Friday, January 1, 2021


Growing up, my dad had an old daisy wheel printer hooked up to our computers.  (We had various Commodore hardware; we did not get a PC until 1996, and I'm not sure the Amiga 500 was really decommissioned until the early 2000s.)

The daisy wheel was like a typewriter on a circle.  There were cast metal heads with the letters, numbers, and punctuation on them.  The wheel was spun to position, and then what was essentially an electric hammer punched the letter against the ribbon and the paper.  Then the whole wheel/ribbon/hammer carriage moved to the next position, and the cycle repeated.

This was loud; like a typewriter, amplified by the casing and low-frequency vibrations carried through the furniture.  No printing could be done if anyone in the house had gone to bed, or was napping.

It was also huge. It could have printed on legal paper in landscape mode.

Because of the mechanical similarity to typewriters, the actual print output looked like it was really typewritten.  Teachers would compliment me for my effort on that, and I'd say, "Oh, my dad has a printer that does that."

Nowadays, people send a command language like PostScript, PCL, or even actual PDF to the printer, and it draws on the page.  Everything is graphics; text becomes curves.  But the Daisywriter simply took ASCII in from the parallel port, and printed it out.