Near-Letter Quality Printers

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Do you remember near-letter quality printers?

Anyone who owned a computer during the 1980s would know that there were basically 2 types of printers: 9-pin dot matrix and 24-pin dot matrix. In the west, 9-pin dot matrix printers were sold as the basic model while 24-pin printers were sold as offering more readable near-letter quality (NLQ) printing. It’s easy to see the reason for 9 pins; it’s the minimum that can produce readable English text:

What you might not know is that 24-pin dot matrix printers were not developed to print clearer English text, but were developed in Japan to print Kanji. The 72-dpi resolution of a 9-pin printer simply cannot print readable Japanese text. As the following blow-up of 24-pixel text shows, this resolution is just high enough to render these complex characters – making it the Japanese equivalent of the 8-bit days. (Because I’ve used a Windows font to capture the image, the characters are not as well defined as they would be from a Japanese printer or mobile phone of the same resolution).

Compared to 72-pixel font:

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