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PostScript Cartridge Plus for HP LaserJet III (pagetable.com)
88 points by kencausey 3 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 44 comments

I still have working HP LaserJet 4+ which I turned into "4M+" by adding a PostScript card (not cartridge but card) and a network card (I'd also add more RAM to these printers).

Once done, you can "netcat" a .ps file directly to the printer's IP. There's beauty in that. I mean, you literally send a postscript file over the ethernet wire and the printer starts printing it. No need for any printer driver. Sure, you don't get a spooler and errors can be ugly (as in printing garbage on lots of pages if you're not quick to stop it) but netcat'ing a PostScript file to a native PostScript printer still feels, today, deeply elegant.

I've got a few of these: they were fantastic printers (but sadly only 600 DPI). Some of mine have printed more than 300 000 pages and are still going strong.

I hadn't done any PostScript programming in a very long time but the other day I made a game for kids at my kid's school: an hexagonal grid with one letter per hexagon and then kids have to find all the kids' names in the grid... I wrote some Clojure code to generate... A .ps file. Because why not.

P.S: as a bonus these LaserJet printer can be made to display the famous "PC LOAD LETTER" message.

I had a 5 with a comically low page count (probably < 30,000) but switched because it was very slow (although seemingly equipped with a large amount of memory) and a string of problems with the available aftermarket cartridges (ghosting that suggested low-quality or worn-out drums, and I assume they aren't really making NEW ones anymore).

I suspect the modern driver ecosystem just rasterizes everything and sends a dumb 92Mb bitmap instead, because even a $19 inkjet printer that can only buffer a single line of inbound data can handle it.

I've been using my ancient LaserJet6p with a JetDirect server box for ages now and it's a workhorse. It just won't die.

It probably should be on a remote controlled switch to reduce its idle energy usage, but holy crap these things are made to last.

If I'm not mistaken, it also takes some special SIMM ROMs, but I've just been using PCL mode to send pre-rasterized data to it and it Just Works. PostScript has always been a bit of a gamble and more often than not I just end up with 100s of blank pages as it forgets to change the mode.

My parents used to own a LaserJet 4M plus, which had PostScript built in. I played around with it once I figured out the possibilities.

It had all of 2MB memory originally, which was a real bottleneck in its later days. I did add 16MB at some point, to increase its life. From then on, when using PostScript instead of PCL for printing, it was clearly CPU-bound.

I’m still conflicted about them taking it to recycling even though it worked reliably. It was over 20 years old.

A good printer should never sent to the trash, because newer ones aren't built as good, unless you get a SMB device.

I've given away my first Samsung laser, because it's pickup rollers just eroded away. The second one is a much beefier machine, and going really strong. I'm just stocking toner and imaging unit refills for that, because If I can use it for another 8 years, it'd be a really great win for me.

I’m also user of 4Mp and even it’s manufactured in 1994 it’s still fantastic device

I bought my 6P new and still use it with a JetDirect box. Over the years, I saved another 6P from the bulk trash in my neighborhood and recently picked up a 6MP off Craigslist free. Both have a lower page count than my original and usable toner cartridges.

If you want to try out old versions of PostScript, MAME supports emulating the original LaserWriter and the LaserWriter IINT: https://github.com/mamedev/mame/blob/master/src/mame/drivers...

Wow... someone should write a game for that.

This combined with Corel Draw, PageMaker (for Windows 3.0) and WordPerfect 5 (for DOS) ruthlessly ruled my world in '90.

I feel like the 600 DPI HP Laserjet 4 produced better printouts 30 years ago than what I'm getting from modern laser printers, but perhaps that's just fuzzy memories...

That point in time was a bit odd; it was exciting to do "desktop publishing".

It's not your imagination. They did print better even at 600 dpi.

Output quality will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but I wasn't impressed when some years ago I purchased a Samsung laser and noticed that it had tiny little notches on the letters that my previous printer did not have. Of course the Samsung repair shop couldn't do anything about it as no firmware updates were available.

I think the general effort from manufacturers to print pages fast and cheap also meant that quality had to change for the worse. Perhaps the toner didn't adhere as well anymore because it needed higher heat for a shorter duration, etc.

I have a Brother "laser" LED-printer; DCP-1510. Super affordable, supposedly 2400 × 600 DPI, but in real life nowhere near the quality of a 600 DPI HP Laserjet 4 from 1993.

I don't mind spending more money on a high quality printer - the problem is that I have no idea what that printer is. Noone is doing print quality tests these days.

I don't really have printers at all any more, but cheapish Brother "laser" printers were my preference for low volumes on Linux and still being able to get networking/duplex/postscript etc. I too had no faith that spending more would get a better printer elsewhere.

I have good memories of Laserjet 4 and 5 series printers from the 90s though.

