From the archives: Good Hardware Guide – Peripherals etc

This is the third part of my contributions to the Good Hardware Guide, published in 1991.

This sections covers printers, scanners, a couple of modems, monitors (and one graphics card) and other peripherals. These include CR-ROM drives which were seen as exotic then – as compared to today when they’re regarded as obsolete. That happened quickly, didn’t it?

The Miracom Courier modem was one of my favourites – I used one of these for several years.


PRINTERS

Brother HL-8e

Aimed at single users and small network use, particularly in the CAD/CAM market. Includes industry-standard HPGL graphics language. It’s small enough for personal use, though not necessarily compact enough for the desktop, and reasonably quiet. Good front panel controls, a clear LCD panel and good quality documentation make it easy to use. Both serial and parallel interfaces included as standard. Standard paper tray holds 200 sheets. Envelopes and transparency materials may be fed through, singly, by hand. Output can be face-up into a tray, with a capacity of 100 sheets or face-down on to the top of the printer (capacity 20 sheets). Characters are crisp and blacks solid. Basic 512k memory can be upgraded by 1Mb or 2Mb to handle soft fonts and DTP applications. There are 7 built- in typefaces, including proprietary Brother serif and sans- serif faces, in a range of point sizes, with italic and bold options and HPGL stroke font, giving a total of 57 variations. There are also two slots for a special Brother range of font cards. Expected cartridge life is 4000 pages. Warm-up time is under one minute.

Brother HL-8PS

PostScript version of the Brother HL-8e printer, though offers Hewlett-Packard LaserJet II emulation too. Intended as a personal and small network printer, though a little too big for desktop use. Page description language is actually a PostScript clone called BR-Script. Includes 35 scalable fonts – including bold and italic versions – in 11 families. All fonts are proprietary Brother versions of familiar typefaces. PostScript fonts available from within LaserJet emulation. Two slots take standard Hewlett-Packard font cartridges when in LaserJet emulation mode. One slot can also be used for an optional AT-100 AppleTalk adapter. Both serial and parallel interfaces are included as standard. Full IBM character set available on a font cartridge. Standard 2Mb memory is expandable to 3Mb, 4Mb or 6Mb. Built around Canon SX engine with one-piece cartridge for toner and drum, making replacement simple. Cartridge life is 4000-5000 pages. Standard paper tray holds 200 sheets up to legal size (8.5 x 14 inches) and allows for single sheets, including envelopes and heavier materials, to be inserted. Optional second tray available. Front panel offers larger than usual number of buttons controlling functions such as emulation, landscape or portrait orientation, font selection, number of copies and so on.

Brother M-1824L

Automatic paper loading is provided, as well as paper parking, allowing single sheets to be printed without removing continuous stationery. Standard paper handling is through a pusher tractor feed for continuous stationery and friction feed for single sheets. A pull-up tractor feed is available for more reliable paper handling with labels and multi-part stationery. A single bin auto sheet feeder is also available. Minimum paper width is 4 inches. Maximum is 11 inches (a wide carriage version of the printer, the M-1924L handles paper up to 17 inches wide). Five resident letter-quality fonts include proprietary Brother typefaces. Extra fonts can be added with the LQ-600 plug-in IC card. Offers 18 international character sets in Epson and Diablo emulations: 160 standard characters plus 12 Scandinavian characters in IBM mode. As well as standard print effects (underline, bold, condensed, emphasised, double strike, super- and sub-script, italic), offers double-height, double-width, shadow and outline effects. Print buffer size is 64K, expandable to 96K with the optional RC-100 RAM card. This card is battery backed to prevent print data being lost if the power is cut. Part of the buffer (up to 32K) can be used for downloadable fonts. Both serial and parallel interfaces come as standard. Fabric ribbon has expected life of 3.5 million characters. Multi-strike ribbons, for crisper characters, and a colour kit are available.

