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Last modified: Thursday, July 22, 2004 

A device that prints text or illustrations on paper. There are many different types of printers. In terms of the technology utilized, printers fall into the following categories:
  • daisy-wheel: Similar to a ball-head typewriter, this type of printer has a plastic or metal wheel on which the shape of each character stands out in relief. A hammer presses the wheel against a ribbon, which in turn makes an ink stain in the shape of the character on the paper.Daisy-wheel printers produce letter-quality print but cannot print graphics.
  • dot-matrix: Creates characters by striking pins against an ink ribbon. Each pin makes a dot, and combinations of dots form characters and illustrations.
  • ink-jet: Sprays ink at a sheet of paper. Ink-jet printers produce high-quality text and graphics.
  • laser: Uses the same technology as copy machines. Laser printers produce very high quality text and graphics.
  • LCD & LED : Similar to a laser printer, but uses liquid crystals or light-emitting diodes rather than a laser to produce an image on the drum.
  • line printer: Contains a chain of characters or pins that print an entire line at one time. Line printers are very fast, but produce low-quality print.
  • thermal printer: An inexpensive printer that works by pushing heated pins against heat-sensitive paper. Thermal printers are widely used in calculators and fax machines.
  • Printers are also classified by the following characteristics:

  • quality of type: The output produced by printers is said to be either letter quality (as good as a typewriter), near letter quality, or draft quality. Only daisy-wheel, ink-jet, and laser printers produce letter-quality type. Some dot-matrix printers claim letter-quality print, but if you look closely, you can see the difference.
  • speed: Measured in characters per second (cps) or pages per minute (ppm), the speed of printers varies widely. Daisy-wheel printers tend to be the slowest, printing about 30 cps. Line printers are fastest (up to 3,000 lines per minute). Dot-matrix printers can print up to 500 cps, and laser printers range from about 4 to 20 text pages per minute.
  • impact or non-impact: Impact printers include all printers that work by striking an ink ribbon. Daisy-wheel, dot-matrix, and line printers are impact printers. Non-impact printers include laser printers and ink-jet printers. The important difference between impact and non-impact printers is that impact printers are much noisier.
  • graphics: Some printers (daisy-wheel and line printers) can print only text. Other printers can print both text and graphics.
  • fonts : Some printers, notably dot-matrix printers, are limited to one or a few fonts. In contrast, laser and ink-jet printers are capable of printing an almost unlimited variety of fonts. Daisy-wheel printers can also print different fonts, but you need to change the daisy wheel, making it difficult to mix fonts in the same document.
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    For pages about printer . Also check out the following links!

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    Guide to printer ribbons and cartridges
    This is GRC's guide to finding replacement cartridges for laser, ink jet or dot matrix printers. There is also information on recycling printer cartridges.

    Macworld buyer's guide for printers
    Presents a chart of various printers, their manufacturer, price and rating. In addition, users will find a link to a product review article containing more specific details.

    Printer FAQ
    Answers common questions about printers. These questions were collected from the comp.periphs.printers newsgroup.

    Printers buyers directory
    Offers a collection of links to printer manufacturers and products. This page is hosted by LAN Times Online.

    Printing system technology
    Describes two types of specialized printer interfaces commonly used in imaging systems that can be used with bit mapped graphics.

    Sharp Electronics - Printer Product page
    Describes Sharp's line of printer products.

    Yahoo!'s printer companies page
    Yahoo!'s directory of companies that manufacture printers and companies that provide printer supplies.

    Yahoo!'s printer page
    Yahoo!'s directory of printer companies, drivers, reviews, and newsgroups.

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    related categories

    Peripheral Devices


    related terms

    bilevel printer

    bubble-jet printer

    daisy-wheel printer

    dot-matrix printer

    draft quality




    host-based printer


    impact printer

    ink-jet printer

    laser printer


    LCD printer


    letter quality (LQ)

    line printer



    near letter quality

    page printer

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