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HP 3000 Becomes a Copy Cat

Sometimes, the HP 3000 can surprise you with its capabilities. Not long ago, the system revealed another life, this one as a minicomputer which controls a copier.

RicohM4000 Both of those technologies, mini and copier, are considered old-school. Everybody understands what a copier does, but few people under 50 know what the term mini represents. For anybody reading who's only just arrived in IT during this decade, computers were known as mainframes, microcomputers, and minicomputers. People who know what mini means helped connect a Ricoh copier to a 3000. Over a network, no less.

Of course this Ricoh CP M4000 is not a copier of the '80s, not any more than the HP 3000 is a minicomputer of that era. The Ricoh prints for PCs (microcomputers) at Victor S. Barnes Company. It also stacks and staples, a feature set that IT manager Tom Hula wanted to extend to its 3000. The system became a copy cat by telling the copier to stop looking for some of its configuration information. A third party tool helped provide another way to claim this new life for the 3000.

Routing application output to print and copy devices often becomes the task of a print server. The 3000 has a good heritage of working with such a PC print clearinghouse. There's also the NBSPOOL software from Quest Software. The latter is still for sale, still supported. Quest is one of those suppliers who's going to be supporting 3000 sites a long time after HP leaves the field.

Another fine 3000 product, NetPrint from Minisoft, specializes in connecting HP 3000s with output devices HP doesn't support under MPE/iX. Hula found a workaround on his own, once he talked to the Ricoh support. The answer he discovered within 24 hours was to disable the NPCONFIG information on the output job

The problem had to do with restrictions that were set on printing color. On each workstation, I had had to specify black and white printing as the preference so that people could print to the copier. Using color then required an authorization code if the user had one assigned.

As far as I know, the HP 3000 has no way of communicating printing preferences to this copier. As soon as I removed the restriction from the copier, printing using the NPCONFIG entry I originally used worked. 

One of the community's networking gurus added some more information to suggest another workaround. Jeff Kell, who manages the 3000 newsgroup where this catty advice appeared, said the 3000's tool set might include enough connection to talk to Ricoh's software drivers.

We have an “outsourced” copy center that uses Ricoh printers. Their printers normally require an authorization code to print anything. The only way to print to them from the 3000 was to have them disable the authorization check on the particular printer.  Once that is done, it does accept a normal PCL-stream on tcp/9100 (with SNMP disabled).

Ricoh has drivers for Windows, and there are Unix “cups” configurations for them including authorization codes. But of course there is no MPE variant, unless you can front-end one with some esoteric “lpr” type options, using one of the 3000's external network printing packages (ESPUL?).

ESPUL was created by RAC Software's Rich Corn. The product is resold by Minisoft as NetPrint. The advice gives 3000 customers more than one way to skin this cat. Nothing that gruesome is needed to extend a 3000's reach today. You need only ask those who remember that the word mini can represent a large array of solutions.