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Printer, a computerperipheral that puts text or a computer-generated image on paper or on another medium, such as a transparency. Printers can be categorized in any of several ways. The most common distinction is impact vs. nonimpact. Impact printers physically strike the paper and are exemplified by pin dot-matrix printers and daisy-wheel printers; nonimpact printers include every other type of print mechanism, including laser, ink-jet, and thermal printers. Other possible methods of categorizing printers include (but are not limited to) the following:

Print technology: Chief among these, with microcomputers, are pin dot-matrix, ink-jet, laser, thermal, and (although somewhat outdated) daisy-wheel or thimble printers. Pin dot-matrix printers can be further classified by the number of pins in the print head: 9, 18, 24, and so on.

Character formation: Fully formed characters made of continuous lines (for example, those produced by a daisy-wheel printer) vs. dot-matrix characters composed of patterns of dots (such as those produced by standard dot-matrix, ink-jet, and thermal printers). Laser printers, while technically dot-matrix, are generally considered to produce fully formed characters because their output is very clear and the dots are extremely small and closely spaced.

Method of transmission: parallel (byte-by-byte transmission) vs. serial (bit-by-bit transmission). These categories refer to the means by which output is sent to the printer rather than to any mechanical distinctions. Many printers are available in either serial or parallel versions, and still other printers offer both choices, yielding greater flexibility in installation options.

Method of printing: Character by character, line by line, or page by page. Character printers include standard dot-matrix, ink-jet, thermal, and daisy-wheel printers. Line printers include the band, chain, and drum printers that are commonly associated with large computer installations or networks. Page printers include the electrophotographic printers, such as laser printers.

Print capability: Text-only vs. text-and-graphics. Text-only printers, including most daisy-wheel and thimble printers and some dot-matrix and laser printers, can reproduce only characters for which they have matching patterns, such as embossed type, or internal character maps. Text-and-graphics printers—dot-matrix, ink-jet, laser, and others—can reproduce all manner of images by “drawing” each as a pattern of dots.


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