Nostalgic Computing – Commodore 64 Printing

This week has been devoted to spring cleaning.  Throwing away the old, organizing what I need to keep etc . . .   Since moving all my video game systems have been living in a box for lack of better places to put them (I’ll get a cabinet to keep them in here at some point)

While going through them I put YouTube on in the background playing some true retro video game fan channels.  (phreakindee & gamester81 have been occupying my YouTube feed mostly) This triggered some nostalgia of my own and I began to wonder what it would take to put together a decent working Commodore 64 system.

Classic Commodore 64 System (Breadbox Case Style)

Doesn’t appear to be too much as people are letting them go for cheap on eBay.  If I didn’t want to deal with the slow loading 1541 disc drive (odd that I didn’t see any with the 3rd party drives that used to be available come to think of it) along with the lack of 5.25 floppy discs available nowadays I could use software called 64hdd to store all programs on a hard drive for the C64 to read from (Obviously with a special cable)  Very cool.

So okay that’s all well and good but a big bit of the nostalgia for me was creating signs, cards, banners etc using Broderbund’s The Print Shop.

I remember setting up a banner to print and letting the machine go all night printing to a Star Gemini 10x printer (two or three lines per minute … The printer was much faster when printing plain ASCII text) During that time the computer was tied up, couldn’t do anything else.  All the screen showed was “PRINTING” with rainbow colors flying past.  That’s unheard of today.  Single tasking?  Pshaw.

Considering how many people and companies developed clip art libraries for this program (we bought a used C64 with quite a few of these and might have purchased some new as well) during that time I’m surprised there’s not a dedicated following of the old program.  It was basic but it was fun that can’t be duplicated today.

The New Print Shop was more of the same (we had the MS DOS version of that) which was good.  That even supported color printers.

The Print Shop Deluxe was moved even further and approaching high end.  I remember using The Print Shop Deluxe for school papers since the results I got out of that were much nicer than what I could easily get out of WordPerfect (Version 5.1 with the blue screen) at the time.

After that though they took it too far into the high end and it seemed to lose the fun.  There’s something to be said for a program that guides you through everything step by step with only a few options.

Anyway, where was I going with this?  Oh yeah.  The Print Shop brought back a lot of memories for me.  So if I were to purchase a C64 I should get a printer.  Problem with this is do the printers still work?  How easy is it to obtain tractor feed paper?  How easy is it to obtain the ribbons needed for these printers?  Commodore used a special interface for printing as well …  So there was a limited number of printers that worked with it.

I did some looking and found a forum post where an individual was able to get a Panasonic KX-P1124 printer working with his Commodore 64 using a Xetec Super Graphix Jr. he picked up on eBay.  Basically this just converted what the Commodore was sending on it’s serial interface to a parallel interface that most dot matrix printers of the era could utilize.

Since the Panasonix KX-P1124 was Epson compatible it was an ideal printer to use.  By the way, that B&W 24pin dot matrix printer lists for between $100 and $200 on eBay.  Wow.  We had a Panasonic KX-P1123 dot matrix printer with our first MS Dos/Windows machine.  That was a workhorse and is listing for a more reasonable $50 on eBay.  I doubt we sold it for close to that back in the day.  The ribbons seem to be readily available for these printers so between that and the usual Panasonic reliability that’s likely why they’re holding their value.

What sense would it make to invest in a printer like that, it’s ribbon and tractor feed paper to ultimately print probably two things?  “Cool!  I made an 80s greeting card and an 80s sign …  Now what?”  I’m going to need to do some more digging and see if I can find a solution that’ll take whatever the C64 would print and capture it to a PDF or something similar.

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