Originally written and posted 5 March 2000.
Content last modified 7 March 2000.

Epson 740 printer on 68030 Macs

I’ve been experimenting with the popular, inexpensive, and readily-available (for the moment) Epson Stylus 740 printer on officially unsupported Vintage Macs, and thought some of you might be interested in my findings.


The quick summary

Epson’s System Requirements are correct for speedy, plug-and-play operation. Still, those who can handle slow printouts and fiddling, twiddling, and occasional instability may consider using a 740 with 030 Macs (i don’t have an 020, and could therefore not test on one).

Full summary

Tested configurations

Most of my testing was on a 68030-based PowerBook 170, with additional testing on a IIsi. I had hoped (for some reason not requiring human logic) to get the thing to run on the 68000-based Mac Plus. This did not happen, since the Epson software requires 32-bit mode to run. It is PPC-oriented code (as one would expect), so the only way it works on 680x0 Macs at all is via CFM-68k 4.0, ObjectSupportLib 1.2, and their friends (all installed by the Epson installers).

Two versions of the Epson driver software package were tested:

Officially, as of early 1999 when i purchased this printer for my parents, the 740 and the basic 740 driver software package (CD-ROM version 1.1) was supported on System 7.1 or newer, 68040 or newer. I recall that the version currently available on the Epson website (5.5dE) demands System 7.5.1 or newer.

The majority of testing was under System 7.5.5. The printer operated equally well from both the Modem and Printer port, though i was unable to get it to work on the Modem port when AppleTalk was active on the Printer port.

Roadblocks (things which do not work as they are supposed to work, in the order i found them)

The first roadblock when using the included Epson CD-ROM is that Epson wants you to run a cute Macromedia Director movie to get to the installer. Not enough memory on an 8MB PB 170 for this. Workaround: dig for the actual installer, and launch that, which works. Or just download the current version from Epson’s website and use that.

The second roadblock was discovering the 32-bit mode requirement (i had inadvertently left the PB in 24-bit mode).

The third roadblock was discovering that neither the older driver software from the Epson CD-ROM version 1.1 nor the current website version would work at all under System 7.1 Update 3, no matter what i tried (and i tried all kinds of wacky substitutions from later systems).

The fourth roadblock was discovering that the Epson driver software assumes a 640 X 480 screen, or larger. Users with smaller screens (such as on the PB 170) will need a screen expander such as SteppingOut for some of the screens (such as diagnostics/ink level), though the basic Page Setup and Print screens are OK without expansion.

Memory

From the Read Me:
Memory requirements: The printer driver uses the free portion of your computer’s system memory as its working memory. The available memory is displayed as the “Largest Unused Block” in the About This Macintosh dialog box (accessed from the Apple menu). The memory requirements for printing a letter size full-page color image are as follows:

Minimum: 5MB (Foreground Printing), 10MB (Background Printing)
Recommended: 12MB (Foreground Printing), 21MB (Background Printing)

These recommendations seem basically correct, although there are some exceptions. I was able to get the printer to work acceptably well on the 8MB PB 170 with VM off when printing small mostly text files in SimpleText and WriteNow 4.02. There were occasional freezes, esp. when opening the Page Setup window in WriteNow. Since all the functions i tried worked at least some of the time, i suspect memory issues. The printer will be much happier with Epson’s recommended memory (or more), though i did have very good results on the 170 using Background Printing with less memory than listed above. Plan on having at least 16 MB of physical RAM, if possible, for the best shot at stability.

Color image printing in JPEGView 3.31 did work, with caveats. JPEGView and the Epson software could not print with 8MB, so i had to turn virtual memory on (i used 13-15MB on various tests). With background printing off, the sample image and a much smaller file size similar image each took over 1 1/2 hours to print (720 dpi Photo settings). And don’t assume for a moment that you can walk away… i had to routinely dismiss “The printer is not responding” dialog boxes. Turning on background printing totally eliminated the dialogs in one test and reduced them to only one in another. Printing was noticeably faster in both these tests with background printing on, though still not mistakable for “fast” (about 1/2 hour).

Background printing usually helped. Things were stable enough that i was able to play Forty Thieves while a background print was printing (just a test; this of course slowed the printing down). Pure black and white text documents at 360 dpi printed out over several minutes, roughly twice as long as the same document, same software on a PPC such as a PB 3400/240 or PM 8600/300.

Results were similar with OS 7.6.1 on the PB 170. Needing to return the printer, i was unable to repeat each test under 7.6.1. Though i did have one memorable freeze using Epson's Layout function while in WriteNow, i had the sense that 7.6.1 would be a better choice than 7.5.x for use with the Epson software.

Not many tests could be done on the IIsi, due to time limitations. The tests which were done had similar results. The configuration was System 7.5.5, VM off, 17MB physical RAM, FPU installed (no time to pull it out). Speeds were similar, though it was clear that the Epson software enjoyed the extra RAM. There was a strange, non-repeatable failure where the printer made a loud mechanical noise (i was out of the room at the time) and ceased printing anything, with magenta ink dribbling onto the page being printed. After resetting the printer and running several cleaning cycles to restore printing, i repeated the same print job (to the best of my ability; a WriteNow 4 sample document with a watermark over it from the Epson software) with flawless results.

Summary

It is possible to use the Epson Stylus 740 on at least some 68030 Macs. This is not recommended for casual or novice computer users, nor those in a hurry. It is a viable option for Mac hobbyists who want a nice, inexpensive 1440 dpi color printer for their 030 Mac, provide their own tech. support, and don't mind occasional glitches. Expect to spend some time “dialing in” everything for reasonable stability. Try to have a minimum of 16 MB of RAM and System 7.5.5 if at all possible. There was no function of the Epson software which i tested which consistently failed to work (except on System 7.1, which is not recommended). Some of my freezes were likely due to 8MB of physical RAM. Others may have been due to a drag-install of crashed extensions rather than an installer install of clean pieces.

Hope someone out there finds all this fol-de-rol useful.

))Sonic((
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