cha747 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 821 posts, RR: 5 Posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 16162 times:
OK...totally random thought. I step onto a modern marvel of an airplane that was designed by advanced CAD programming, whose seats have more computing power in the IFE than the Apollo astronauts had to land on the moon, and I've used my smart phone to actually board the plane. So why are the reports brought to the cockpit from the gate agent printed on a dot matrix printer? Would it be that hard to convert over? Is the continuous tractor feed an absolute necessity? I just looked at the prices of a few dot matrix printers and they are actually pricier than entry-level laser printers. What gives? Why are we still using 1970's/1980's technology in 2013 at the gate?
You land a million planes safely, then you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it - Pushing Tin
BreninTW From Taiwan, joined Jul 2006, 2005 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 16147 times:
The big advantage of a dot-matrix printer over laser printers is that it can (relatively) quickly and cheaply print duplicates. Dot-matrix printers are still pretty common in any application where a duplicate is required. They are the modern equivalent of writing with a sheet of carbon paper between two blank sheets of paper.
Another advantage of the tractor feed is the sheer amount of paper it can feed ... most laser printers are limited to a ream in the tray (500 sheets) -- while that may sound like a lot, a box of tractor-feed paper can easily have many times that many sheets. This reduces the risk of a flight taking a delay while hunting down paper to refill a printer tray.
PITingres From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 1345 posts, RR: 13
Reply 6, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 16027 times:
Quoting cha747 (Thread starter): Why are we still using 1970's/1980's technology in 2013 at the gate?
Because it works?
Re the thread title, aviation certainly isn't the only user of dot matrix printing. Consider car rentals, for instance; many (not all) are still using dot matrix, because they work with multi-part forms.
type-rated From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 15898 times:
A lot of retailers use dot matrix printers to print sales receipts, warehouse pick slips and such. The Okidata 320 dot matrix printer used to be ubiquitous because it was a very reliable printer and it can print forms 6 copies deep.
And retailers also use them to print reports that will have copies sent to different departments too.
What brand dot matrix printers do you normally see at airports?
AeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20822 posts, RR: 60
Reply 10, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 15859 times:
Quoting cha747 (Thread starter): What gives? Why are we still using 1970's/1980's technology in 2013 at the gate?
I always thought it had to do with modern-day printers not having a parallel port interface for legacy mainframes which the airlines operate on. It would cost a lot of time and effort to recode for a different kind of print interface, is what I was told. As dot matrix is still a rather cheap and mature technology, there isn't any great rush to replace them.
Lengthy printouts done at the gate now will probably be transmitted by tablet in the near future anyway, making the investment in a different type of printing apparatus irrelevant.
DocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 23766 posts, RR: 60
Reply 11, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 15792 times:
The medical industry uses its fair share of dot matrix printers. For example, our carbon duplicate lab slips have each physician's name and a checkbox next to it so that we can simply check the box next our name and the lab knows where to send the results. Our names are printed using a DM.
When the ability to print a carbon copy is more important than font quality, DM makes sense.
9252fly From Canada, joined Sep 2005, 1428 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 15748 times:
They commonly have addresses information can be sent to remotely,sometimes from on the other side of the world. The idea is to get the attention of those monitoring/using the printer,especially considering the amount of noise they produce when printing. Examples would be flight plans and status updates,fuel loads,passenger handling information,baggage tracing and forwards,the list goes on and on.
But at least the copies are legible. When you run a departure list, printing seven copies - and find the toner cartridge is out. Not only will you have to change the cartridge, but the flight will have to hold to wait on their copies.
Quoting cha747 (Reply 7): Everything else has changed, why not this?
It will change when (1) the costs come down for laser printing to be cheaper, (2) the lasers are more reliable, and the big reason (3) the software for the gates is rewritten to print the correct number of copies automatically on laser printers.
Of course, the plan to get rid of three letter IATA codes and use four letter ICAO codes is also waiting on a software rewrite - been doing so for some 20 years.
I would not hold my breath waiting for the change over.
