The 4510 dot matrix printer allows you to keep your options open, says Andrew Tollyfield
The Facit 4510 – not aimed at any one user, but it avoids being a jack of all trades and master of none.
As the microcomputer market expands, companies which formerly made peripherals for larger computers are being forced to come ‘down-market’.
The Swedish-made Facit 4510 printer is a mid-range, high quality dot matrix printer. It is not cheap, but it offers a lot for the price.
The advertising literature for the Facit 4510 claims all the ‘extras’ come as standard. This is only a slight exaggeration.
The only feature lacking appears to be a software-definable character set, and the only disappointment is that it comes with no connecting lead. But since several different leads would be needed to cover the range of requirements, this is understandable.
Various leads are available at about £15 each.
The Facit is versatile, and has both parallel and serial interfaces, standard and high resolution text printing with proportional spacing if required, and block or high-resolution graphics.
This versatility and good print quality make the 4510 an attractive proposition, even at £498.
Setting it up
Beneath the printer’s adequate packaging is a reasonably compact machine with a smart two-tone plastic cover on a rigid metal base.
Most of the components, including the small DIP setting switches and interface connectors, which protrude at the rear, are on a single horizontal printed-circuit board mounted on the baseplate. The whole construction is fairly sturdy and weighs 5.5kg. The dimensions are 17 x 13 x 4.5 in. There is good access to the print head and large ribbon cartridge, and paper-loading is easy for either friction or tractor feed. Both options can be adjusted to take paper widths from 4in to 11in. An unusual and welcome feature is the inclusion of a paper-roll holder.
The documentation is exhaustive, but clearly aimed at the experienced user – explanations are too terse and occasionally confusing. The detail given is greater than average but a more logical presentation of sections would have helped.
With typefaces created under software control, this is just a small selection of the output available from the Facit. This printout shows extended, normal and condensed sans serif, and normal and extended serif faces, and block graphics.
The printer has two LEDs, one of which indicates power-on, and the other on-line error. The latter flashes when an error occurs, such as displacement of the print-head.
The controls include a mains switch on the left-hand side and suitably recessed, an on/off line switch, line/form switch and a top-of-form/error override switch. The rotary mode switch sets the default printing mode.
By holding the error-override while switching on one can ‘self-test’ the printer.
The Facit has a 2K buffer, a parallel interface providing both Centronics and Epson protocols, and a serial interface which operates at between 110 and 9600 baud using 7-bit ASCII code.
The now-standard feature of several language sets is available here (including Swedish, Danish, German, Italian, French, Spanish), selectable by switches or software. A programmable ROM containing custom character sets can be inserted on the PCB and one can move between the main or auxiliary character sets under software control.
Any character set can be printed in elongated or underlined mode and the character sizes themselves can be 10, 12 or 17 characters per inch.
Block graphics symbols are printed at 7.5, 9 and 12 per inch, while high-resolution graphics have densities of 60, 72 and 100 dots per inch. The latter can also be double printed.
Forward or reverse full- and half-line feeds are useful for subscripts and superscripts, but reverse linefeeds can be used only with friction feed.
The left-hand margin has to be set manually, but the right-hand margin can be set by software. A special space code can be set at any size from 0 to 94.5 dot columns and backspace allows for overprinting a previous character.
This is an impressive list of features.
Facit claims 120 characters per second but linefeed time reduces this to around 80 CPS for full 80-character lines. The noise level is reasonably low and the quality of print is very good, particularly in the high-resolution modes.
The printer uses bi-directional printing in the text and block-graphic modes but automatically reverts to unidirectional printing in the high resolution mode in order to produce the best vertical alignment.
The 4510 is obtainable from Access Data Communications, Uxbridge, which is the distributor in the country. Service is also available from them on a contract basis but at £100 per year it should be more economical to return the machine for repair.
If faults occur during the six-month warranty period the printer will be replaced.
The Facit’s price is high compared with similar printers, but it offers a larger number of options.
In applications where a wide variety of printing requirements exist this printer would be an ideal choice.
Print for the finish
Picking a printer is an exercise in picking a horse for a course. There are four printer variables – price, speed, quality and flexibility.
You generally can’t get advantages in one area without losing out in others.
In striving to mix variables to suit different needs, manufacturers have developed a variety of ways to get words on paper.
Punching a raised metal cast through a ribbon is the most popular way of achieving ‘letter quality’. This daisywheel system makes a mess of the other printer variables, especially flexibility and price.
If, like most personal computer users, you are prepared to sacrifice a couple of variables you can get the all-important price down to pocket-size.
At the bottom end of the scale you find the thermal and electrostatic printers which ‘singe’ characters onto specially coated paper.
These cost less but only at a great sacrifice of all the other variables.
Although rudimentary graphics are possible, speed is bad and quality is offensive (correspondence is not to be entered into).
The matrix printer is a close cousin of the daisywheel but instead of fixed type it uses a row of pins which are programmed to punch dots to form characters or graphics.
Matrix printers are the most popular type and fill a wide range of user requirements from high-quality/expensive to low-quality/cheap.
First published in Personal Computer News magazine, 1st April 1983