Integrex ColourJet 132

Based on an original design by Canon, this colour inkjet printer uses piezoelectric vibrators to expel ink from four nozzles – one for each colour. Up to 262,144 colours are produced by stipple mixing dots. Operation is virtually silent. Text characters are formed by a 5 x 8 dot grid – about half the resolution of a 9-pin dot matrix printer. A double strike mode, using a small displacement between each pass, is provided to improve text quality. In single pass mode, print speed is around 27cps, reduced to 15cps in double- strike mode. Machine is intended primarily for colour graphics. Graphic resolution is 192dpi, but dots are small and even giving a very sharp looking image. Uses proprietary control codes (based on original Canon PJ1080) but these are well supported by most applications software. Codes include a viewdata mode from printing screens from services such as Prestel and Teletext. Special viewdata/videotex version is available. Screen dump software supporting CGA, EGA and VGA and up to 64 colours is supplied on disk. Ink cartridges have a capacity of around 1500 pages of text, much less with graphics. Machine is capable of printing on wide variety of surfaces including overhead transparency film. Special cartridges available for producing iron-transfers for clothing.

Kodak Diconix 150 Plus

The classic portable printer, ideal for users of laptop PCs who need printout on the road. Runs from batteries or AC adapter (and can print while recharging batteries) using a vertical array of 12 thermal ink-jet heads on plain paper. The five C-size rechargeable NiCad batteries provide 50 minutes of continuous printing and can print two pages after the low- battery light has come on. Stand-by lifetime is 12 hours and recharging takes 10 hours. Print head is disposable, having built-in ink supply, and lasts for an average of 500 A4 sheets of standard text. Serial or parallel version available. Incorporates a 2000-character print buffer. Paper feed is by friction and tractor with a maximum single-sheet width of 9 inches. Can print on ink-jet transparency materials. Prints 70 characters to the line (at 10 characters per inch). Supports standard emulations and text effects, such as NLQ, condensed, super- and subscript and so on. A Macintosh version, the M150 Plus, is available. Its compatible with any Mac having at least 1Mb of RAM and System 6.0.2 or later and comes with a QuickDraw driver. This supports 13 outline fonts plus others from the Adobe Type 1 library. Comes with cable. Colour model, the 330C, also available.

Star LC24-10

A stalwart of the 24-pin dot matrix scene, this printer has come down in price considerably since its introduction and still offers good value for money. Paper handling is excellent. Features automatic loading of single sheets triggered by the bail release lever. A push tractor feed for fanfold paper is hidden under a rear cover which also serves as a paper guide. Pressing the right buttons parks the fanfold paper out of the way, without completely removing it, so that single sheets can be printer. Friction feed is provided, too, and a sheet feeder is available as an option. Four letter quality provided: Courier, Prestige, Orator (which uses small capitals instead of lower case) and Script (a handwriting- style font). Smartcards can be plugged into the front of the machine giving additional fonts. Usual character effects and enhancements are provided plus quad high and double high/wide characters, shadowing and outline printing. Most functions are available from the front panel, including ability to ‘fix’ parameters until machine is switched off, so that they cannot be changed by commands from the PC. The interface is parallel- only, but a serial-to-parallel converter is available.

Tandy DMP302

A very fast printer for its class and price bracket, capable of printing a page of text at near letter quality in around 45 seconds. This is the 80-column model: a 136-column version, the DMP2103, is also available. Very rugged machine, built around a substantial metal chassis. Uses a flip-up paper guide to assist both continuous (fanfold) and cut-sheet stationery. Fanfold paper is handled by a push-feed tractor under a cover at the rear of the machine. This paper can be parked while printing individual sheets. Loading of single sheets is automatic, the feed mechanism activated by the paper bail. NLQ mode produces dark and very readable text, particularly for a 9-pin machine. Six NLQ styles provided based around sans serif and typewriter-style faces. Typestyle is selected by control codes. Front panel buttons are used to select print quality (NLQ and draft) and character pitch. Typestyles and other features can be activated using a printed menu system – where the menu options are actually printed on the paper. This is usually done once at start-up. Standard emulations, including Epson LQ and IBM Proprinter are included.

