Print Port (Signpoint) Review | Electron User - Everygamegoing

Electron User

Print Port
By Signpoint
Acorn Electron

Published in Electron User 1.11

Nigel Peters welcomes the arrival of a print port for the Electron

Printout Power At Last!

One of the niggling things about working for Electron User is, that until now, we've had to produce our program listings on a - dare I say it - BBC Micro. This was because the Electron had no way to use a printer.

Now, however, with the new Print Port from Signpoint, things have changed.

The Print Port is a small, flat, rectangular black box which looks very similar to the Joyport reviewed in the June issue.

It attaches to the expansion port at the back of the Electron and takes its power from it.

The Port connects to the printer by way of some three and a half feet of grey ribbon cable. Full marks to Signpoint for not stinting on the cable as some firms do.

The Electron operating system, although very similar to the BBC Micro's, wasn't designed for use with a printer.

Because of this, special software has to be loaded into the Electron from a tape cassette. It is this software that activates the Print Port and allows it to use a printer.

At first I thought that loading the software would be tedious, but I soon learnt differently. All you do is enter CH."" and the program loads itself in under half a minute.

A *FX call then activates the software and the Print Port is ready for action.

The software sits below Basic storage out of the way of the programs you type in. It stays here even if the Break key is pressed.

In the rare event that one of the programs you run should try to use the same memory space as the Print Port software Signpoint give four versions of it.

These are exactly the same program, they just sit in different places in the memory. It's very unlikely that all four won't work!

Once the Print Port is set up, it is up to you to decide how to use it. If you want to print out everything thatappears on the screen, then you just use the Ctrl-B and Ctrl-C key combinations familiar to users of the BBC Micro.

To get a hard copy listing, you just select the printer using Ctrl-B, and type LIST as normal. The listing will appear both on the screen and on the printer.

Ctrl-C stops the screen output going to the printer. (It's amazing how much easier it is to debug a program from a listing rather than from the screen.)

Using Print Port is easy, and very well explained in the three explanatory sheets that come with it. However, you don't always want everything that appears on screen to be printed out on hard copy.

The Print Port allows the use of the VDU2 and VDU3 commands to switch the printer on and off from inside programs. This allows you to choose what you want printed out from a program and when. Program I shows how it is done, with Figure I showing what the output is.

Incidentally, both these were printed out from an Electron using the Print Port. Who needs a BBC Micro now?!

The Port works with any printer that conforms to the Centronics Parallel Interface standard such as the Epson or Brother printers. It also allows the Electron to pass control codes to the printer.

These control codes are numbers that affect the way that the printer works, for example producing italic or bold type or double spacing the lines.

Codes vary from printer to printer, and are given in the manuals. But beware! Not every printer manual is as clearly written as the explanatory sheets that come with the Print Port.

I was very impressed with the device. Quick and simple to use and well explained, it adds a whole new dimension to the Electron, giving me all the facilities that previously were only available on the BBC Micro.

I can't think of a higher recommendation.

Nigel Peters