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Printers are output devices that facilitates the transfer of information from a computer to a paper.  It is used when a permanent record of the output may be needed on paper. 

Printed output is usually referred to as Hardcopy output, which means that the document can be kept indefinitely for future reference or use.  The printed output can be distributed conveniently to reach the recipients of such information/results.


Printers are basically classified in 3 ways: –

  •  In terms of Print speed.
    • Low-speed.
    • High-speed.
  •  According to the amount of text it can print per given period of time.
    • Character Printers.
    • Line Printers.
    • Page Printers.
  •  The method used to produce the characters on the stationery/ paper.
  • Impact Printers.
  • Non-impact Printers.


  • Character printers are usually low-speed printers that print 1 character at a time.
  • Are comparatively slow & less costly than Line or Page printers.
  • Have printing speeds that vary from 10 to over 200 characters per second (cps).
  • They usually use the Daisy wheel or Dot-matrix printing mechanism.


  • They usually print one whole line at a time.
  • Are more expensive than the Character printers, but less costly compared to the Page printers.


  • Print 1 whole page at a time.
  • Are faster & relatively more expensive than both Line printers & Character printers.
  • Page printers are Non-impact printers, i.e. there printing operation is silent.
  • They provide high quality outputs. 

E.g. Laser printer.


  • Impact or Non-impact printing.

Impact printers.

An Impact printer works like a typewriter where a piece of metal or plastic with a raised letter strikes an inked ribbon against a sheet of paper, leaving an image of the letter on the paper.

Each character print is provided by an appropriate character symbol on the print head element.

The inked ribbon lies between the printing head element & the paper, so that the ribbon ink can be used to pass the character images on the print-head element onto the stationery during the print head hit impact. 

Note. Impact printers can further be classified as Character or Line printers.

Non-impact printers.

In Non-impact printers, the print-head element does not come into contact with the stationery/ paper. 

They use Thermal, Chemical, or Electrostatic principles to produce the characters on the paper.

They need special papers.

Comparison between Impact & Non-impact printers.

Impact PrintersNon-impact Printers
Use Inked ribbon.Slow.Able to produce multiple copies by use of carbon papers.Cheaper.They are noisy because the character to be printed is pressed against an inked ribbon onto to the paper by a print-head element.Use thermal or electrostatic principles.Faster.Almost impossible to produce multiple copies.Costly due to the technology involved.Printing operation is silent because there is no print-head element hitting against the stationery.

Dot-matrix or shaped-character printing.

Dot-matrix printers produce each character by printing the appropriate dot combination.

Shaped character printers produce each character by use of the whole character symbol just like as in an ordinary typewriter.


The speed of a printer is expressed in Characters per second (cps), Lines per minute (lpm), or Pages per minute (ppm).

There are basically 2 types of printers: –

  • Low-speed printers.
  • High-speed printers.

Each type is then classified further based on the technology used for producing the output & the amount of text it can print per given period of time.


They usually print between 10 cps to approx. 300 lpm.

Note. All Character printers can be classified as low-speed printers.

The different types of low-speed printers are: –

  • Dot-matrix.                               Ÿ Daisy wheel.
  • Golf ball.                                  Ÿ Thermal printers.
  • Inkjet printers.


Are able to print between 300 to approx. 3,000 lines per minute.

High-speed printers are broadly classified into: –

  • Line printers.
    • Page printers.


Note. Line printers have a high speed as compared to the Character printers.  For example, if a line of 80 characters is to be printed, the character printer need to strike against the stationery through the inked ribbon 80 times before all the character images forming the line are passed on the stationery.  A Line printer only strikes once for the whole line of 80 characters to be printed onto the stationery through the inked ribbon.

There are 3 types of Line printers: –

  • Drum printers.
  • Chain printers.
  • Electrostatic printers.

Advantages of using Printers.

  • Produces a permanent output that can be maintained for future reference.
  • The information can be conveniently distributed to reach the recipients of such information or results.
  • The advanced models of printers with colour capabilities can produce styled prints.

Disadvantages of using Printers.

  • Very expensive, if bought as an individual device.
  • Some Printers are Noisy.
  • Not possible to produce multiple copies, especially the Impact printers.
  • Their speed of output (i.e., the printing) is slow.

Factors to consider when selecting a Printer.

The following factors are to be taken into consideration while selecting a printer.

  • The Cost involved.

This will include the printer’s initial price, the costs of maintenance & the cost of consumable items, e.g. printing papers, ribbons/cartridges, etc.

  • Volume of printing expected.

This will help in selecting a printer in terms of print speeds.

  • The nature of the reports to be generated & their recipients.

The printing quality, such as the capability to print graphics & colour printing should be considered with respect to the needs of the recipients.

  • The capability for the selected printer.

These include multiple copy production, print styles, page width, etc.

  • Compatibility with other computers.

This will involve the interface with the computer system being used and/or make of particular computer.

  • Environment in which the Printer will operate.
  • Reliability of the Printer.
  • Application it is required for & also the available application software packages.
  • Stationery (type of paper) used by the printer.
  • Documentation.

Printer driver – A program that controls how your computer and printer interact.

Tip. You might get bad work when you send graphics to a non-graphic printer or when you use a wrong driver.

Question.  Explain how the factors identified in this chapter could influence the choice of printer to be used on a computer system.

Comparison between a Screen and a Printer.

Produces a softcopy (displayed) output.Output is temporary, i.e. the display gets lost when the power is switched off.Cheaper, if bought as individual device.Output is silent, since there are no mechanically moving parts for the display to appear on the screen.     Impossible to produce multiple copies.   Output is fast.   Print quality is high.    May cause fatigue to the user’s eyes especially when stared at for a long duration.Have different print styles, e.g., Italics and colour displays are possible.  Produces a hardcopy (printed) output.Output is permanent, i.e. can be maintained for future references.More costly.Output is noisy.  Impact printers have printing head elements that hits against the paper in order to transfer the character images onto the stationery.  Non-impact printers are considerably silent.Using Impact printers, it is possible to produce multiple copies.Speed of output (printing) is comparatively slow.Some printer’s quality is low while others produce better quality prints.The printed information is more convincing to the recipients (humans).    Styled prints are only possible with advanced models with the colour capabilities.

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