dot matrix printer

i had an epiphany a little while back that i totally forgot about and then remembered recently and actually executed on…

i got rid of my inkjet printer and got myself a crusty parallel port (with parallel port to usb port cable) dot matrix printer.

imo, this may be the most useful thing i have done for writing and general purpose computing.

everytime i have to print something at home, i’m waaaaaay too conscious about how much it costs to reload that frickin’ ink. even with remanufactured cartridges, it always seems like you can’t print very much till it’s time to get a top off.

but it didn’t used to be this way people!

when i was a kid in the 80’s, i had an epson dot matrix printer hooked up to a pc-xt compatible and i swear over 4 years, i think i might have replaced the ribbon ONCE. thing is, the ribbons on these things get lighter and lighter… but funny thing - at a certain point, it simply doesn’t get any lighter! it’s definitely gray and not black but i can totally use it for just getting hard copies to scribble on or even printing out grocery lists or directions from google maps.

oh, and since they’re impact, you can use carbon paper if need be which could be handy.

when i was first inspired to get a dot matrix printer, it was actually a by way of a proposed product where you insert a pencil and the printer actually grinds down on the pencil like a sharpener, harvesting the graphite and then using the graphite to print… that would be awesome and cheap and i wanted that so badly… until i realized that an old dot matrix printer would get me most of the way there!

i would imagine that for most people, it’s the ability to print at any time and at negligible cost that is most important in a printer - not necessarily quality. and in this, i think my new acquisition will serve me incredibly well.

dot matrix printers are still on sale and you can get them from amazon new from $150 - $ridiculous but i got mine for $60 by getting from one of the used sellers.

screw the modern printers that can be bought for a song to keep us on an ink treadmill that would lead an observer to imagine we were printing with gold…

dmps ftw!

anyhoo, just thought i’d share.


p.s. yay scrivener.

Actually, I gave up with ink-jet about 4 years ago 'cos I realised what a bomb it was costing me. I bought a low cost Brother laser printer. It cost me less than two sets of ink cartridges which wouldn’t have lasted me a year … the starter cartridge in it lasted over two years — that included printing a lot of pages with images, smallish ones generally, admittedly — and buying a new full cartridge cost me 75% of the cost of a set of ink cartridges and I’ve probably got another three years use of it. To get it refilled will cost just over the cost of one of the 6 cartridges in the ink-jet and would last another four to five years. Sadly, I’ll be leaving the Land of the Great Firewall long before then and don’t need to take the printer back to the UK, so a friend is going to benefit!

And it’s much, much, faster than ink-jet or dot-matrix, and it’s virtually silent! I don’t need carbon copies … factor in the cost of your carbon paper and I reckon my laser would be giving your dot-matrix a good run for its money.


I can’t say why, exactly, but I’m laughing like hell at this post :laughing: Thanks for the giggle, jin. :laughing:
Take care





oooooo… laser… hadn’t really considered that. yeah i’m sure it’s much faster… but then again, speed isn’t a huge concern for me either.

i don’t really need carbon copies either but it’s nice to know i have the option… for some reason… :slight_smile:

i guess i just like the thought of something operating and printing SOMETHING regardless of how old the ribbon gets… i miss that analog kinda resilience.

but will definitely keep laser in mind for future.

btw - what’s a low cost laser? how much was your brother?

i’m looking at $60 for the printer and $5 for a ribbon every two or three years if i decide that gray is not good enough… actually, i can get a 6 pack now for $20 so that would bring me under $3 per. certainly not as nice as a laser but as i said, i wasn’t looking for nice… just soviet style tenacity…


Laser printers can be had for quite cheap, and they will last you for a long time. A cheap printer will do about 20 to 30 or so pages per minute and cost about $100, though you can usually find a deal somewhere for less. Toner cartridges last for years; probably about the same as dot matrix ribbons. I’m still using the “starter cartridge” that came with mine, and I bought it six years ago. Granted, I don’t print much, always use economy mode, and don’t mind if it isn’t perfectly pitch black on white. Just hard copy backups every once in a while.

Near the end of Nov. last year I bought a Brother HL-2270DW Compact Laser Printer with Wireless Networking and Duplex during an Amazon Gold Box sale for about $75. It’s a great little printer. The fan is somewhat noisy for ten minutes when turned on, or after printing, but then it goes into standby mode and is silent. I got 800+ pages from the starter toner and just installed the high yield cartridge that is supposed to give 2600 pages. No jams so far and it allows my wife to print from her iPad since I installed Printopia on my desktop. I love that it allows me to print on both sides of the paper. I’ve only kept my Canon injet for the scanning and copying abilities but I rarely turn it on anymore. The reviews on Amazon are generally pretty glowing and I have to agree.

One of the advantages of having an office job is access to the work printers. Usually very quick, great quality full colour machines, with all the paper you need. You just need to stand over them to make sure no-one picks up you’re magnum opus instead of their powerpoint slides and gives up the game.