No no. My 4050 does just fine and prints as sharp as ever. Must be approaching it's 20th year of operation now.

Well, in that case it's also not modern, is it? :)

I think parent is replying "no" to GP's

> but perhaps that's just fuzzy memories...

so essentially P agrees with GP.

Oh, ok. :)

Same. Also, I liked thinking that a McCoy Pauley construct lived in my printer.

"Do me a favor, boy."

"What's that, Dix?"

"This scam of yours, when it's over, you erase this goddam thing."

I remember hand-crafting PCL code for the LaserJet IIIP we had because we didn't have a postscript cartridge and the manual that came with it detailed all the codes and what you could do with it. Quite powerful for a computer tied to a 386.

Heh! you remind me of my time as a newly minted mechanical engineer undergrad.

Linux was a new thing in India at that time. It was a lot fun to go through the code, especially for someone new to C, to understand the printing pipeline end to end. For me the driving motivation was to enable that cool 'draft mode' where only the outline of the font used to be inked leaving the insides free of toner.

Basically why I was poking around, printing a TXT file would use the default font but there was the capability of using PCL to switch fonts, and the printer came with some really nice ones built in.

Later we got a copy of PCTeX for DOS that completely changed everything.

This is so strange ! In a pleasant way of course.

I also wanted to change the font for txt files as well. I didn't have a computer at home and would print the txt version of Linux HOWTOs 2-up to save paper, but also wanted to save toner. I had very little CS training at that time, except for some rudimentary fortran. Learning Linux on my own was to become my CS university. I still have fond memories of poring over the ghostscript codebase.

I did that too. I learned how to insert PCL commands into my XyWrite files to correct type spacing issues. I could also manage some simple graphics.

I could literally smell the nostaliga on this. Whatever solvent HP put in their DeskWriter 310 all of thirty years ago just jumped back into my memory.


Of course it wasn't a LaserJet. But it's pretty incredible what they could make printers do 3 decades ago.

And somehow, selecting the generic PCL driver always worked fine, required no 150MB download, and pressing the "Print" button caused the printer to immediately start printing. That's progress!

So much nostalgia. I have the distinct memory of getting my big toe stuck in that cartridge slot as a kid. I always wondered what it was for!

The "HP-BOISE" on one of the chips, as mentioned in the article, jogged my memory. I always wondered by the PJL command to get into service mode contained "HPBOISEID".

Turns out HP does (or did-- it's unclear to me) printer development in Boise, ID. Guess I never though to search-engine that. I was seeing it as some kind of typical HP acronym (EIO, MIO, etc). It was clearly an HP "BOISE" identification. Never thought about it just being the city.

If you're curious about the history of HP in Boise: https://www.hpmuseum.net/divisions.php?did=9

Some cursory searches suggests that HP still does printer R&D there.

I had one of these back in the day. I seem to remember it cost a lot less than buying a PostScript printer. A major downside was that it was extremely slow!

I wonder if there were ever any PostScript ROMs that did things other than fonts, like special purpose graphics procedures?

PostScript was an entire programming language focused on page description. Every PS implementation did more than just fonts...

Yes, my question was whether there were special purpose cartridges / ROMs that had custom PostScript in them for dedicated applications.

Why? PostScript is a programming language. You create applications in it (within the limitations of the hardware); they just happen to usually be used to create printed pages. People did all sorts of other weird things with PostScript.

I don't know, people do all kinds of crazy things! I thought someone in this thread might know.

Imaginary examples: DRM for high-quality CAD symbols paired with a commercial software package. Or something combinatorially complex with random access where you'd have to ship a huge PostScript file over the wire.

i got sick of the charting toolchains and wrote a .ps which, when concatenated with a two-column file of datapoints, treated the first row as axis labels, auto scaled the x and y axis and printed a chart.

postscript is a great playground

Yeah...smart folks figure all sorts of awesome uses for PS like you did. In college we had big issues with students writing PS programs and crushing the shared printer CPUs making them unavailable to anyone else till their program finished (or we powercycled the printer). It takes a long time to compute an A4 sized, 600dpi Mandelbrot set on a 4MHz 68000.

I remember writing a Markov chain random text generator. I wonder what real world uses there would be for the rand command...

I'd guess not, given the expense of producing cartridges at relatively low volume and that it was very rare for someone to write their own raw PostScript code, as would be required to take advantage of such things. But I don't know.

Nope. PostScript is interpreted. All you had to do was squirt "raw PostScript code" down to the printer and it would interpret it. You didn't have to create a new cartridge. People wrote PS programs to do custom stuff all the time.

There was at least one called "Barcodes and More" offered by HP. I distinctly remember it being plugged into the LaserJet IIIP at my parents' house when I was much younger, but I don't remember anything about how/if it worked.

It was common to represent barcodes as fonts back in the day.

PostScript Level 2 ought to be enough for anybody.

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