That familiar noisy printing sound—you probably have seen or heard of it; screaming akin to a dialup modem initializing. It was quite popular way back in the 80s when WordStar and WordPerfect were the de facto word processing applications. Despite its loud demeanor, there are a few reasons why it remains useful to some enterprises. Even if Japanese brands Oki and Epson are the some of the few ones left that manufacture dot matrix printer models these days.
Remember what those printers are?
For those who were just born yesterday, it is the oldest type of printer still available today. Dot matrix printers are printers with a head that runs back and forth and strikes against a ribbon to print; hence also known as impact printers. Its printing mechanism is similar to a typewriter but instead of forged characters embossed in small printing plates, it prints by pushing small pins or metal rods against an ink-dipped ribbon to the paper’s surface. It also has a guide plate to guide the pins to the substrate. The printed output is produced in a form of dots that can be seen by the naked eye and can continuously print one text line at a time. While these printers are usually used to print text, they can also be used to print simple graphics in ASCII or bitmap form. A dot matrix printer can have a 100-200 dpi in resolution and does not print as good as an inkjet or laser. The fonts that can be printed properly are limited to monospaced fonts (fonts with the same amount of horizontal space), optical character recognition (OCR) -A and -B type fonts (proportional fonts that are aesthetically better than monospace) or sans-serif fonts (fonts with no extending strokes in the characters).
Despite its printing limitations while the lasers and the inkjets dominate the printer market,
a dot matrix printer wins in terms of printing and maintenance cost. A single ribbon can print up to 7 million characters of text. There’s no need for an ink monitoring software, as you can visually determine if the ribbon is drying up and may soon need replacement when the printout is quite lighter than normal. Maintenance wise, dot matrix printers can withstand in a relatively hot environment.
Efficient on Certain Applications
As I’ve mentioned earlier that they are still being used today by some enterprises, these printers serve the best particularly to POS terminals, cash registers, courier-oriented service companies, or ATMs. The capability to print with two sheets of paper simultaneously with carbon paper inserted in between the sheets is its most important feature for such environments. Continuous paper usage is also an advantage that the printer lets you print without changing of paper which is also needed for printing carbonless forms, pre-printed paper for invoices or receipts. Such applications need to manually feed, adjust and calibrate the paper in order the printout would not misalign any field from the pre-printed paper.
So next time you come across to some dot matrix printers, you may be fascinated at its obscurity in printing technology that is still relevant up to this day. For what they’re worth, they are reliable in what they are used for.
Haven’t heard of Dot Matrix printers until today. Thanks for the educative article.
I had really wondered about this! Thanks!