Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 5 / DECEMBER 1988


The Ricoh PC Laser 6000

A Workhorse But Not For The ST

by Frank Hayes

The Ricoh PC Laser 6000 is a workhorse laser printer--a solid, no-nonsense utility printer that's designed for everyday business use. In an office setting where plain-vanilla word processing is still the order of the day, the Ricoh would be a welcome addition. But for desktop publishing or printing high-resolution graphics, the Ricoh may not be the best choice for your ST.

Text Appeal

The Ricoh's forte is printing ordinary text. It does a good job of emulating the Diablo 630, one of the most popular daisy wheel printers. The Ricoh is fast, reasonably quiet and easy to set up and use. It connects to the ST's printer port with a standard cable; you can also connect it through the serial port. There are four built-in fonts, but you can also download fonts or use Ricoh's own font cartridges. As an office machine, the Ricoh would make a fine replacement for a noisy, relatively slow daisy wheel printer.

The Ricoh PC Laser 6000 printer.

Unfortunately, as a desktop publishing machine the Ricoh 6000 has some drawbacks. For instance, its font and graphics commands aren't compatible with either Apple's LaserWriter or Hewlett-Packard's Laserjet, the two standard printers in the world of desktop publishing. The Ricoh is also incompatible with Epson graphics and every other graphics system for both dot matrix and laser printers.

As a result, there are no printer drivers for ST (or non-ST) desktop publishing or graphics software for the Ricoh. An experienced programmer can easily write a simple program in BASIC to print a picture with the Ricoh, but creating your own full-scale printer driver is no easy task.

300 DPI The Hard Way

For example, to do screen dumps, I first installed an ST screen snapshot utility, then set up the screen I wanted to print. The snapshot program let me save the picture to disk, but I then had to write a short GFA BASIC program to print the picture on the Ricoh. The pictures came out clear and sharp, but using the snapshot was a roundabout way of doing a screen dump, and much less convenient than with an Epson-compatible dot-matrix or Atari Laser Printer

You can do graphics with the Ricoh 6000. The graphics commands include vector plotting, boxes, ruled lines and transferring blocks of graphic data. And the printing is fine--sharp and clean at up to 300 dots per inch.

But a few other characteristics of the Ricoh were a little annoying. Most dot-matrix and daisy wheel printers can print up to 66 lines on each page; like most laser printers, the Ricoh is limited to 63 standard lines. That means you'll have to adjust your standard page length in word processors such as ST Writer and 1st Word to get the pages to print properly.

The Ricoh also has problems whenever you turn off your ST without turning off the Ricoh as well. The printer works when you turn your ST back on, but an error light flashes until you turn the printer off and then turn it on again.

There's no buzzer to indicate that the printer is out of paper--a regular problem, since the paper tray isn't especially large. When the paper runs out, an indicator light flashes, but it's easy to mistake this for the printer signaling you that it's finished. Of course, a loud, obnoxious buzzer that can't be turned off would have been just as bad as no buzzer at all, but it would be nice if Ricoh provided an optional buzzer.

Manual Dexterity

The Ricoh manual gives reasonably clear step-by-step instructions for setting up, using and maintaining the printer. It also has an extensive chapter on setting up IBM PC software to use the printer in Diablo 630 emulation mode, including individual sections devoted to WordStar, Display Write, Microsoft Word, WordPerfect, MultiMate, Lotus 1-2-3, and dBase II and III.

The manual does have its problems: It doesn't contain most of the technical information you'II need to create your own downloadable fonts. That information is in a separate Programmer's Manual that doesn't come with the printer. Since the Ricoh isn't compatible with other laser printers, the company should at least provide users with the technical information they need.

Is the Ricoh 6000 for you? If you're looking for a laser printer for desktop publishing or lots of graphics on your ST, this probably isn't the one. But if you need a fast, reliable office printer to replace your aging daisy wheels, this may be the machine for you.

Frank Hayes is the former Senior Editor of START Magazine, and is now a Technical Editor for Byte Magazine.

Products Mentioned

Ricoh PC Laser 6000, $2495. Ricoh Corporation, Peripheral Product Division, 155 Passaic Ave., Fairfield, NJ 07006, (201) 882-2000.