Friday, October 09, 2009

My Antique Matrix Printer

(Find a tutorial for simple and cost free packing bags for small items at the bottom of this post)

Meet my antique printer. It’s a Star AX-20. Yes, it’s a dot matrix printer from the last century! It’s designed for chain paper but has an option for single sheets that have to be fed one by one. So that’s clumsy, slow and it only prints text and simple drawings in one colour. But before you start laughing out really loud let me explain why I love and keep my machine from the stone age.

When I found it in the trash about eight years ago bubble or inkjets were still fairly expensive and I couldn’t afford one. So I was more than happy to be able to at least print my own letters, invoices and so on at home. Or recipes or other instructions from the internet. If the web page look makes it difficult for my machine I just copy the text in a text document first.

It’s reliable. It’s strong and sturdy and just always works. Believe me I see countless broken inkjets in the trash every week. And I don’t have to clean up print canals after not having used it in a while.

But most important: It’s very low cost in use and eco-friendly. I doesn’t need expensive and polluting ink cartridges. The first time when the print started to fade too much I searched all over the internet to buy a new ribbon cassette but with no luck. And then found a simple solution. With a bit of stamping ink that I still had I just re-inked the whole ribbon by carefully dripping the ink on while turning it through by hand.

Last week at the office when we were clearing out a file cabinet I found some blue stamp-pad ink and took it home. No honest, nobody in my department still uses stamps, it would have disappeared in the waste bin.

Now my printer prints in blue.

My printer has a relatively fine print as compared to what most people know as a dot matrix print like this example I found on Wikipedia.

With a freshly inked ribbon in fact the result of my printer is almost as good (left) as that from a modern inkjet (right).

So yes, today I have a better printer as well. A few years ago I snatched a special offer for less than 75 dollars. But as it was a model that was going out of production I already found out by now I can’t get the cartridges in discount shops anymore. Hopefully I can still find them online. But as I’m carefully saving this printer only for photo’s, my business cards and such I’m afraid some day I will have to throw out a perfectly working machine just because I can’t get the ink anymore. Doesn’t that suck? That’s how even if you take care of your stuff progressing technology feeds having to buy new things.

Last month I got my third pc in ten years at home. I never had Windows 2000 and went straight from 98 to XP. I was a bit scared my printer wouldn’t be in the list of pre-installed software anymore, but it still was! I can tell you I was thrilled!

So I’m glad my stone age printer will serve me for quite a few years to come. I also use it to print the packing slips for my second hand book orders. Books that I take from the trash and sometimes go with a profit of less than a dollar so I don’t want to spend any extra money. For the paper I use the blank back side of non-confidential print work from the office or letter sized advertising that I find in my mailbox.

My cost free printer and paper are also very useful for this:

I’ve been selling at quite a few craft fairs lately and I started to run out of my paper lunch bags to pack up my items. So I had to think of something new to create a cost free and eco-friendly packing especially for small items like my flower brooches or bracelets.

To keep in line with the character of my art, fiber work, I decided to not just fold and glue the paper, but sew the sides together. This also is done much quicker as it needs no extra folding and careful cutting!

But that looked a bit to ‘blank’ and I would still have to staple my flyer to the bag. Though I still have enough of those I thought simply printing the information on the bag would be a lot more efficient. I cut the corners of the bag to open it more easily to put the goods in.

Of course if you are inspired by this to make your own packing bags you can still use a laser or inkjet printer as well. But Googling around I found in this day and age of laser and inkjet, matrix printers are still being produced and sold. Unfortunately at a much higher price than the inkjets you can find in consumer’s shops. But think about it, it may be an advantage to have one next to your colour printer. They are more durable and cheaper in use so if most of your print work is black on white text the initial cost may be worth it. On top think of the profit for the environment. And of course you can try to find a second hand, but some of the modern matrix machines may be faster and have better options for single sheet feeding.


Gwynne said...

I love old printers! I was remarking the other day about how we used to make banners with them on the printer paper that had the little circle dots on the sides that you'd tear off once printed? They're awesome in a retro way. I remember it was revolutionary when COLOR was available! We could print out each block letter in a different color and say "Happy Birthday Mom!" and hang it up before she came home.

I also love making cool things out of "trash." I'm a new blog follower! Check out mine if you're interested: and I'm a knitter myself.

Le-Chat said...

Thanks Gwynne, looked at your Etsy shop as well. Very nice stuff.

I remember in 1991 at work I printed a 3 meter wide Welcom Baby banner for a friend. You can't do that on modern single sheet machines!

I was surprised my printer was ready for Windows and prints 'what you see is what you get', though it still also has the font choice for DOS applications.

PurrPrints said...

now i wish i had an old dot matrix printer!

Mick said...

I agree.Inkjetprinters are an environment hostile invention meant to be worthless as soon as possible.
The cheapest models have the most expensive cartridges and don't think of putting the machine aside for a week if only one of the colors ran out because then the printerhead gets stuck and replacing it results more expensive than buying a complete new bublemachine!
My advice:Don't print in colour yourself, go to a printshop for that and buy a second hand (black and white) laserjet.
You may even be lucky at the garbage for the old and heavy machines too, as i found my Kyocera.
With a cartridge for life!

Le-Chat said...

Hi there Mick. Thank you for that.

Must say my Epson bubblejet works quite well, never had any problems so far, not even dried up ink after months of not using it. I can print at work, even in colour, but there I can't put business card sized paper in, so I'm glad to have that option at home. So to everybody, use it wisely and economically if you must have one.

For monocolour I'm still in favour of the old fashioned tape cassette against the laser cartridge, but yours was of course a very lucky find indeed.

Anonymous said...

Stopped by to say Hello.

I love your printer and as high as ink is now you are saving a bundle!

I also like your paper bag idea.

Have a great weekend.

Dorothy said...

Thanks for visiting our site and I hope you come back..your blog is really dinosaur husband still uses stamps as well so your not alone and he is very faithful to all kinds of recycling..

Dorothy from gramamology

Meam Wye said...

I agree with you regarding the reliability and sturdiness of dot-matrix printers. However, the screeching sounds it used to make got on my nerves :)

Le-Chat said...

Thanks for visiting Meam Wye. With only a few pages at a time I can live with the noise. And that bubble jet shakes and produces decibels as well, especially if it's in photo mode. Not sure really which is worse!

GsCraftsNthings said...

I noticed when we upgraded our printer for an ages old printer that our brand new fancy epson doesn't have as crisp black print as the old one. We only upgraded when the old one died (which was a hand-me-down form family).

Anonymous said...

Hello. My uncle recently passed away quite unexpectedly at the age of 69. We are holding his memorial on Saturday, May 11th. I have been racking my brain on a way to honor him at his memorial. My uncle was a lifetime IBM employee and computer pioneer. In 1979, when I was 9 years old, he gave me a banner for my birthday. It was from the old dot matrix printers. It had a silhouette of Snoopy on the top of his dog house and it said "Happy Birthday Chimene". I literally thought it was the coolest thing. This was before home computers and home printers for our family. The letters were made with x or o or maybe dashes. Because my brain had no conceptual framework for the world of computers, I literally wondered if it was created by magic.

I would like to have one of these made for my uncle for his memorial. Do you have any idea how I could go about getting this done? I am not tech savvy so I would love to find someone that can do this for me and do it quickly. I know that there would be no better way for me to honor my uncle and I am desperate to find a way to get this done. Any help you can provide would be so greatly appreciated.

Chimene Tingue