Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 2, NO. 10 / JANUARY 1984


A matter of control


The popular Epson MX series of printers is widely used by Atari owners. The Epson printers are reliable, versatile, and if equipped with the "graftrax" option, their superb graphics complement any Atari computer.

Still, many of us users have trouble when we try to get our Epsons to respond to the script commands of AtariWriter or the Atari Word Processor. The latter program has five script commands, or fonts as they are properly called, and the printer has 22 script modes, plus a variety of other features. Unfortunately, when combined these products fail to communicate fully with each other. This is very frustrating.

The Epson manual helps a bit. It explains that any print command can be sent to the printer prior to loading a word processor. That command remains "on" until the printer is reset. The procedure is to load BASIC, send the specific code to the printer for the desired script, remove BASIC and then boot the word processor. This is a nuisance because the word processor has to be dumped, and the whole procedure performed again, to set up another typing mode.

However, owners of Atari Word Processors and Epson printers need not despair - the problem can be overcome. The solution is not 100% effective, but it is easy, and will allow you to use about 95 percent of your printer's capability.

All of the Epson's capabilities are activated by sending a specific control code from the computer to the printer. The codes simply turn particular functions on and off. You can find these codes in the appendix to the Epson manual. The problem is that the Atari Word Processor has been programmed to assume that the printer is a Centronics-type printer. (The Atari 825 printer was made by Centronics.) The codes that activate it are different from the Epson code set.

Nevertheless, the Atari Word Processor is capable of sending control codes other than those imbedded in its program: codes to which the Epson will respond. The procedure is begun by pressing the [CTRL] and [INSERT] keys simultaneously, which tells the system that a control character is about to be entered. Using the chart at the end of this article, or the Epson manual, you then enter the code for the desired characteristic. The codes are alphanumeric symbols usually preceded by the [ESC] key. Remember all alphabetic codes must be in capitals. If one characteristic is to be combined with another, simply repeat the procedure - [CTRL] [INSERT] followed by the second code. If at some point in your text you wish to change modes, merely set up the corresponding "off" code in exactly the same manner. If another script or mode is desired, follow the "off" command with the new "on" command. It's really very easy.

The codes can be entered at any location in your word processed text. It is suggested that you edit, format and save your document first. Then just prior to printing, add the printer control codes. The codes will appear on the screen but will not be printed. They will also seem to upset your format by moving the following text two spaces to the right. Again, this will not be apparent on the printout. If you wish to preserve the control codes in your document, save each page again to disk.

There are two unsolved problems that remain with the Atari Word Processor/Epson combination. One, subscript is not available. Epson's control format requires that the superscript code be followed by a 0 to create the superscript mode. The word processor's "Special Character Insert" does not allow two alphanumeric symbols to be entered at one time. The second problem is with underlining. It is easy to send the code to activate underlining; the problem is turning it off. Again, Epson's control format requires the underline ''on" command to be followed by 0 to turn it off. There is an exception that is occasionally useful. Control code [ESC] [@] is a system reset and can be used as an extreme method to turn off the underlining mode. It is extreme because when the printer receives [ESC] [@], it immediately resets all modes to default, jumps down one line and resumes printing from the left-hand side. Any text on the line that came after the [ESC] [@] is lost. However, you will find it works well when headings are underlined, or in any other situation where the printer has room to reset before it resumes printing.


The new AtariWriter was designed to be compatible with all four Atari printers and most of the popular printers on the market. The manual suggests that non-Atari printer owners obtain a "printer-driver" program from Atari Program Exchange. The good news is that Epson MX owners do not need a printer-driver program because it is possible to access every feature of your printer directly from AtariWriter.

When prompted by AtariWriter as to which Atari printer you are using, respond with #3, "Atari 810." If you do nothing more than this, you will get 80 columns in normal script on your Epson. However, the Epson will still not respond directly to the print commands from the AtariWriter program. To access the multiple capabilities of the printer, it is necessary to send control codes by alternate means. This is not a problem; AtariWriter makes it easy to enter and send Epson control codes.

Again, first edit, then format and save your letter or document. Prior to printing, add the required print codes at any desired place in the text. In the case of AtariWriter, all commands must be sent in their decimal equivalent. These codes are listed in the appendix to the Epson manual, and I have included a list of the more frequently-used codes at the end of this article.

The procedure is to press [CTRL] and [0] simultaneously, which sets the system up to receive a control code. Since most Epson codes must be prefaced by [ESC] and the decimal equivalent of [ESC] is 27, you will enter: [CTRL] [0] 27 and then [CTRL] [O] followed by the specific decimal command code. If several print modes are to be combined, enter the whole first code followed by the whole second code. It may seem that the codes are particularly long, but in fact they are easy to enter, and a lot cheaper than buying a printer_driver program. Because of this code format, every feature of the Epson can be utilized without problem, including subscript and underlining. As with the Atari Word Processor, the control codes that appear on the screen will not be printed and will not upset your text format.

Table 1

Compressed Mode:

Double Strike Mode=

Double Width Mode: (will only stay on for maximum one line at a time)

Emphasized Mode:

Italics Mode: (not included)

Subscript Mode:
OFF -- [CTRL][INSERT][ESC][H] or [T]

Superscript Mode:

Underline Mode:

Line Spacing 1/6": (Default Mode)

Line Spacing 1/8":

Line Spacing 7/72":

System Reset and New Top of Form:

Top of Form:

Table 2


Compressed Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][O] 15
OFF-- [CTRL][O] 18 Double Strike Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 71
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 72

Double Width Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 87 [CTRL][O] 1
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 87 [CTRL][O] 0

Emphasized Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 69
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 70

Italic Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 52
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 53

Subscript Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 84 [CTRL] [O] 1
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 72

Superscript Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 84 [CTRL] [O] 0
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 72

Underline Mode:
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 45
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 45 [CTRL] [O] 0

Line Spacing 1/6": (Default Mode)
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 50

Line Spacing 1/8":
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 48
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 50

Line Spacing 7/72":
ON -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 49
OFF -- [CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 50

System Reset and New Top of Form:
[CTRL][0] 27 [CTRL][O] 64