Now supplanted by quiet ink jet printers and networked laser printers, the dot matrix printer has mostly disappeared from the landscape. Occasionally you can still find them for special purpose use however. Today’s question: Do you still support dot matrix printers?


There was a time when you could walk through an office and barely be able to hear yourself think with all the clatter coming from dot matrix printers hammering out reports. Once you got used to the noise, you didn’t notice it as much, but there was always a musical jackhammering to them.

Work around them long enough and you could tell whether the person was doing a regular letter or something for a formal presentation by the sound of the double strike. Printing graphics would result in the high-pitch squeal of the pins all striking at once.

And of course, there was always the fun of replacing ribbons like in the even-more ancient typewriter days. Invariably one section of the ribbon would dry out or be over-inked so the quality was never consistent.

Finally one should never forget — you could have any font you wanted as long as it was 10 point Courier. Well, that is unless you were to subject yourself to BitStream fonts or were lucky enough to have a printer that would do other styles natively.

Dot matrix printers started off as basic 9-pin units. They were set to double strike if you wanted “near letter quality,” which would force them to make two passes over each line. Later on, 24-pin units evolved, which would produce NLQ print on the fly, but only at preprogrammed fonts. Anything special required the printer to go in graphics mode, which was painfully slow, loud, and hard on ribbons. Plus, no matter how good the print, you still had jagged edges on the letters.

Still making noise

Although they’re not nearly as ubiquitous as they used to be, dot matrix printers are still around. I got to thinking about them the other day when I bought something in a store and got a receipt that was printed on one.

Mostly they’re used by companies that need to print multipart forms. Laser and ink jet printers are useless for this task unless you want them to spit out multiple page after page. So for those cases where you have forms of different colors, you have to use a dot matrix printer.

You can still buy them new. Some of them haven’t changed at all since the 1990s. The Okidata Microline 300 series pretty much looks the same way it did during the first Bush administration. Being niche products, their prices are pretty high. Unlike most things in IT where the price has declined over time, you’ll still pay the same dollar amount for a dot matrix printer today as you did fifteen years ago.

Some of the vendors that still make dot matrix printers include

I still have a Panasonic 24-pin dot matrix printer at home as well as an old Tandy DMP-130 9-pin that I used with my Tandy 1000. We used to use mostly Lexmarks (then IBM) and Okidatas at the places I’ve worked. I never used Epsons much, but the Lexmarks always seemed solid.

Do you still support dot matrix printers?

Are there still some dot matrix printers hammering away the days in your organization? Take the poll below and tell us in the Comment section what brand you like best.