Interface Board, Cable, DOS 3.3 disk and manual.
Available: Godfrey Deane
(058) 21 7325
Cost: $208.50 tax paid
At its most fundamental, the FingerPrint Plus is a printer interface board. At its most functional, it is a Grappler plus emulator, an Apple Super Serial emulator and a Wildcard emulator, all at the same time.
The Fingerprint Plus is a multifunction card so the dollars spent on this do not just fill a hole in your Apple, they do so very cost effectively, both in value and in reducing the population explosion in your slots. The card is a printer interface. I used it with DOS, CP/M and Pascal. After an initial hiccup, the FingerPrint performed exactly as the Grappler I had pulled out. The hiccup came about as a result of my reading the manual too closely. The manual, which is about 30 pages long, lists about forty printers (including colour printers) which are supported. And, before the FingerPrint can work, a set of switches must be set. Now, the printer I use for drafts and graphics is a Super 5, which is set up for the IBM pc. However, without any playing with dip switches, it works equally well hooked to the Apple. So, the selection seemed obvious, ‘IBM – Epson Compatible’.
The results from this selection were anything but awe inspiring. But, playing with the switches and selection just ‘Epson’ fixed the problem. It appears the list of supported printers is larger than the FingerPrint makers knew. If I was to make any comment at this point, it would be that the interface will give you quite some flexibility in the type of printer you attach, and so would be worth purchasing as the printer interface of your choice. While such flexibility is not important when only pushing text through the printer, it does become critical when it comes to graphics and the utilisation of all printer features. And, there is nothing to say you won’t buy a second printer or replace the one you have.
But, the FingerPrint does offer much more.
Trailing out from the interface are two cables. One goes naturally to the printer, while the other goes to the front of your Apple. At the end of this is a small adhesive-backed pad with a fingerprint embellished on it. This is the switch which interrupts your Apple’s processing and allows you to do screen prints.
This is one of the nice features found standard on MS DOS pcs. By hitting two keys on the keyboard (SHIFT and PRT SC), the screen goes to the printer. Great when playing with disk directories or getting hard copy of a section of a spreadsheet easily. With FingerPrint, this feature becomes available on the Apple. Pressing the switch, gives you a menu as shown in Figure 1.
Unlike the Wildcard, this menu only temporarily suspends the running of your program. You return at the point where you left, without any adverse results. For example, Figure 2 shows a scene from Zaxxon (one of the favourite games), and play continued after the print. The old way of getting these screens was to invest in a Wildcard. This great little piece of hardware would stop any program allow you to boot a disk with a normal DOS or wander through the monitor. If all was well, the graphics pages would be intact and could be then saved to disk with something like:
BSAVE PICI, A$20001$2000
and then printed from disk, or through the Grappler.
FingerPrint has three advantages over the Wildcard. The first has been mentioned – you don’t need to exit your program if you don’t really want to. The second is that it will print a mix of lo-res graphics and text, which is fiddly to do with the Apple. And, the third is that you don’t need to know that A$2000 is a starting address of HGRl in RAM and L$2000 is the length of the page you pages with DISPLAY before doing anything else.
Apart from printing graphics, the Finger Print will dump text from a standard 40 column screen or an 80 column using the Apple 80 column card or want to save. All you need to do is a Videx board. I was unable to test the point to PRINT, or store to disk. Your Apple 80 column card, but according to even have the option of looking at the the manual, screen dumps from AppleWriter (and MousePaint) are straightforward.
But, there is still more. The interface has both a serial and para11el port, and these can be used simultaneously with two printers going at
the same time, or as selected, or, the serial can be used for other peripherals. The manual suggest one such item which can be hung off is a modem and describes the connection to five types of modems, including Hayes. Again I was unable to test this feature of the card because I have an accoustic coupler with a connector different to the one required on the card. According to the literature supplied with the package, this is not a worry as a few dollars more will rectify. And, if you already have a serial printer, my advice would be to look at the FingerPrint when considering communications, because if your modem can be hooked to the serial card driving your printer, then you could easily justify hooking your printer to the FingerPrint and capitalising on all its features.
If it isn’t apparent, I definitely liked the card. At around $210 with a cable and self test disk, it is not expensive and yet offers a wide range of very useful features. To buy for some of these features alone – like the ‘print screen’ facility – may not be worth the expense. To print high scores, or Battlefront screens to ponder at leisure, also won’t justify the dollars for me. However if you are buying a parallel printer, don’t let the salesperson talk you into anything less for an interface, even if it looks a bit more expensive. Or if you are considering hooking Apples together or talking to bulletin boards then this card could easily be considered instead of a serial, and the print features become a bonus.
For me the best aspect of the card was that it freed two slots. My II+ is full – even slot 7. Putting in the FingerPrint Plus instead of my Grappler immediately gave me back two additional slots – the Wildcard and the serial.