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According to the user's manual this message indicates a problem with the ribbon sensor. As a test, set the unit for thermal direct printing and attempt to print a barcode. You will not see the code if yoiu are expecting thermal transfer, but the paper/label should feed like it is printing. That will indicate that the printer is functioning. At this point, the sensor needs to be replaced.
The serial cable for the Tec printer must be wired straight through (not a crossover cable). Are you using the original cable that came with the printer? Do you still have the manual? there are some dip switches in the top right hand corner of the inside of the printer that control the serial port settings. If you have the manual and look in there check that they are set to default settings.
Swapping the parallel port to the printer should allow it to connect via parallel. Run through front panel diagnostics before/after install. depending on firmware it will tell you if the parallel board is installed.