Dot Matrix Printing: History, How It Works, and Types of Dot Matrix Printers

Dot Matrix Example Text
“Dot Matrix Example Text” by Fourohfour is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

Dot matrix printing use impact to move the print head horizontally or vertically to print on pages. This impact is either applied to an ink-soaked ribbon against the paper or directly onto carbon paper forms. More versatile than a typewriter, letters formed from a dot matrix allow for a wider variety of fonts and graphics.


First introduced by the Digital Equipment Corporation in 1970, the dot matrix printer model LA30 boasted being able to print 30 characters per second. The drawbacks, however, were its loud noise and unpredictable paper feed that caused alignment errors. This made printing a hassle, especially in the tight office spaces that it was supposedly manufactured for.

It wasn’t until the release of the Epson MX-80 in 1979 that the popularity of these pressure printers grew. The new printer model refined the metal rod that strikes the paper. These printers became widely popular for being compact and versatile.

How They Work

Dot matrix printers have moving heads that print what you want line by line. It punches holes through the ribbon and leaves marks — the printout — on the paper.

Surpassing typewriters, these printers are capable of intricate symbols and are not restricted to a pre-set template.  This lets the printer produce different fonts in different sections of the paper.

Feature Variations

Though dot matrix printers follow a similar formula when building every model, they vary in their purpose. Different needs such as speed, quality, and quantity are met with different model variations.

If the person has to work with hundreds of documents every day, a model that handles continuous paper feeding would be ideal. Most of these printers can handle printing large quantities throughout the day with little to no paper jams. However, it should be noted that not all models print in high quality or high resolution. Here are some tips on how to troubleshoot common dot-matrix printer problems.

Popular Dot Matrix Printers

Apple ImageWriter II

The bygone era of dot matrix printers had its stars. At the peak of popularity, multi-font dot-matrix printers such as the Toshiba P351, NEC Pinwriter, and Fujitsu DotMax24 were considered among the best. In the 1980s, these printers cost between $1,500 to almost $2,000.

Of course, there are more budget-friendly models such as the Proprinter from IBM, the C. Itoh ProWiter Jr., and the Panasonic KX-P1091.

There are still a lot of advantages presented by the once popular impact printer model. Even though it’s now viewed as something of the past, Many businesses still use dot matrix printers for their day-to-day operations.