FAQ: Printing

andreas.com FAQ: PrintingFAQ: Printing

So why were printers invented? At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Seiko, a Japanese watch company, was chosen as the official timekeeper. At the time, handmade Swiss watches were the standard. Seiko had developed a new type of watch, based on a quartz crystal, which later became the standard. Seiko wanted to impress the world with their technology, so they used their quartz clocks to time the runners. Since it was electronic, Seiko’s engineers invented a little device that could print block shaped numbers. Seiko called it the electronic printer, or EP. It was easy to connect the electronic clocks to the little printer. Seiko got lots of attention when they were able to hand the printed results to the sports journalists. The device worked very well and the press began asking when they could have an electronic printer. Seiko worked on it some more and made a better printer. They called it the “Son of EP,” or Epson.

Printers: Thermal, Bubblejet, and Laser

  • Thermal printers use a row of hot pins to heat special paper. Most supermarket cash registers use this type of printer. The paper fades, especially if it’s enclosed in plastic or left in the sunlight. The advantage is small size and low cost.
  • Bubblejet printers use a cartridge of ink that squirts ink onto the paper. Bubblejets are very popular because of their low price, silent printing, and excellent results. The print quality is good enough to use in advertisements for newspapers or small magazines. Bubblejets can be small and, with batteries, are portable. Ordinary paper has a rough surface and the ink dots tend to soak and smear a bit. Laser paper has a glossy surface and gives a better result.
  • Laser printers use the same printing unit as a copier. In fact, laser printers are photocopiers without the scanning unit. Hewlett Packard and Apple printers are actually Canon photocopiers. The advantage of a laser printer is the print quality, ease of use, and the speed.
  • Photosetters are printers for offset printing companies. The character is projected through a lens onto photographic paper. The lens can be adjusted to resolutions of up to 4,800 dpi, which is close to photographic quality. Most books and magazines are printed at 600 to 1200 dpi. Art journals and color plates are printed at 2,000 dpi or more. Photographs have a dpi of about 10,000.

Can I Refill My Bubblejet Cartridges?

It’s easy to refill a bubblejet ink cartridges. You can buy a bottle of bubblejet ink at any computer store or most large stores. Be sure to spread several sheets of newspaper over your desk! You may also want to wear a pair of disposable plastic gloves.

The cartridge spray head tends to clog after ten refills or so. You’ll have to buy a new cartridge. Be sure to have several reserve cartridges. Offices often just throw these away. Some re-inking services will buy them back.

Can I Refill My Laser Toner Cartridges?

There is no difference, aside from price, in original versus refilled toner cartridges. Refilled toners cost less than half. Furthermore, refilled toners contain more toner, so they last longer. To find a refiller near you, search Yahoo for “toner refill.”

Font Sizes: CPI, DPI, and Points

Fonts are measured with three different systems. These generally depend on the type of printer you are using.

The CPI (characters per inch) system is a measure of the typeface on mechanical typewriters. This is also called pitch, as in 10 pitch or 12 pitch. 12 CPI means that one inch holds 12 characters. The 12 CPI size is narrow and the 10 CPI size is wide. The fonts which are built into a printer are often measured in the typewriter’s CPI standard.

This system leads to many problems. DOS often has a screen font, a built-in printer font, and a downloadable printer font. The font which is displayed on your screen has literally nothing to do with the font which your printer uses. WordPerfect for DOS uses one font for the screen and another font for the printer. If you’re using Windows, then you can ignore all of this. Windows uses the same font for everything.

DPI (dots per inch) is a measure of the number of dots that can be printed in an inch. A 9-pin printer can print 72 dpi in draft mode and 144 dpi in letter mode. A 24-pin printer can print 180 dpi or 360 dpi. A bubblejet and a laser printer both print 300 dpi. Some laser printers can print 600 dpi.

So why is a laser printer at 300 dpi better than a 24-pin printer at 360 dpi? Because laser dots are crisp, whereas the 24-pin dots are smudgy.

Another measuring system is the point size. With Windows and DTP, we generally use points to measure the size of a font. A point is 1/72nd of an inch. The character was originally carved on the end of a block of lead. The point size of a font is the measurement of that block of lead, not the letter.

Pica (which sounds like pie cake ) is a measuring system similar to inches and centimeters. It’s often used to measure the number of characters that fit within a line. If you need to use pica, you can set your word processor to use pica instead of inches.

Many people think that the point size of a font is a measurement of the letter’s size. Actually, the point system doesn’t measure anything except the size of the lead slug which was used in hand printing. The weight of a font, which is how heavy it appears on the page, is a question of judgment. Some fonts look heavier than others, even if they are in a smaller point size. All fonts have a size range within which they look best. Times Roman, for example, looks bad either in very large or very small sizes.

You’re probably wondering why computers, which are so high tech, use a method of medieval hand carved fonts. Quite simply, the art of printing has been around for five hundred years and it’s a bigger industry than computers.

Computer Fonts

Internal fonts are the fonts included in the printer. There are usually two or three fonts.

Some printers let you add additional fonts as a cartridge. These are cartridge fonts.

Most fonts are soft fonts, or software fonts. You add these to your word processor. These are sent to the printer when you print. An example is a Windows TrueType font.

TrueType fonts are scaleable, which means that you can make them in any size from 1 point (to print messages on your eyelashes) to 999 points (about ten inches tall). Scaleable fonts are also called vector fonts, which means that the font isn’t really a drawing, but instead a mathematical formula which the computer uses to calculate the character. The character can be increased or reduced to produce any size, including half sizes. The 7-point size is useful for making mini-telephone lists for your wallet. If you are printing a document which will be read by someone with weak eyes, then you can use a 13-point size for the text. Vector fonts can be calculated to some rather large sizes. One system lets you calculate fonts to a size of about 65 light years.

Using Print to File

You don’t have to have the computer connected to a printer in order to print a file.

When you print something, it’s converted into a format for the printer and then sent to the printer. The converted file can be saved as a file instead. It can then later be sent to the printer. You don’t need to have the original program at all. The file will print in all its Microsoft Word glory. You can also copy the file, send it by modem, or send the disk by FedEx to someone else. They can then print the file.

Most programs have a print to file option. To print to a file, just select your print command. Select the type of printer to which it shall print. There will usually be an option or a button which lets you print to file. Select that and then give the file a name, such as PRINTME.PRN.

You can put the file onto a diskette and mail it to someone. The recipient then puts the disk into a computer and types at the DOS prompt COPY FILENAME.PRN LPT1 (and presses E). This completes the transmission of the file to the printer. It will print even if the recipient doesn’t have your word processor.

This is useful when printing with a laser printer at a copy center. You can print to file, take the diskette to the copy center, and there won’t be any problems with program versions, fonts, drivers, etc.