DOT MATRIX PRINTERS

Panasonic KX-P1180

This machine continues to prove there’s life in the 9-pin dot matrix market yet. Provides four NLQ fonts in 10 different sizes (5-20cpi), plus proportional spacing. Maximum speeds are 192cps in draft and 38cps in NLQ mode. Characters include IBM and 13 international sets. Emulates Epson FX-86e and IBM Proprinter II. Maximum graphics resolution is 240×216 dpi. Paper handling is by tractor (adjustable to either push or pull), friction or an optional automatic cut-sheet feeder. Wide (11.7 inch) carriage allows landscape printing of A4 sheets. Provides semi-automatic paper feeding for cut sheets. Paper parking allows single sheets to be printed without removing continuous stationery. Three paths allow paper to be fed from the rear (push tractor), bottom (pull tractor) or top (friction or cut sheet feeder) of the printer. Standard 2K data buffer can be expanded by a further 32K. Front panel switches allow selection of most of the printer’s functions, with LED confirmation of the current mode. Front panel also gives access to a special quiet mode, reducing noise by 3dBA. Power and data cables are positioned so that they don’t tangle with continuous stationery. A serial interface version is available.

Panasonic KX-P1124i

Panasonic has always been big in 24-pin dot matrix printers, and the KX-P1124 one of its best sellers, particularly in the budget-conscious sector of the market. This is the latest, improved version of the machine, the main enhancement being speed. Draft printing happens at 300 characters per second (cps) and letter quality at 100cps. Five letter-quality fonts are provided – Courier, Prestige, Bold PS, Script and Sans Serif – and in addition to normal text effects the printer supports shadow and outline printing. The machine is especially good at paper handling: the innovative tractor system can be switched to either push or pull. Friction feed is also provided. Single, cut-sheet printing is achieved by inserting the paper at the front of the machine: thanks to paper parking, continuous stationery does not have to be removed from the tractor first. Machine has extensive front panel controls and a 16-character LCD display for selecting features. The standard 6K data buffer can be expanded by a further 32K. The machine is compatible with the Epson LQ-2500 and IBM Proprinter X24. A Centronics parallel interface is fitted as standard, but a serial interface version is available. An automatic sheet feeder is also available.

THERMAL PRINTERS

Mitsubishi G370-10

A colour thermal printer aimed particularly at the presentation graphics market. It’s capable of printing on special coated paper or transparency material for overhead projection, and uses a palette of 4096 colours. The colours and 16-shade grey scales are built using a 4 x 4 matrix and seven primary colours (yellow, magenta, cyan, red, blue, green and black). Image resolution is 300 x 300dpi. It uses multi- pass printing to build up the colours and the printer has a built-in test pattern to check for correction colour registration. Print speed is one minute for an A4 page, with an actual printing area of 200.5 x 297mm. Colour ink sheets have a life of 300 sheets for monochrome printing, 100 sheets for three-colour and 85 sheets for four-colour printing. Printer is capable of handling slightly larger ‘special A4’ (two inches longer than normal A4) as well as regular A4 sheets. Print cost is fairly high, but cheaper than using an outside agency for OHP slides. Input is via a standard Centronics interface, but this presumes the applications software being able to drive the printer. Software-independent printing is possible using the Mitsubishi B350 Video Processing Unit. This takes a signal direct from the PC’s video display adapter (in place of a monitor) and outputs a signal suitable for the printer.

DISPLAY ADAPTERS

Metheus 1104

Uses a proprietary chip, the Omega Graphics Engine, to obtain high resolution graphics while providing a CGA emulation. Comes on a half-length card carrying 512K of video RAM. Also has 128K of RAM for microcode to run graphics engine – this is loaded from disk which makes updating easy. Can use a RAM disk in the PC’s memory to act as a display list for specific applications. Maximum resolution is 1024 x 768, four-bit- plane, giving 16 colours from a palette of 4096. Display can be interlaced or non-interlaced. Unlike many VGA cards that deliver this specification, it requires only an eight-bit expansion slot in the PC, not the usual 16-bit slot. Provided with special monitor cable and software that includes diagnostics, demonstrations and drivers for most major packages, such as AutoCAD, Windows and GEM. Requires a monitor with RGB inputs (which excludes many EGA-only models). Defaults to CGA mode, but triples standard resolution to 960 x 600. Characters are formed by a 24 x 12 pixel matrix, rather than normal CGA 6 x 6 font. Intended mostly for the CAD market which benefits most from the card’s ability to perform high- speed fills (60 million pixels per second) and rapid zoom feature.

