SHCC WYSIWYG Article from December 2008

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This article was written by Don VanSyckel, the club president, as a part of "The President's Pen".  This article appeared in the December 2008 WYSIWYG newsletter.

Early Printers and Postscript

by Don VanSyckel

I did treat myself to a good color printer but I haven't even found time to really put it through it's paces. I never did cozy up to ink jet printers and purchased a color laser printer by Brother. Frankly I was tainted early in my career and actually learned and programmed in postscript. For those of you thinking, what? Let me explain. Back in the Dark Ages when fast computers ran at 2 MHz, yes 2Mhz. I had one; it was an Ohio Scientific. At the time Apples only ran at 1 MHz. Then came the Macintosh, later to be known as simply a Mac. The Mac had the best printer around available for it, the Apple LaserWriter. I was duly impressed but didn't even put it on my wish list because of the price. The LaserWriter, for short, came standard with the postscript page rendering software built in and 35 fonts. These fonts were Type 1 Postscript Fonts. I don't know or possibly don't remember who built the LaserWriter for Apple but they were a real work horse. The standard Mac office applications work well with them and laster PC's did also. The project I was working on was Unix based involving a large database and we needed some specialty output. To support this I learned postscript and wrote numerous postscript routines to do everything from scaling graphics, to bar charts, to bar codes, and pie charts.

When I bought my first laser printer in 1992 I purchased an HP 4ml which was being sold for the PC and the Mac. Since it supported the Mac it had postscript and the 35 postscript fonts. I've done numerous specialty things with this printer which I still have and use regularly. So when I looked for a color printer I kept waiting for a color laser with postscript to come into my price range. Well the Brother 4070 xxx finally did, on sale, and I've very happy with it. In case I've frightened anyone away by discussing under the hood, the 4070 works very well with all PC and Mac software packages and you'd never know that it is actually a very special very capable printer inside.

I believe the next item I get will be either the photo negative scanner. I've actually been half-heartedly looking for this for a while but here once again the price has been too high. I know there are scanners available for very low prices but the problem is low performance has accompanied the low price. If I'm going to put in the time to scan my collection of old photos I want to do the negatives instead of the photos themselves and I only want to do it once. I don't want to play the wait forever game because there'll be a better scanner or whatever available next year at a better price. On the other hand, I do want the quality of the scanned pictures to be 'good enough' that I won't wish I had waited just one more year. I understand there are adapters for some scanners to facilitate scanning negatives. I've also been told there's a negative only specialty scanner. If anyone reading this has some thoughts about doing this, please feel free to share them with me.

If buying a scanner stays stalled, the next purchase will probably be a combo drive. I only just recently heard of these. Simply put these had drives have a built in thumb drive. The unit is seen as one regular hard disk. Remember, a thumb drive consist of two things 1) a bunch of special non-volatile memory (won't forget when powered off) and 2) a USB interface. The speed limitations of accessing a thumb drive are mostly do to the USB interface. The combo drive uses the special non-volatile memory that thumb drives use. This memory is not controlled by the user or the PC. It's controlled internal to the hard disk. It's used to cache data (files) both on the way out of the drive (read) and into the drive (write). This should really speed up many applications and not do a thing for others. If you are using a document or spreadsheet, you won't see any performance increase. These type documents read the entire document into memory and only access the disk when you save the entire file. On the other hand any type of data or database application could be speeded up significantly. When you write a record (one hunk of data), you can't read the next one until the first write is finished. The combo drive will write the first record to the fast memory allowing to start the read sooner. The read might even come from memory if that hulk of data has been accessed before. this would make a write and read almost instantaneous. When I say instantaneous I'm talking about an ATA or SATA internal drive. A combo drive in an external USB case will still be limited by USB speed.

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