[size=50]Hmmm, I wonder if anyone has ever tried to use Powerpoint to write a novel. [/size]

One feature of these all-singing-all-dancing machines that I use a lot is that they can print to the wonderful ‘booklet’ view. So I quite often compile using my special “PF_Book” compile settings and then print out to booklet view. A quick fold down the middle and you have something approximating a reader’s experience you can slip in your briefcase or take to lunch.


  • But who knows
  • How well it all
  • Turned out.


PowerPoint = Devil’s Spawn. Contributing to a fall in literacy, oratory and eloquence in the business world (see AmberV’s post above), with a hand in both space shuttle disasters, banned by a US commander in Iraq as “an internal threat”, doubtless involved in the financial crisis, and almost certain to be implicated in The End of Days. Grrr. :wink:

P.S. The incremental cost of wireless-ness seems to be significantly greater for compact laser printers - for example the Brother nib recommends above - than for ink jets. Must be the cross-subsidy from the ink. Did I read that inkjet ink is actually more expensive than blood in those places where you can buy and sell blood?

As long as we’re in retrograde mode…

Took a couple grandchildren to a high-end second-hand store yesterday. While they dithered over action figures and dolls, I found an old Olivetti manual portable, apparently in excellent condition, original case battered but intact.

It was marked $48.

Avarice told me to grab it; reason said no. While avarice and reason debated, Eli and Lucy made their choices and asked if they could take their treasures home. So we did.

Last night I sat down, turned on the iMac — it could as well have been an iPad or a PC — and started to work. Fingers flew over the keyboard, effortlessly, silently. It was, to put a point of precise sharpness upon it, boring. My brain was working, but my hands were damn near idle, working less than if they’d been marking time to a Rachmaninoff recording.

My thoughts drifted back to Olivetti, to sound and feel of a real keyboard, clatter of keys as raised-metal figures struck carbon-laden ribbon to make actual marks on a tangible surface. Reason finally wrestled avarice (and nostalgia) back to the then and there.

But, soon as the grandchildren and their mother head back home, I just may sneak over to that second-hand store for another sly meeting with Olivetti.

[Keith: this is reverse technological imperative; perhaps you could call it digital deceleration. And Kurt Vonnegut and Cormac McCarthy notwithstanding, I like semicolons.]


Refurb, too, can be a good deal. My fiance and his dad got the HP 5000 for a song as a refurb, and it just won’t die. The thing is a serious workhorse.

Forget fussing around with noisy old dot-matrix printers and add-ons that make your computer keyboard clack like a real typewriter: get one of these amazing things! An actual typewriter that types on paper, like always, and also, at the same time, types to a computer screen, letting you save and email your output. The clackety-clack sounds are made by real typewriter keys. … ter-62064/

I still can’t quite believe it.

Someone made one of these for his grandmother, I believe, out of a Lettera 22, it was beautiful. DIY kit, I see. Hmm.

Ink jet is for small amounts of pages. Toner based (Laser printers) are for higher quantity printing.

A good cheap 8.5x11 Laser Printer with a high capacity toner cartridge can spit out around 10,000 sheets before needing a replacement cartridge.

Save inkjet for color

You people solve your problems better than me…than I…than me…I do not solve my problems as well as you people.

UPDATE: laser printer it is

yeah, the dot matrix dealy wasn’t working out that well. first of all, it continuously lost connection to the pc (by way of the parallel to usb cable) and for some reason, when printing certain kinds of documents, insisted on flipping portrait and landscape orientations… the only real way to know is try printing a test and if it flipped, just select the other… argh.

what i liked about the dot matrix idea was the analog falloff - the printer didn’t tell me when the ink was done. i could just see it for myself with my own eyes and could print until literally nothing printed… this was not my experience with ink jet printers which locked you out at a certain point.

i’ve read lasers do that as well… but in addition to the fact that the toner lasts for much longer without requiring “head cleanings” that use up ink, you can HACK LASER PRINTERS! … re=g-all-u … inter.html

i’m not getting that printer - i’m getting … 00_s00_i00

but that has hacks of its own through the printer settings menu as well as mechanically.

dang… should have asked about this on the forum before i got the dot matrix… oh well, $40 lesson learned!

anyhoo, thanks for the info fellows… hopefully, this will solve my printing needs for the foreseeable future.


I just bought that exact Brother printer… haven’t used it much, but so far, so good.

Setup on a Mac, Windows and Linux machine was reasonably painless, although if you are going to use the wireless, the first setup needs to be with a USB cable in most circumstances.


I brought a Samsung CLP300 Laser printer 6 years ago. It cost me around £45 in (cheap copy) toner to use it for 5 years hundreds of pages of colour and thousands of black and white. When it died last year I replaced it with its equivalent model from the current Samsung calalogue. :mrgreen:

I had a NEC printer for … a lot of years. Undestroyable, I’m sure it’s still working somewhere. But if you wanted to have your novel printed out on normal paper, you had to insert every sheet separately by hand. Printing 300 pages took a whole day. Although I tend strongly to nostalgia, I was glad when laser printers became affordable and wouldn’t want to go back.