MONITORS

Philips 6 CM 3279

A Super VGA monitor that features emission levels so low they surpass the stringent SSI (Swedish National Institute of Radiation Protection) guidelines. Automatically detects whether signal is VGA or Super VGA and switches to the correct mode. High refresh rates, particularly at lower resolutions, provides a flicker-free image. Uses a high resolution 0.28mm dotted Black Matrix picture tube. Dark glass provides 57% light transmission and uses a non-glare etched surface. Resolutions offered are 800 x 600 and 640 x 480 at 60Hz and 640 x 400 and 640 x 350 at 70Hz. Vertical scanning frequency is 50-70Hz. Compatible with Super VGA, VGA, EGA, CGA, Hercules and MDA display modes. Interface cable is integrated into the monitor and terminates in a standard 15-pin D-shell connector. Tilt and swivel pedestal is built into the monitor, rather than being clipped on. Mains cable is detachable for easier moving and storage. Indicators and controls include LED power light, power switch, vertical shift, horizontal shift, brightness and contrast (last two having centre detent). Weight is 14kg and power consumption 80-100W.

Samsung OnePage

Also known as the MP5671, a 15-inch A4, paper-white monitor providing a very crisp image for desktop publishing and heavy- duty word processing work. Resolution is 1006 x 1048 offering a text display format of 82 characters by 66 lines. Scanning frequency is 62.75MHz horizontally, 59.88MHz vertically. The supplied, dedicated controller is 16-bit for speed but, if necessary, can be installed in an eight-bit slot. Will work alongside most EGA and VGA display adapters without conflict – essential with PCs that have built-in adapters that are not easily disabled. The interface is TTL, but analogue and ECL adapters are available. Software drivers are supplied for Autocad, Autosketch, Gem 3, Lotus 1-2-3, Lotus Symphony (from version 2.1), Paintbrush, Windows 3, Windows 386 (from version 2.1), Windows 286, Ventura Publisher (from version 2), WordStar(from version 5.5), Word (from version 5), WordPerfect (from version 5) and other popular applications packages. A video Bios driver is supplied too, allowing MS-Dos to make use of the full screen. Normally powers up in Hercules-compatible mode. Uses own screens fonts in single and dual-plane versions (latter is slower but has more accurate screen positioning). Comes with full installation program.

Sygnos ST 68 VGA LCD

LCD screens are considered more restful on the eye than conventional CRT displays, produce no harmful radiation and are very compact. So for mono display applications a large LCD can be better for desktop machines as well as portables. This screen is a black and white VGA display, also supporting EGA, CGA, MDA and Hercules modes. Display area is 8 x 6 inches in a case 13 x 11 inches and around 2 inches thick. It features a non-reflective coating on the screen surface to eliminate glare. Maximum resolution of 640 x 480 is standard VGA. Supports 32-level grey scales and 256-colour VGA is automatically mapped into these shades. A reverse video switch, on/off switch and backlight brightness control are provided on the monitor. Weighs around 1.3kg. Comes with a dedicated 16-bit display adapter card. Supplied program allows the monitor to be configured to the required emulation, including as an EGA or CGA display. Draws only about 8W of power, compared to 60-100W on CRT displays. This could make big differences in large corporate installations. Like all LCDs, the screen is very flat, and there is no image distortion. Swivel foot allows screen to be set at a variety of angles.

