Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 8 / AUGUST 1985 / PAGE 48

Citizen MSP-20; durable, accurate, good-looking - lik a fine watch. (evaluation) Owen W. Linzmayer.

Well respected in the wristwatch industry as a maker of fine, precision timepieces, Citizen has entered the computer printer field hoping to wrest a share of the market from the Big three: Epson, Okidata and Star Micronics. Citizen's initial entries into the market include the 200 cps MSP-20 dot matrix printer which is as attractive as it is fast.

You may be asking yourself, as I did, "How is manufacturing watches similar to making computer printers?" The answer lies in the fact that both products should be durable, accurate, and good-looking. The Citizen line of printers (MSP-10, -15, -20, and -25) certainly satisfies the last requirement. Measuring 3.1" X 15.2" X 13.5", the sleek, angular, low-profile MSP-20 is a fashionable printer with enough features to insure that it won't quickly go out of style.

The Citizen MSP-20 accepts fanfold, roll, and sheets of paper up to three parts thick. Paper can range in width from 3" to 10" (the wide-carriage MSP-25 handles 15" paper). Although the paper-handling features of the MSP-20 are comparable to those of the most popular printers on the market, I dislike the fact that neither the paper-separator nor the top cover of the MSP-20 snaps into place. What's more, when installed, the smoked-plastic top cover prevents you from using the paper cutter.

Just as many industry pundits will argue that all new computers must be IBM-compatible to succeed, it seems an unwritten rule that all new dot matrix printers must be Epson-compatible--as is the MSP-20. If that's not enough to satisfy you, the MSP-20 can also emulate two IBM-specification character sets. The character set, as well as many other features, can be invoked either by control codes from software or by the setting of DIP switches inside the printer case. Although I am a proponent of having DIP switches easily accessible, the folks at Citizen alleviate the problem somewhat by allowing you to enter a maintenance mode (power up while holding down the linefeed and on-line buttons), which prints out the current switch settings and EPROM version.

The linefeed and on-line buttons on the front control panel also serve to set the print quality, allowing you to switch between standard and correspondence-quality print with ease. Standard characters are composed on a 9 X 9 matrix and can be printed out at a blazing 200 characters per second. Since correspondence-quality characters are formed by making two passess of the printhead, maximum output rate in this mode is an understandably slower 50 cps. In addition to these two print modes, the MSP-20 sports emphasized, condensed, italics, proportional, expanded, double-strike, underline, elite, and sub/super-script modes (see sample printout).

Of course, no dot matrix printer is complete unless it can print in a variety of graphics modes. The Citizen MSP-20 is no exception. Graphics can be printed from 60 dots per inch to quadruple-density 240 dpi. Being Epson FX-80 compatible ensures that the MSP-20 works with most commercial graphics packages and word processors. Since the MSP-20 employs parallel interface that accepts 7- and 8-bit words, it functions perfectly with just about any printer with a parallel port (a serial interface is available as an option).

Lately the features of dot matrix printers are becoming more and more homogeneous as manufacturers adhere to the Epson standard. As this happens, style, price, and durability become more important in determining which printer is right for your system. The Citizen MSP line of printers is certainly one of the most sylish on the market, and the fact that they are backed by 180-day warrantly certainly does not lessen their appeal.

Products: Citizen MSP-20 (computer printer)