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I remember working as a summer IT support guy in a warehouse where orders were printed on carbon copy paper using a dot matrix printer.

Are those noisy beasts still around in some special uses or is everything now using laser or thermal?

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16 Answers 16

up vote 9 down vote accepted

As old as it is, it is still used quite a lot. As Hofa mentioned (Carbon Paper), some of the examples that I've still seen:

  • Packaging Slip that is glued on the box. You sign on the slip on the box, the courier remove 1 copy for himself (with original signature), and leave the carbon copy stuck on the box. (But recently lots of courier uses the PDA and you sign on the PDA which is horribly hard to get a nice signature)

  • Pay slip that I get from my employed on fortnightly basis is basically on a form that they print on the inside of the form. To see what is printed, we need to tear off the side, and unfold the form and then you can see the amount inside.

  • Bank / ATM Card PIN mailed out on similar paper to the payslip paper. (and it is even more secure because they blackened out the area where the PIN is printed to ensure you can't put it behind a light and see the inside)

  • Old order forms (Companies who still refuses to move to electronic billing / filing), they will use forms in du/tri/n-plicate, one for account, one for another department, and "yet more departments"

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Actually, they're still being sold too! There are even color dot matrix printers. They cost less to operate and seem to offer some additional functionality that you can't find on the more modern printers. (And you can easily re-ink them if need be.) They are highly durable too. The use of a continuous paper feed also makes them very useful for data logging. They are practical if printing quality isn't important. In general, people continue to use them for their extreme low costs per printed page.

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Got a interdepartment requisition off one yesterday... – dmckee Jun 11 '09 at 14:37

We still use one in our office to print off anything that doesn't have to "look good". Timesheets, payroll reports, system logs, stuff like that. Besides the ribbons costing a fraction of having to replace toner and/or drums for the laser printers, our dot matrix can also print much faster, jam less often, and doesn't overheat if left running for a long time. And the continuous feed paper needs to be changed less frequently.

Most of these advantages disappear if you're not just printing draft quality text.

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Dot matrix printers are surely still used, a lot actually. You just named the biggest market for those: carbon paper.

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The are still being used for printing. I used to work for a retailer that made use of dot matrix printers for continuous data logging. No one actually verified the output, but we all knew it was there thanks to the "cuchung, chunng, ewwwww".

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Actually, that makes an interesting warning system: if the printer is silent, it means nothing gets logged and thus the system must have crashed! :-) Basically, just a "silent alarm"... :-) – Wim ten Brink Jun 15 '09 at 13:38

Some manufacturers still selling dot matrix printers:






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Some of our clients still use them. The downside is that new lists (that are created in our legacy package) still need to be tested on them, and as a colleague of mine (sitting right at the next island) has one next to his desk, it can sometimes annoy the hell out of me ;-)

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We use them for making stickers (labels for postal address on newspaper delivery).

Tried using laser, but the stickers are much harder to peel off.

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Seem them in use at a packing house (Fruit & Veg). Old DOS program that dial a number via a 28.8kbps modem pulled a pile down and them print to the DOT MATRIX.

Was used because we could carbon copy it.....

(Still don't see why it could be updated to use a laser printer and print twice?)

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Not really a SysAdmin question but the main use is multi-copy paper as you say. Generally packing lists, shipping notes and invoices.

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Yeah, they are - used by many companies for shipping/packing, carbon copies, huge lists, etc. We use them for an old Honeywell Alarm Monitoring system that prints out logs of the alarms (from a PC running Windows 95!).

Of course, typewriters are still being used and sold too - as paperless as our University has gone, we still have to submit DPOs (department purchase orders) by carbon paper triplicate. Our old typewriter recently died, and it was a pain finding a new one - they exist, but they're not exactly prevalent. We eventually settled on a Brother brand typewriter.

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Hollywood still use them when they're trying to represent the concept of "cranky old nerd using computer". Nothing says "computer" like a dot-matrix sitting in the background next to an IBM Jr or something.

And accounts departments love em too. I saw one as recently as 5 years ago being used for payroll slips.

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Yes, we still use one here (networked, no less), for the most important task of all; printing our payslips!

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Ahhhh...the days. I remember my Commodore 64 and the MPS-801 Dot Matrix Printer...brings back memories.

Today my company uses a rather large IMB 4220 Dot Matrix to print off carbon copies as mentioned above. Laser and inkjet do not work with carbon copies.

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Paris Fire Departement still uses a lot of dot matrix printers to send out information. It is used to print out a bunch of really important telex (oh yeah ! )

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Today, one of our customers asked us to replace his thermal printer with a dot matrix printer.

Because the thermal printer was TOO QUIET.

It's a remote printer printing out order tickets (to a kitchen) and apparently the staff weren't noticing that things were being printed and they were missing them.

A bit of an odd use case, but there you go.

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Coulda charged him a whole lot o' money to wire in a bell :-) – mfinni May 20 '11 at 18:31
Yeah, we're trying to convince him that'd be a better solution. :) A bell or flashing light. Part of me wants to just wire up an electronic eye where the paper comes out that turns on a light when it's interrupted. – MikeyB May 20 '11 at 18:38

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