CD-ROM DRIVES

Cumana CDS 431 CD-Rom Drive

Made by Chinon, this is a compact device designed to be fitted into a PC. It slots into any half-height, 5.25-inch device bay, vertically or horizontally. Uses a cartridge loading system, preventing damage to the disc surfaces. Interface is via 40-pin SCSI port. Standard package includes a host adapter (a half-length, eight-bit SCSI adapter card), connector cable, disk caddy and driver software which includes MS-Dos Extensions 2.1. Software can produce an on-screen control panel for audio use, showing total playing time, track time and track location, and allows programming of tracks. Can read any disc written in High Sierra (ISO 9660) format which gives a maximum capacity of 550Mb per disc. Transfer rate is 150K/sec (continuous) with an average access time of 0.35 seconds. Ejection of disc can be achieved by software, through the use of an eject button or, in emergency, using an access hole in the front panel. Has audio output (headphone) jack on front with volume control. Also provides digital and analogue audio output. External cases available taking one or six drives. Daisychaining allows up to seven drives to be connected at one time.

Hitachi CDR-1600S

A stand-alone machine intended primarily for PC ATs, PS/2s and MCA bus machines. The CDR-1600S uses a proprietary Hitachi interface: a half-length adapter card fits into the PC. The CDR-1650S is the same machine using a standard SCSI interface. Up to six CD-Rom devices can be connected tot he PC at one time. A supplied setup program automatically copies the necessary driver files and Microsoft operating system extensions to the hard disk and modifies AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS files. Supplied with mini headphone socket and volume control for use with audio CDs. Machine can handle CD- Rom Mode-1 and Mode-2 data discs, audio discs and CD-Roms with audio. Buffer size is 32K on the CDR-1600S and 64K on the CDR- 1650S. Typical access times are 0.55sec for full-stroke and 0.45sec for third-stroke. Sequential data transfer rate is 154K/sec. A disc caddy for the CD and double doors on the machine help to eliminate damage and contamination caused by dust and dirt. ALC system detects contamination of the optical pickup lens and uses a built-in brush to clean it when the disc is ejected. Apple Macintosh and PC AT internal versions also available.

Hitachi CDR-1700S

A compact, small footprint stand-alone unit using a proprietary Hitachi bus. Claimed as a ‘fourth generation machine’. Uses half-size cards that plug into expansion slots in XT and ATs, or separate card for PS/2s and MCA bus machines. Average access time is 0.44 sec for full-stroke operations and 0.34 sec for third-stroke. Buffer size is 32K. Oversize flap and twin-door mechanism on the door, plus use of disc caddies, helps prevent damage and contamination by dust and dirt. Automatic lens cleaning detects dirt on the optical pickup lens by a drop in EFM level. Uses a built-in brush to clean the lens when the disc caddy is ejected. Chassis housing the disc and caddy is sealed from motor and other components. Disc caddy is achieved using front panel switch, by software or, in emergencies, manually. Front panel has small headphone socket and volume control for use with audio CDs and CD-Roms with audio tracks. Daisychaining with optional IFI8-A interface card allows up to eight devices to be connected to the PC.

MAGNETO-OPTICAL DISK STORAGE

Sony SMO-S501

A stand-alone, magneto-optical disk drive providing massive storage on a removable, compact, readable and writable medium. Storage is very reliable, and so can be used for long-term data storage. Complies with ISO and ANSI standards. Uses 5.25- inch, double-sided disks housed in a protective cartridge. Using 1K sectors, storage capacity is 650Mb (325Mb per side) with a data transfer rate of 680K/sec. Using 512K sectors, capacity is 594Mb (297Mb per side) with a data transfer rate of 620K/sec. Average access time for short-stroke operations is 22ms: full stroke access time is 185ms and average is 95ms (comparable to a slow hard disk). A full-height, internal version for PCs, the SMO-D501, is also available. Can be mounted horizontally or vertically. This uses a separate SMO- C501 controller card that connects to any SCSI adapter in the PC and supports up to two drives. The same card is used internally in the SMO-S501. The SMO-S501 has a built-in mains power supply: the SMO-D501 uses the PCs power supply. Product is being rebadged and resold by third party suppliers who add drive and interface software for XT, AT, Macintosh, Dec, Sun and other platforms.

