the distribution file, and copy the driver file to the System Folder. Then use the Chooser, just as for any Apple printer.

I had to work with Basilisk II, since I don't yet have a serial-to-parallel converter for my Mac. Chuck's Printer Driver has print options for quality/resolution, and the low setting does give those ugly thick vertical strokes. At high resolution it's well up to the LaserJet's capacity, but slow. There is obviously a lot of data going to the printer.

The whole thing may be a bit slower than a genuine Apple solution, but it works. For emulator users, try running the Mac printer port at a higher serial speed. Serial-to-parallel converters will often limit the possible speed to 9600 bps, but serial printers were often no faster than that anyway.

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