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Printers and Scanners

Before there were high quality color scanners and color laser printers, there was the venerable dot-matrix printer.  If you’re not old enough to remember this, then skip ahead while I reminisce.  As long as computers have been around, the need for hard copies of data have been around as well.  In the early days, this was accomplished with a dot-matrix printer, which was essentially a high-resolution typewriter with a functioning ink ribbon and strangely perforated paper.  You know what I’m talking about.  That paper with the detachable sides with all the holes in them?  Dot-matrix printers were good at the time, but they were noisy, messy, and required frequent replacement of the ink ribbon.

The next generation of personal printers was the inkjet.  Inkjet printers used an ink cartridge with nozzles at the bottom that could spray out little droplets of ink with a resolution up to 300 dots per square inch (DPI). 

During this time, the laser printer was developed for the ultimate high-end user (usually corporations) who required high quality, fast printing, and long lifetimes.  The laser printer worked up to 1200 DPI.  It wasn’t until recently that laser printers came down in price to be somewhat attainable by the personal computer user.

To top things off, color printers first came out for laser printers and inkjets at ridiculously high prices.  Nowadays, a color inkjet printer is the norm, though color laser printers are usually reserved for companies.

It’s all about the connections


When choosing a printer, consider getting one with a fast connection.  The standard parallel port connection is good but very slow.  USB printers are slightly faster.  Firewire (IEEE 1394) printers are extremely fast.  Critical specifications for printers are their DPI (dots per square inch) capacity, pages per minute (PPM).  Ideally you want 600 DPI or better, and at least a few pages per minute in full color.  Between Hewlett-Packard, Canon, and Lexmark, I’ve never been let down by an HP printer while the Canon I owned for a while was pretty crappy.  I know someone who sells Lexmark printers and while they may not be the best, they are reliable as well.



Scanners are a more specialized computer peripheral that you can use to scan printed items like photographs, magazine articles, textbooks, and illustrations.  Ideally you should get a scanner with a USB connection or Firewire, because the parallel ones are ridiculously slow.  Ask if you can test it out, and if it can do a full color page in under a minute at decent resolution, then it’s good enough for practical purposes.