Whatever happened to …


… electrostatic printers?

Now this takes me back.

At one time, my regular computer was a Radio Shack Model III computer.  By the standards of the day, it was so fast.  The school practice office had three Apple II computers and they just plugged along.  Not so with mine.  But there was something missing.

I could do all this word processing and spreadsheet work but I had no way to print things.  For a while, I would do all the work and then, in particular for marks, would transcribe the results to the markbook.  Then, I’d have to take it into school and copy the marks over to the mark entry sheet for submission to the office.  There, one of the secretaries ultimately entered them into their computer for final processing.  It would never be tolerated at any level today but we had all these different machines and none would actually talk to each other.

I had long lusted for my own printer.  If only I could print my own things, I’d have won at least my part of the battle.

I used to drop into the Radio Shack store on Windsor’s Huron Church Line and look enviously at these new fangled dot matrix printers.  If only I could win the lottery! 

One day, this gentleman who was also in the store looking at printers, sidled up to me and asked to meet me outside.  It turns out that he had the money to buy one of the latest printers.  And, he had an older printer that he wanted to get rid of.  At retail, it was actually one that I could afford.  To buy it new was something that I was saving for, to buy it used, wow!

The printer was a TRS-80 Quick Printer

Thanks, http://www.trs-80.org

It was one of the fastest that I’d ever seen.  The only catch was that it didn’t print on regular paper.  Instead, it printed on this foil paper that resembled tin foil.  It came in rolls which you fed into the computer (the black part lifted out) and would roll it through, well sort of like toilet paper!  It connected to the computer via an RS-232 port.  When you told the computer to print, it flew. 

Soon, my binders were full of this foil and my notes were really high tech.  For student handouts and tests though, there still was a problem.  If you note from the image, the foil was really only about half the width of an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.  To get around this, I’d have to cut the foil in half and notes and tests became actually two columns, sort of like a newspaper.  I’d have to flip scotch tape over to tape them to a regular sheet before photocopying.  An additional limitation, caused by this make shift solution was that the photocopier couldn’t feed multiple copies so each had to be done by hand.

Fortunately, the technology at school caught up and we ended up with a nice Epson dot matrix printer so I could bring my things in on diskette and print from there.  That truly left this printer sitting at home collecting dust.  I don’t recall how I ultimately disposed of it but I hope that I did send it to a recycle centre.

Of course, followup technology gave us dot matrix printers, ink jet printers, laser printers, and the best of all – paperless classrooms.  I still enjoyed being on the cutting edge, at least for a bit. 

If you’d care to share (please), how are these for starters…

  • what was your first home printer?
  • do you currently have a home printer or even need one?
  • are 3D printers even in the same category as 2D printers?
  • what do you see in the future of printing technology?

This whole Sunday series of “Whatever happened to …” is available here.  How about taking a walk along memory lane with me?  Got an idea, share it on this padlet.

OTR Links 07/17/2016


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.