8-Bit Software Online Conversion

High Quality Letterhead Printer ------------------------------- by Steven Flintham ------------------ Introduction ------------ This suite of programs enables users of ordinary Epson 9-pin FX-compatible dot matrix printers to produce high-quality letterheaded paper. [I don't think this means your printer HAS to be an Epson, just compatible - D.G.S.] For those who know about such things, the resolution is 240x216 dpi - not too far short of laser resolution! This is the maximum which can be achieved on a 9-pin - although anyone rich enough to afford a 24-pin might be inspired to produce a version for that, which would allow resolutions of 360x180 or (on the better models) 360x360 dpi. (And before anyone points out that laser quality is better because of the smaller dots, I know - but the dot matrix print is VERY good considering the technology (which has been around for years!) and comparing it with a laser helps to stress how good it can be!) Note that although the programs do not require you to have a PhD in Computer Science, you do need to be able to handle just a bit of technical stuff. The main requirement is that you understand the co-ordinate system used by the BBC - MOVE, DRAW and that sort of thing. The basic system ---------------- The system works as follows: You modify SFGEN1 to produce a letterhead of your own design. Once you are happy with it, you add a few commands to the program to produce a file on disc which "describes" the letterhead. You then use SCRGEN to convert this file into four mode 0 screens, which are then taken by PTODISC and converted into a file which can then be printed. This sounds a bit longwinded, and perhaps it is, but once you've got the letterhead ready, you only need to use PRINT to print the file created by PTODISC - the other programs are only used during the preparation. Designing the letterhead ------------------------ Load SFGEN1 and run it. It was written with a GXR/Master 128 in mind so it uses the flood fill commands provided, but if you haven't got one it will still work, but the text will be an outline only. My letterhead will appear on the screen. LISTing the program will show a lot of DATA statements at the end, which is where you put your design in. The format is simple. If you wanted the equivalent of MOVE 0,0, you would enter DATA 4,0,0 - 4 being the VDU code for MOVE (these are listed in the user guide). Apart from moves, you should use only relative plot codes (1 for draw, 0 for move - you can use any other codes (dotted lines, for instance), but these are the most common) where the x and y values specify the distance to move. This is the area where you really need to have a bit of technical knowledge. At the very end of the list should be a DATA 999,999,999. The top of the listing also contains several variables which you can adjust. cx and cy are x and y scale factors which you can use to adjust the size of the image when you find that it's too narrow etc. ax% and ay% are used to set the "origin" - the 0,0 point for MOVE (DATA 4,x,y) instructions. DO NOT adjust sx% and sy% yet. When you're happy with your letterhead, save the program and keep a copy of it somewhere. Now change the value of sx% and sy% to 2 - this doubles the size to bring out the detail better. Add a line 85 which reads: *SPOOL LHDATA and a line 215 which reads: *SPOOL Now run the program again, and the file describing the letterhead will be produced. Run SCRGEN and four files called SCR1-SCR4 will be created. You may need to juggle the files about if you have a low capacity disc drive - users with 40 track drives and only a single density DFS may have to modify the program slightly to make it wait for discs to be changed. The next stage is probably the longest, so you might like to do it overnight (although it doesn't take THAT long - you could have a cup of tea or something instead!). Run PTODISC, which will load the screen files into memory and convert them into data ready to send to the printer. Due to the way that each line is split over two screens (caused by the double size), the screen files have to be swapped very frequently which makes the disc drive work overtime - if you have a large RAM disc, it might pay to use that. Eventually, a file called LHPRN will be produced. At long last, you can see the results of your labours. Run PRINT and select LHPRN from the menu. Your printer should grind into life and after a few minutes, the superbly printed image will emerge. If you want to, you can rename LHPRN to something more meaningful and modify PRINT to give it a more descriptive name in the menu. If you do this, you will need to change lines 570, 620 and 1610. A demonstration --------------- If you want to see what the quality is like before going through all this, there is a demonstration letterhead (one of mine!) on the disc in file SFPRN1. This is the result of going through all the above with SFGEN1 - you might like to try to reproduce it to check that you understand how to do it all before spending ages designing the letterhead. Selecting "Steven Flintham" from PRINT will print SFGEN1. Note that the actual aesthetic appeal of the letterhead is due to your individual talent - don't be negatively influenced if you don't like the style of writing I used - just admire the printing quality! There is also a second version of SFGEN1 (called, surprise surprise, SFGEN2) on the disc which draws a slightly different letterhead and might just help to demonstrate the format of the DATA statements further. It has not been supplied as a ready-to-print file to save disc space, but you can always generate it yourself if you want to print it for any reason. Other uses? ----------- You could create the four files SCR1-4 yourself with an art package and start with PTODISC. [i.e. use the program as a very high-resolution mulltiple-screendump program]. I haven't bothered to do this myself, but you could try something like writing a Mandelbrot generator which filled the four screens with the plot - it might look impressive, but then again it might not... Or (and this is very speculative) you could use BEEBUG's Hershey Character's package, which I think (I've never seen a copy!) allows you to create files of plot codes, to get a nice font without having to draw it yourself. Copyright/disclaimer -------------------- This suite of programs are all (C) Steven Flintham 1992. They are freely available to all members of 8BS, but they must not be distributed generally without my permission. This is largely because I feel that they're not the user-friendliest programs in the world, but that the sort of people who deal with 8BS will be able to handle them. If they were distributed all over the place, I could get a reputation for writing hard-to-use software! If you haven't seen any of my other programs, I assure you - they are much more usable! Incidentally, I did consider basing a commercial submission around these programs, but decided the effort of writing a user-friendly designer wasn't worth it - especially as the BBC commercial scene was just starting to wear out when I wrote them! These programs are not held as being suitable for any particular purpose (!) and neither the author nor 8BS can be held responsible in any way for the consequences of their use. Is there anybody there? ----------------------- Has anyone persevered enough to get this far? If you really would like to produce a letterhead using these programs and you can't understand some (or all!) of the above, contact me and I will try to help - but I'm not promising anything! I can be contacted at: 6 Laythorpe Avenue, Skegness, Lincolnshire, PE25 3BX or you can contact me via the 8BS messaging system (user 15A) - I may well respond to any letters via this system anyway as it means that everyone can see the information, which might avoid repetition of queries.