The Inexpensive Printers Of 1984
Kathy Yakal, Editorial Assistant
Perhaps more than any other peripheral— even computers themselves-—printers have made tremendous advances over the last year. Higher-quality print technology that could only be found on over-$1000 models can now be had for less than $700.
The following chart lists features of these inexpensive peripherals. We have tried to be as comprehensive as possible. If any manufacturer has been left out, we regret the I omission.
Here's a brief explanation of printer specifications:
Compatibility: Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in matching a printer to your needs. Many printers will accept both parallel (Centronics) and serial (RS-232 or IEEE-488) interfaces; some even have cables for specific computers. Be sure the printer you want has the correct interface, and that you have any necessary cables or connectors.
Print Technology: The method employed to print characters on paper. In the under-$700 category, there are several: impact (dot-matrix or daisy wheel); thermal, which requires special paper; thermal transfer, which works with any kind of paper; and ink-jet, which sprays the ink on the paper through tiny holes. (For more detailed description, see Selby Bateman's article "Choosing The Right Printer" elsewhere in this issue.)
Speed: How fast the printer prints, usually noted in characters per second (cps).
Pitch: Characters per inch (cpi) or characters per line (cpl). This can vary, if the printer supports software that calls for different fonts, like italics, double-width, or compressed characters.
Logic-Seeking?: To print as quickly as possible, many printheads will move in the most economical direction, bidirectionally, and "look for" the closest character at the end of each line.
Buffer: This is another way many printers save you time. A buffer is that area of a printer that "holds" the characters next in line to be printed, freeing up the computer for further input. Most printers have very small buffers, but buffer expansion cards are available for longer printing jobs.
True Descenders?: On some printers, lower-case letters that have "talls," like j, g, and y, do not extend below the line. If you're using your printer for anything beyond casual home use, you will probably want a printer that can print true descenders.
Paper: Maximum width paper you can use with this printer. Standard printer paper for use with tractor feed printers is 9.5 inches wide. With a friction feed printer, any size paper, up to the maximum regulated by the carriage width, can be used.
Feed Type: Pin (tractor) and friction feed are the two most common found on printers for personal computers. Sprockets on the edge S of the printer's platen catch the holes at the edge of the paper on tractor feed printers. Friction feed is similar to the way a typewriter holds the paper. Some printers have the option for both; if not, manufacturers often offer optional snap-on tractors.
Suggested Retail Price: List price at the time this chart was prepared. Individual retailers' prices may vary.
Most printers are capable of printing graphics, as well as additional character sets beyond the standard 96-character ASCII set.