SCANNERS

Genius Geniscan GS-4500

A hand-held image scanner designed so that your hand and wrist rest naturally on the body of the machine, helping to maintain contact with the surface. Scan button falls naturally under the thumb. Other controls include contrast and image type selection – these are: ‘letter’ mode for text; ‘line art’ for pure black and white or other two-colour images; and three ‘photo’ settings giving increasing number of grey levels to the maximum of 32. Scanner gives variable resolution from 100 dots per inch to 400dpi. Maximum scanning width on single pass is 105mm. Multi-scan mode, using special software that overlaps scan windows, provides coverage up to 300 x 300mm. Images are automatically merged and saved in one of several standard formats. Image editing is provided to ensure a perfect match. Dr Genius software provided which allows images to be scanned in directly and manipulated using facilities such as: painting; palette editing; colour mixing; virtual page printing; slide show presentations. Prodigy optical character recognition software included allowing text to be scanned into WordStar or standard text files. Interface has two DMA channels and four user-selectable address modes to avoid conflicts with other devices.

Kyocera KS-800

Flatbed A4 scanner using a 3648-pixel CCD sensor. Internal optical resolution is 400dpi, but output is selectable between 75 and 800 dpi. The higher resolution is provided by software manipulation, interpolating between scanned values. At the usual DTP resolution of 300dpi, scanning an A4 page takes 21 seconds. Scanning modes are: line-art; halftone (dither matrix); grey scale; and mixed mode (line-art and halftone). Supports 4, 8 and 16 grey scale options. Three dither matrix options are available: 4 x 4, 6 x 6 and 8 x 8. Provides both manual (three-position) and automatic brightness levels. Built-in image manipulation functions are: framing; sub- framing; edge enhancement (especially good for fine details); mirror imaging; and negative image. Framing and sub-framing may be mixed, allowing use of different scanning techniques for different areas of the original. This is all controlled through the supplied Image Desk software – a Windows application. There are no controls on the scanner itself. A run-time version of Windows is also supplied. Software provides file conversion features, supporting Tif and PC Paintbrush PCX formats. Express print facility gives rapid printing of image on H-P LaserJet-compatible laser printers. Uses a plug-in three-quarter length adapter card that fits into one of the PC’s expansion slots. Versions available for both PC and PS/2 platforms.

Logitech Scanman 256

The Scanman started winning awards almost as soon as it was launched. It established standards for, and opened up the handheld scanner market. ScanMan 256 offers true 400dpi resolution – compared to pseudo-400dpi of earlier models – down to 100dpi. Scanning modes provided are line-art and grey scale offering 16, 64 and 256 shades. Uses red scanning light that is claimed to be the most suitable for black and white images. A light on the hand unit indicates optimum scanning speed, or warns if scanner is being moved too fast. Like many scanners, it demands at least a 286 processor in the PC, and needs a mouse or other pointing device, graphics adapter (VGA recommended for grey-scale use), 1Mb of RAM and Windows 3. Most of these requirements are for the supplied Ansel image editing software that provides: multiple zoom levels: lighten, darken and negative effects; brightness and contrast adjustment; and resizing and rotation features. Also offers ability to merge images and correction of image skewing caused by the scanning movement being less than absolutely straight. Separate versions available for PCs (where it uses a half-slot interface board) and PS/2 Model 50 and above (with full-slot board). Designed to be used with Logitech’s CatchWord OCR software (available separately).

Microtek MSF-300G

A professional flatbed scanner offering resolutions in 16 steps from 75dpi to the common DTP standard of 300dpi. Also offers eight-bit grey scale operation with up to 256 shades. Scanning modes are line art and halftone, with mixing of the two modes (with up to four windows) also provided. Single-bit operation provides 64 grey shades by using dithering while scanning, saving time and disk space where full 256 shades are not required. Brightness and contrast are each adjustable, through software, in 14 steps. Scaling is also available – in 16 steps from 25% to 100% in single-bit operation, and from 1% to 100% in 1% steps in multi-bit mode. A total of 12 halftone patterns, from 2×2 to 8×8, are provided, and the scanner supports downloadable, user-defined halftone patterns. Image can be output to a high-resolution phototypesetter for camera- ready artwork. Basic model is designed for IBM PC and PS/2 machines, and compatibles. Two other versions are available. The MSF-300GS is the Apple Macintosh model, using a SCSI interface. The MSF-300Z is a colour model using a three-pass system producing up to 16.8 million colours. It offers 14-step adjustment for red, green and blue components. Scanning speed is 150 seconds for an A4, 300dpi, 24-bit image. PC, PS/2 and Macintosh versions are available.

