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What Is a Daisy Wheel Printer?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A daisy wheel printer is an electronic device that can be connected to a word processor or computer to allow documents to be printed from that machine. The basic functionality of these devices is similar to other printers, such as dot matrix or inkjet printers, though the way in which a document is printed is quite different. A printer of this kind uses a printing mechanism known as a “daisy wheel,” which consists of numerous raised letters and numbers arrayed in a circle.

The way in which a daisy wheel printer works is quite similar to how some electric typewriters function. This printer takes its name from the daisy wheel mechanism used in printing, which takes its name from its resemblance to a flower. The daisy wheel basically consists of a small disc, usually made from metal or plastic, which has a number of thin “petals” that each end in a different letter or number. These different characters also typically include punctuation marks as well, and the font used can vary among different wheels.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

A daisy wheel printer functions much like other types of printers, and can be connected to a device such as a word processor or computer, from which text is sent to it for printing. Printing consists of the daisy wheel being positioned by the printer on a sliding carriage that allows the daisy wheel to move back and forth across a page, and then spun to allow the proper character to face a page. A small “hammer” then presses that character into an ink ribbon, which leaves a physical impression of the letter on a piece of paper. Printing on a daisy wheel printer proceeds as the daisy wheel slides across a page on the carriage, spinning and striking each letter in turn.

When introduced in the early 1980s, the daisy wheel printer was a relatively fast and effective way to produce printed documents. Since physical impact printing is used, the resulting documents are quite crisp and high in quality. These printers are not typically used to print images, however, though some methods have been developed that can create images using a “full stop” or “period” as a pixel, and repeatedly striking this character to create a rough picture. The daisy wheel printer has been largely replaced by other types of printing, especially with the advent and proliferation of inkjet and laser printing devices.

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Discussion Comments


I was going to say it's been years since I've seen a daisy wheel printer. Gosh -- I don't remember the last time I saw one. Probably when I was last in a place that sold word processors/electric typewriters. They worked rather like the IBM Selectric "ball" did. And that was a heck of an improvement over the individual keys hitting the paper.

I don't know if I could even type on one of those old machines nowadays. I'm so accustomed to the much lighter touch of a computer keyboard, I'd probably sprain my wrist or fingers on a manual typewriter.

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