Whatever happened to …

… parallel printer ribbon cables?

Guess what I found recently when trying to do a little cleaning up around here?


No machine-readable author provided. Shaddack assumed (based on copyright claims). [Public domain]

In the good old days, these things were crucial for that all-important connection between your computer and a parallel printer.  The parallel printer was far faster than its serial cousin so it worked out nicely as a standalone printer but also a networked printer connected to the Icon fileserver.

My first personal parallel printer was a Radio Shack electrostatic printer that actually printed on a metallic foil.  At school, we had a “real” printer that printed on actual paper.  It was a Panasonic 1091 printer.

The cable had two distinct ends to it so you couldn’t mis-connect it.  From an electronics point of view, the pins that connected the devices were individually programmable should you desire.

There were a couple of downsides though.  The ribbon itself was easily “broken” by crimping it and breaking the connection of just one pin.  Or, if you look at the ends of the connector above, they were easily lost from the end of the cable and it was important that all of the pins were connected for it to work.   A little wiggle and you were disconnected.

In terms of ease and reliability, the slower serial cables were much better.

The whole setup for the printer was different then.  It actually had to be connected to a computer or computer acting as a server to work.  Things are certainly much different today when something that prints is just another device on the network.

For a Sunday, your thoughts…

  • do you remember the first printer your ever used?
  • did you once own a parallel printer?
  • if you had to demo a parallel printer today, would you know where to find one?
  • did you once or still own a serial printer?
  • at your printing place, is your current printer just another device on the network?  (i.e. dedicated printer or photocopier or …)
  • do you even print to paper anymore or have you embraced paperless?

I’d be interested in reading your thoughts.  Please share them in the comments below.

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Published by dougpete

The content of this blog is created by me at the keyboard or as a result of an aggregator of my daily reading under the title OTR Links. On Fridays, look for my signature post "This Week in Ontario Edublogs" where I try to share some great writing from Ontario Educators. The other regular post appears Sunday mornings as I try to start a conversation about things that have gone missing from our daily lives.

4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Oh Doug, I do remember these kinds of printers. I never had one, but my parents did. Boy has printing changed a lot over the years. I rarely print anything anymore, except for our day book. Now that photocopier printing experience inspired a blog post of my own. 🙂


    All I’m left thinking about now is this tweet that I sent out the other night.

    I wonder if this employee has ever seen these kinds of printers. 🙂 Thanks for the weekly trip down memory lane!



  2. I remember my first color printer. It was an impact printer with a ribbon that had several colors (colours) on it.


  3. Was this connected to a dot matrix printer? I remember those! I don’t even use a home printer anymore because it is so easy to print wherever I happen to be (in schools anyway!) and I have access to a free colour printer this way if I drive to the classroom lending library. What a change! When I started university I had a typewriter. LOL


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