Microtek MSF-400G

One of the first flatbed scanners to offer 400dpi resolution, aimed at the professional DTP and pre-press market. Also offers a larger-than-normal scanning area. The 400dpi maximum resolution is selectable in 14 steps down to 100dpi. Approximate scanning time for an A4 document is just over 13 seconds. Scanning modes available are: line art, halftone and mixed (up to four mixing windows allowed). Uses eight bits per pixel to provide up to 256 grey scales. Offers 12 halftone dither matrixes from 2 x 2 to 8 x 8, and will also support downloaded user-defined screens. Brightness and contrast are each adjustable in 14 steps – contrast in 7% increments, brightness in 3% increments. Scaling is also available on multi-bit operations, on both X and Y axes, from 1% to 100% in 1% increments. Works with a variety of interfaces: Video DMA/Hybrid and SCSI (up to 1.25 Mbps) – both included as standard – and optional RS-232C/RS-422 serial interfaces. Comes with image manipulation software offering tools such as mezzotints, etching, posterisation and other visual effects including charcoal, water drop and finger paint. Apple Macintosh version comes with VersaScan and Digital Darkroom software.

Panasonic FX-RS307U

A high resolution, high performance flatbed scanner for sophisticated pre-press work. Output resolution of the hardware is variable from 50 dots per inch to 600dpi, using an optical resolution of 300dpi. The software is capable of output resolutions up to 2540dpi by shrinking images to a quarter of their original size. Scanning area covers up to legal size. Works in line art (two-tone) or photographic mode, which produces 256-level grey scale (with eight bits per pixel) or 64 shades of halftone (with eight dither patterns). Scanning takes 3ms per line. Previewing a whole page takes 4sec and scanning, viewing and saving the page 18sec (at 75dpi, 256 grey levels). Dropout colour is light yellow. Interface for XT or AT is an eight-bit, half-length card fitted with 64K of RAM. Macintosh interface is a stand-alone box connecting to the SCSI port. PC software runs under Windows (version 2.03 or later). With VGA monitors it allows instant viewing of grey scales before saving the image to disk. Both PC and Macintosh software allow extensive image editing and manipulation. Needs a hard disk, and at least 10Mb of disk space is recommended. Optical character recognition software is available.

Pentax SB-A4301

A flatbed scanner capable of handling books and flat sheets that has been hailed as being easy to set up and use, with fast scanning. There are no dip switches on the interface card that fits into the PC. Interfaces available for PC, PS/2 and Apple Macintosh. Scanning areas include letter, A4-A7 and B5- B7 document sizes. Also software adjustable in increments of 1/300th inch down to 0.027 x 0.003 inches. Resolution is variable between 39 and 300dpi in 3dpi increments. Also has fax modes using 8 pixel/mm scan and 3.85 or 7.7 pixel/mm output. Offers 16-level grey scale or line art output. Scanning uses a traversing 2500-element CCD capable of reading black, red, purple and green. Offers 10 levels of contrast – five selectable by buttons on the scanner itself, the full range available from software. Two brightness levels selectable from software. Warm-up time is under 10 seconds. Several packages are available: cheapest uses Windows-based PC Paintbrush program to scan and store images. Can be supplied with Pentax’s own software that scans images and performs OCR on Courier, Helvetica and Times Roman typefaces. Other OCR options available. Pentax also produces a legal document-size version with 30-sheet document feeder.

