Using a Raspberry Pi to put a legacy printer on the network

New Life

© Photo by Ales Maze on Unsplash

© Photo by Ales Maze on Unsplash

Article from Issue 276/2023

Niche hardware from the olden days does not always embrace the network. Attaching a Raspberry Pi or other single board computer can add lots of new functionality.

I inherited a DYMO 400 label printer that has a simple USB connection, but it has recently lost the Windows support lottery. My goal was to convert this old standalone label printer (Figure 1) into a network label printer that all the computers on my network can access. Linux users often chafe at the need to replace hardware that is still functioning perfectly well, so keeping an old printer going is a problem that many of us have faced in the past. In this case, it actually appears that the old version of the printer might function better than the newer model (see the box entitled "DRM Woes"), so I'd prefer to keep using it.

The Linux ecosystem is a rich and mature environment with all sorts of programs and utilities that cover almost any situation, but back in the 1990s, printing support in Linux was fairly limited due to the large number of standards and protocols and the lack of Linux-specific drivers. In 1999, Easy Software Products saw this defect/opportunity and created the Common UNIX Printing System (CUPS). The CUPS solution basically turns the computer running it into a print server.

More importantly, CUPS provides a single standard that can handle many printers and protocols. CUPS was released in 1999 and was adopted by many Linux distributions. The CUPS printer service was quite successful for its time, but it could only support printers that had CUPS drivers, as well as the few printers with native support for Postscript.


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