And I'm not sure that the laser printers are faster from hitting the print command to actual output of all the multiple copies than the dot-matrix printer.
jfidler From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 395 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 15451 times:
Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 13): It will change when (1) the costs come down for laser printing to be cheaper, (2) the lasers are more reliable, and the big reason (3) the software for the gates is rewritten to print the correct number of copies automatically on laser printers.
I'm guessing #3 is the main reason. Laser printers can be loaded with multiple paper trays, and report back their tray status and toner status over the network to an IT person, so those issues can be dealt with before they arise. It's got to be a huge effort to reprogram all the gate software though.
flyBTV From United States of America, joined Jul 2012, 65 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 15446 times:
This may be obvious/implied, but not every carrier uses DM printers. When I was with B6, we printed everything at the gate on laser. In my time there, I don't think I ever saw a DM printer, though all the other airlines had them.
Edit: Actually, we did print a few reports on thermal paper at the gate, now that I think about it. But this was before they made the reservation system transition. Not sure what they do now. No DM anywhere though.
blueflyer From Tuvalu, joined Jan 2006, 4948 posts, RR: 3
Reply 17, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 14889 times:
Quoting cha747 (Reply 7): Everything else has changed, why not this?
As aluded to by flyBTV, a new airline buying the newest software versions from the usual vendors (eg Sabre) and building their infrastructure from scratch will use laser printers because they're natively supported and the acquisition and maintenance costs are lower.
They are not so lower, however, that it would make sense for a legacy airline to retire their existing printers, parts and supplies, rip out their current infrastructure for a new one, upgrade to newer software or update their current one, etc...
In addition, laser printers in large environments such as airlines work best in an IP network. That means not just new printers, but new computers, new network management, new switches, etc...
There are other industries besides aviation in the same boat. My semi-educated guess is that most legacy airlines will retain their dot matrix printers until wireless networks are advanced and secure enough to replace their existing network and bypass wired IP altogether. When a handful of antennas on top of IAD's main terminal is all it takes for United to connect to the printer and terminal at every gate, then they'll roll out the laser printers.
When we unleash the dogs of war we must go where they take us
flyhigh@tom From United Arab Emirates, joined Sep 2001, 415 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 14 hours ago) and read 14599 times:
Out of the top of my head...i think the dot matrix is so versatile...esp in aviation where you need triplicates and more of every document.
On a daily basis...we get to sign fuel receipts (6 of them with carbon paper in between), load sheet (4 copies), pax manifest (triplicate), cargo manifest (triplicate) ....all on board sheet (triplicate)
the dot matrix is really useful for the above applications and still provides hell a lot of savings over laser.
EIDL From Ireland, joined Apr 2012, 768 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 14043 times:
Still extensively used in the medical sector here for printing on NCR security paper stock - every state contractor doctors surgery and every single pharmacy will have at least one, generally an Oki / Okidata 3320 in pharmacies which seems to be the one at every gate in every airport here too.
I've got three different, new, ones in my van at the moment.
abrown532 From UK - Northern Ireland, joined Feb 2008, 167 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 13385 times:
It is handy for printing triplicate copies relatively quickly...which when needing to print out pax lists/loadsheets and loadplans is handy, however, not when they sometimes inevitably suck in the paper they have just printed which has happened to me several times requiring a complete dismantling of the machine to free the paper, they have their downsides! But mostly good....
9lflyguy From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 185 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (2 years 10 months 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 12977 times:
At my company, and I'm sure its the same for many regionals, the flight attendant's paper work is included in the pilots dispatch release. Having several places per page that are perforated makes separating the two a lot easier for the flight crew and no one loses any of the information they need.
Where I work as a flight attendant, we have both. At our base IAD we print in the crew lounge via laser and at our out stations via dot matrix. My self personally, I prefer the dot matrix. It's uniform, easy and clear to read, usually prints reasonably straight and having perforated sections so i can filter what I need for each flight and what I don't makes the dot matrix printers the clear winner. Just an opinion from someone who deals with this paperwork on a daily basis.