Taxan Quantum 256

A large-area flatbed scanner providing smooth grey scaling, ideal for applications needing high-quality reproduction of black-and-white photographs. Maximum scanning area is 14 x 8.5 inches, programmable by software. Scanning an A4 page takes an average 9.9 seconds. Produces 256-level grey scales using eight bits per pixel, which means the images retain detail when scaled. Resolution is 300dpi, compatible with most laser printers. Scan modes offered are line art, halftone, mixed and grey scale. Supplied software provides features such as image capturing, viewing, editing, storing and printing. Edit features include cut and paste, text insertion and grey scale image enhancement such as blur and sharpen. Image scaling is provided in 1% steps from 1 to 100% on both axes. Offers 14 brightness and contrast levels. Data compression (important with large 256 grey scale images) conforms to CCITT T.4 standard. Separate interface boards available for PC XT/ATs and PS/2 machines. Optical character recognition is possible using optional ReadRight software. This is capable of reading most type, including dot matrix output and proportional-spaced, kerned and touching characters. It can also cope with multiple columns and complex text layouts.

MODEMS

Miracom Courier V32

Miracom was the first to gain real succes in the UK with a 9600 baud modem. That was with the Courier HST that used a proprietary method of achieving that speed. Now a standard for 9600 baud has appeared – V.32 – and Miracom has launched a version of the Courier to match it. Offers other common speeds, too – V21 (300 baud), V22 (1200 baud) and V22bis (2400 baud). Automatic baud-rate detection included, with ability to fall back to lower speeds if the line is noisy, and a proprietary system to fall-forward to faster speeds if the line improves. Uses Hayes-compatible AT command set, with model-specific extensions. Functions include tone- and pulse- dialling auto-dial, with ability to store up to four telephone number internally. Also has auto answer mode and dial and busy tone detection. Extra AT commands include diagnostic checks. Activity indicated by 12 front panel LEDs and a built-in speaker with volume control. Includes MNP error correction: at speeds over 300 baud this goes to MNP Level 5 which provides data compression too, improving data throughput by up to 80%. Compatible with CCITT V.42 standard, supporting MNP up to Level 4. Modem settings made by external DIP switches, with a prompt card printed on the modem. Offers asynchronous and – at speeds above 300 baud – synchronous communication.

Tricom Tornado Quin 42

A very highly specified model ideal for applications where large amounts of data are transferred, particularly where noisy lines might be encountered. Can provide data throughput of up to 19,200bps on dial-up lines if a compatible modem is at the other end. Offers remote diagnostics and configuration, making remote site maintenance and support easier. Has built- in password security. Supports MNP error correction and data compression up to Class 10, which includes adverse channel enhancements. For people using the same modem at either end of the line (eg, over a leased line) modems can be set up to automatically exchange passwords for identification. Conforms to V42 standard, but will also handle V32 without problems. In autoanswer mode, can be set to answer after 0-255 rings. Error correction protocols include MNP Class 4 and V42 LAP M. Data compression is compatible with MNP Class 5 and V42bis. Provides three flow control options – XON/XOFF, RTS/CTS and HP ENQ/ACK. Offers automatic detection of remote modem and error correction. Can operate as a synchronous data pump using V22, V22bis and V32 protocols. Supports 8-11 bit character formats including the Wang 2200 protocol. Parameters can be set with dip switches or Hayes-compatible AT commands. Available in stand-alone and rackmount versions.

ELECTRONIC ORGANISERS

Microwriter Agenda

One of the more unusual electronic organiser/notepad machines. Uses five keys not found on other machines: these are laid out to fall naturally to the fingers and thumb of your right hand. Characters are entered by pressing combinations of these keys – a system that is claimed to be easily-mastered and fast. Alpha keys are provided too, and laid out in alphabetic, rather than Qwerty, order. The 20-character, four-line LCD screen is small, but uses large, easily-read characters. Offers notepad, diary, simple database and scheduling applications. Notepad includes word searching. Diary and scheduling options include alarm functions. Plug-in cards offer memory expansion, ABC programming language, spreadsheet, finance and maths functions and lithium battery-backed memory back-up. Basic model has 32K memory, which can be factory- expanded to 64K. A 64K version is available, too. Versions available with 15-hour or 40-hour built-in batteries (with no price difference). The 15-hour version is identified by the letter ‘L’ after the model name on the back of the machine. Supplied AC adapter also charges the battery in around one hour. Adapter can be bought for disposable 9v batteries. Optional kits available to link the Agenda to a PC or Macintosh for data transfer.

 

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