New Pens For Old Plotters

Finding consumables is an ever-present problem facing anyone working with old computer hardware. Many of these devices ceased manufacture decades ago and what old stock remains is invariably degraded by time. [Retrohax] has encountered it with the pens for an Atari plotter, a machine that uses an ALPS mechanism that appears in more than one 1980s machine. The original pens had dried out beyond the ability to refill, so he takes us through the process of finding replacements.

Sadly there are no equivalent modern pens ripe for modification, so whatever replacement he used would have to involve a little lateral thinking. He thought salvation was at hand in the form of multicolor ballpoint refills of the type where the ink is in an easily cuttable plastic tube. [Retrohax] and was able to make a 3D-printed holder for a cut-down ballpoint refill. Sadly the pressure required for a good line from a ballpoint was much higher than the original pens, so he was back to square one. Then he happened upon gel pens and tried the same trick with a gel pen refill. This gave instant success and should provide a valid technique for more than just this ALPS mechanism.

If you haven’t got a classic plotter to hand, never fear. You can have a go at making your own.