The first computer I ever wrote a program for was the IBM System/3 Model 12. It was capable of running two programs at once, one of which could be a print spooler. However, I ran my applications in one partition and bisynchronous communications in the other, so spooling was out.
No doubt, you understand that business computing can be summed up as input, process, output. The S/3 illustrated the point well. The 3741 diskette reader would read a record—Chink! The CPU lights would flash. Blink!—The printer would print a line of output—ker-CHUNK! It was a comforting rhythm—chink, blink, ker-CHUNK! Chink, blink, ker-CHUNK!—interrupted only by control breaks and page overflow.
In those days, you couldn’t generate two reports (e.g., checks and a check register) at once. Nor could you reprint a report without rerunning a program to build it. Nor could you use characters that weren’t on the print band.
My early experiences with PCs were similarly characterized by printer challenges and limitations. Under DOS, every program had its own printer drivers. Installing a new program on a PC meant installing yet another driver for your printer—if one was available with that program. But I didn’t mind. A bad day with a lousy dot matrix printer was better than the good days I’d had with a typewriter.
The reason for these ruminations is not to show you what an old fossil I am—although I don’t deny it—but to remind you and myself of how quickly things change in the computer business. Twenty years from now, printing will likely still be a major duty of IT shops. Printers will still do many, if not most, of the same tasks they do today. But the equipment and software you use and the way you program printers will probably differ from those of today. The question, then, is how you get from here to there.
To answer the question, the editors of Midrange Computing have gathered three articles that deal with printing issues with an eye toward the future. The writers are talented professionals, and I am excited that their expertise is featured this month.
If you really want to do state-of-the-midrange-art printing, you need to be using Advanced Function Printing (AFP). In “The ABCs of AFP,” Mike Faust explains AFP and has graciously placed some source code on our Web site so you won’t have to start from scratch as you begin to implement page-at-a-time printing.
In “Take Charge of Printer Overrides,” David Morris explains how his shop has benefited from soft-coded overrides. I have been a fan of soft-coding, also commonly called table-driven programming, for years, because long ago I learned that users and IT staff benefit when a user can do something for himself, rather than having to request the
assistance of a programmer. David provides compilable, working code that you can implement in your shop in order to get rid of hard-coded printer overrides.
Herbert Rea knows firsthand the necessity of defining Hewlett-Packard laser printers as SCS devices. He also knows the limitations of SCS printers. But most important, he knows how to get around those limitations. If your shop is using HP printers, but you haven’t taken advantage of graphical capabilities, let his article “Changing Fonts on IP-connected HP LaserJet Printers” move you a step toward the future of printing.
And, in the next issue of Midrange Computing, you’ll find a special report currently being developed in conjunction with Xplor International that will illuminate some of the important coming trends in printing, focusing primarily on how printing and e-business will work together.
Articles like these are reasons that I am optimistic about the future—not just the future of printing, but the future in general. Every time Windows freezes and I have to reboot my PC, I remind myself how wonderful it is to install one driver for my printer and be done with it. Life, including printing, is not what I’d like it to be, but it’s not what it was. The best is yet to be.