Jul 062014

The little Radio Shack TRS-80 model TP-10 was a thermal printer with a serial interface, formerly sold for use with machines like the Color Computer. They show up on eBay from time to time, sometimes for very few dollars. They’re small and quiet, and suitable for utility printing such as when developing BASIC programs. You wouldn’t want to turn in a book report printed on one, but they’re fine for utility purposes. I got mine for next to nothing as a ride-along with some other items in an eBay lot. It had a bit of paper left in it, but the paper appears to have weathered a lot of hot summers in somebody’s garage, and it doesn’t give very good print quality any more.

Unfortunately, paper for the TP-10 isn’t so easy to find. They use 4-1/8" wide thermal roll paper, which doesn’t seem to be a common size in the US at this time. When original TP-10 paper shows up on eBay, it’s listed at $10 a roll or more… I think I paid about that much for the whole printer! I decided to try an experiment to see how easy it would be to cut down common (for the time being…) FAX machine paper. My results were not too bad!

8-1/2" wide thermal FAX machine roll paper is still available at the local office supply store, and it’s wide enough for each roll to be cut into two rolls of TP-10 paper. For this experiment, I marked the spots to cut the paper, taped down the edge, and taped around the cut lines to hopefully help prevent tearing of the cut edge. Then I just made a couple cuts on my power compound miter saw.

Unsurprisingly, the cut edges of the thermal paper blackened from the heat of sawing the roll of paper. The edges also came out a bit ragged, but not too ragged to keep the paper from working in my printer. I’m calling this a successful experiment, but I still hope to come up with an easy way to make neater cuts in roll paper. In particular, I hope to find a techniques that also works well for making narrow paper rolls for cipher machines such as my M-209.

I could have lit the scene better for these photos, but much like the cut FAX machine paper, the pictures are "good enough".

  7 Responses to “New Life for a TRS-80 TP-10 Printer”

  1. Can the tp10 be converter to run from the cassette port of a TRS 80 ?
    Is there any list of printers that will conform to the TRS 80?

    • No, the TP-10 needs to be run from an RS-232 serial port. It has the 4-pin DIN connector as used on the TRS-80 Color Computer. I’d imagine that it could also be used with other TRS-80 computers if you made a suitable cable.

  2. the best way to make cleanly sliced thermal paper would be with something like this, http://labelmateusa.com/product-category/label-slitters/slitting-packages/ but it would be crazy to spend that kind of money just to make a couple rolls up.

    we use their unwinders and winders at work but don’t have any slitter units.

    • Cool! Given enough gumption, I could probably fabricate something suitable for my needs. It could also come in handy for making paper tape for some of my crypto machines.

  3. … well, the good news is that “the PC-10” can still be used; un-like the 4-pen color graphic plotter. One humorist note on the recent increase for simplicity programming languages: has anybody noticed that only the simplest of instructions are all that 99.9% of people are using? ( i.e. input “drive weight ?”; d ? input “tandom weight ?”; t … ) followed by a quick set of x-y, /#, /#, print z. It seems to me that a simple program is easier for a user than all the extras that usoft ever imagined when the trs-80s were released to all the unnecessary stuff added by the useless functions of today’s programs. The home computers of yesterday were useful to those whome needed short-cuts – and, now – you know the reasons for its revival!

  4. For those of you with a business address, you can get 4-1/8″X90′ or 4-1/8″X79′ at PaperJack.com. The cost is $28.99 for a box of 48 rolls with free shipping. Residential addresses have to pay $8.50 shipping.


  5. I forgot to mention that they ship only in the continental US( no Alaska and Hawaii). No international shipping.