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Overcoming printing woes on dot-matrix printer

Question : I am trying to use an old dot-matrix printer. When I install the printer, everything goes well, but when I want to print, it prints out garbled characters. What settings do I need to set? I went into the basic input/output system (BIOS) and there are a few settings for my parallel port (ECP, SPP). Which one should I choose?

Answer : Most parallel printers will work with the printer port set to “SPP”.

There are several reasons why a printer might print out what appears to be garbage characters instead of what should actually be printed.

One reason is that the parallel port mode is set wrong. The parallel port mode should usually be set to “Standard Parallel Port” or “SPP”.

To determine the correct mode, check the printer documentation.

If the printer supports Enhanced Capabilities Port (ECP) or Extended Capabilities Port (ECP), it will say that in the printer documentation.

Otherwise it would be a good idea to set the parallel port to SPP mode. Another possible reason is that the drivers are incorrect or buggy.

To remedy this, install the latest drivers for the printer.

Garbled printing can also be caused by a faulty or loose printer cable. Check that the cable is properly secured at the personal computer (PC) end, and also that the cable is connected at the printer end.

Unlike many other connector cables, a parallel cable must be properly secured – the screws on the connector at the PC end must be securely tightened, and the latches on the printer connector fastened onto the connector at the end of the cable.

Also try printing with a known-good printer cable to eliminate cable damage as a cause.

One little-known reason for garbled printing is wrong settings on the printer itself. Many dot-matrix printers came with various character sets.

The character set to use for printing can usually be predetermined by pushing a button combination, or setting a bank of dual inline package (DIP) switches on the printer.

The important thing to remember is that this setting usually overrides any setting on the PC.
If the PC is set to print using one character set, but the printer is set to print using another, the result will be utter chaos – the printer will misinterpret all the characters and produce nothing more than a page full of garbled characters.

To prevent this, ensure that the correct character set is selected on the printer.

For most of us in the English-speaking world, the correct character set would most likely be ISO Latin 1 (also known as ISO 8859-1) or ISO Latin 9 (also known as ISO 8859-15), the main difference being that the ISO 8859-15 character set includes the “Euro” symbol, whereas the ISO 8859-1 character set does not.


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