The history and evolution of dot matrix print technology

History

First seen in the early 1970s, dot-matrix printers dominated the personal printers market and found their way inside homes and offices alike, they were gradually overcame by inkjets and laser printers because of pure technological advancements.

With printing speed that was considered fast for their time and noisy mechanical movements to print a single character, dot-matrix printers got the name from their method of punching the dot shaped, inked ribbon on a paper, leaving an imprint and repeating until a character was formed from a combination of these dots in a “matrix” style. A close up of any such paper would tell you the resolution of the printer as how many dots it took to form a letter.

With their initial speeds given in characters per second instead of pages per minute, printers were completely different back then, most of the noise came from a solenoid that moved the paper and the impact ribbon as it punched itself repeatedly to form a single character, one can say that the only feature they had in common with modern printers was their ability to print from a digital signal.

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Dot-Matrix printers were heavily used in homes as well as in offices, the Epson MX-80 broke the ice which was stopping them from entering the home market. It offered a relatively quieter and better quality than previous models while also paving the way towards higher resolution printers.

Drawbacks

Most of these printers weren’t great for everyday office use. Noise was definitely an issue but image quality degraded rapidly after several photocopies, noise and printing speed however were quickly improved and made better with newer models.

Although the dot-matrix printers were very common until the 1990s, inkjets quickly replaced them and took over the market. By the 2000s all dot-matrix printers were either replaced already, or on the list to be.

The inkjet printers offered everything that the dot-matrix couldn’t, a few of these are:

  • A quieter environment.
  • Faster print speed.
  • Good output quality.
  • Ability to print artwork without a dot-matrix style.
  • Standardized print papers which are still being used to this day.

The Dot-Matrix printers

Although largely outdated, dot-matrix printers still had features that were phenomenal for their  times, these features are ultimately still required today and hence dot-matrix printers are still being used in a more places than one would think.

Continuous printing

One of their key feature was the ability to print on a continuous sheet of paper, regardless of how long it is. This was very important in fields where the amount of print paper was inconsistent, where the required paper might be a couple of inches or a few feet, dot-matrix printers were and are still being used.

Printing on low ink

Other features included the ability to operate as the ink started to run low, instead of the print operation stopping midway, data would gradually become lighter and fade away completely. This unintentional feature is one of the many reasons these printers are still used on machines that must operate at all times without stopping in between; like security log printers. The ink can then be replaced on a timely basis instead of having to replace it as soon as it runs low or run the risk of missing logs.

Modern day printers uses for Dot-Matrix printers include receipt printing in shops, stores and for ATM machines however thermal printing is gradually replacing these as the most prefered usage for cash register paper.

Advantages of Dot-Matrix printers in receipt printing

Nearly every feature already discussed is also advantageous for receipt printing in stores, banks, ATM machines, etc.

Being able to print on continuous paper rolls allows receipts to be as long as possible without it being on multiple pages. So whether the customer’s buying one item or fifty items, it will always be on one receipt.

This feature also nullifies the possibility of using an extra paper for a single line of text. The amount of paper used will always be equal to the amount which was required, so dot-matrix printers save money as well.

Maintenance is relatively easier and ink ribbons can be replaced with simple mechanical movements, as these printer function due to an impact with the paper, they can be used in combination with carbon or carbonless paper to make multiple copies of a receipt without printing them all individually, saving a significant amount of time.