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Computer ease graphics. Soon, things should settle down and a standard should be adopted.
CPS stands for characters per second. It refers to the speed at which the printer outputs characters. It's much like the MPG (miles per gallon) that car manufacturers attach to new cars. It should only be used for comparison and yours may vary. Some printer makers use a cps that can be obtained only under ideal conditions. Others use a moderate average cps that will come very close to the truth. Radio Shack usually underrates their printers according to the lab tests I've seen. I know it's another plug, but they deserve it. Other printer folks could only achieve their advertised output on a very good day going downhill. The average daisy wheel runs about 35 cps and a dot matrix about 100 cps. A daisy wheel may be slow compared to a dot matrix, but remember that 35 cps is about 300 words per minute. That's still faster than most of us type.
What's a descender and when are they true?
A descender refers to the part of a letter that lies below the character baseline in normal writing. These
The Epson MX-80 — a dot matrix printer with tractor feed and sheet feeder.
Radio Shack's low-cost TP-1 thermal printer.
are all lowercase letters like the "p," "q," and "y." Some printers don't have true descenders. They squish the letter up above the bottom line giving an odd appearance. A true descender is one that does actually print below the baseline and appears as it normally does on a typewriter. This only applies to dot matrix printers. All daisy wheel printers have true descenders. Most people wonder why anyone would make a printer without descenders. The reason is cost, it is more expensive to make a printer with true descenders. Most $250 printers don't have true descenders.
What's proportional spacing?
If you look at the letters in the alphabet, you will notice that some letters are wider than others. The "w" is much wider than the "1." Most printers leave the same amount of space around all letters, regardless of their width. Proportional-spacing printers actually leave different amounts of space around the letters, depending on the individtial character. Again, this is only critical if you need "print shop quality" output. If you need a daisy wheel printer, make sure you do get proportional spacing with it.
What's the difference between tractor and friction feed?
Both of these terms refer to the way that the paper is moved through the printer. Friction feed is exactly like a typewriter. Paper is moved through the printer by friction between the roHer and the platen. A tractor-feed printer uses small pins at the outside of the paper to pull the paper (which has small holes to match the pins) through the printer. The advantage of friction feed is that no special paper is required. You can use ordinary stationery or forms. The disadvantage is that these forms can move from side to side and not be in exactly the same place every time. Tractor feed solves the problem of motion but requires the use of forms with holes on the side.
Wait a minute, my phone bill doesn't have holes on the side.
Ah, that's true because the holes are usually detachable from the form after it has been run through the printer. Forms that have been run through a tractor feed printer usually have a rough edge at the sides of the form. These include several you run into every day. If you wish to run stationery through a tractor-feed printer, you have a number of options. First, there is some letterhead that is attached by small drops of glue to a backing of tractor-feed paper. After the paper is printed, it can easily be removed from the backing. This produces a perfect letter, but wastes the backing. Second, some paper can now be purchased that uses very fine perforations on the edges of the paper. Where standard forms use only a hundred perforations, these use several thousand. When the tractors are removed, the edge appears almost as smooth as a regular piece of paper.
Does a daisy wheel print only one sheet?
Without an additional attachment, daisy wheels must be loaded with one sheet, printed, and then reloaded with another sheet. Again, the analogy is a typewriter. This is fine for standard letters or short contracts, but what about several hundred form letters? Technology steps in to save the day with the sheet feeder. This device can be loaded with several hundred sheets of paper and then feeds them into the daisy wheel printer one sheet at a time when needed. There's also a similar device for envelopes.
Buying a printer is almost as difficult as buying a computer. The printer must fit the job you are going to use it for. The greater the matrix, the better the resolution of the characters printed on a dot matrix printer. Tractor feed offers exact positioning, but requires special forms. Friction feed uses standard forms but gives less precision. For jobs such as inventory control and accounting, a high-speed dot matrix printer is best. A daisy wheel is best for those jobs that require typewriter-perfect output such as contracts or correspondence.
Questions about computers or peripherals (like, "What's a peripheral?") are welcome. Write to me in care of Basic Computing. Enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope for a guaranteed fast, personal response. Computers should be fun and understanding them is easier than you think. Happy computing!
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