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Is Aviation Keeping The Dot Matrix Printer Alive?  
User currently offlinecha747 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 785 posts, RR: 6
Posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 12131 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
50 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineOB1504 From United States of America, joined Jul 2004, 3330 posts, RR: 9
Reply 1, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 12101 times:

I actually never stopped to consider that until now, despite constantly fighting with a dot-matrix printer every day at work.

User currently offlineBreninTW From Taiwan, joined Jul 2006, 1633 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 12109 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.



I'm tired of the A vs. B sniping. Neither make planes that shed wings randomly!
User currently onlineProst From United States of America, joined Oct 2012, 999 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 12105 times:

And they're oh so wonderful when the ribbon is out of ink.

User currently onlinebrilondon From Canada, joined Aug 2005, 4209 posts, RR: 1
Reply 4, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 12061 times:

Quoting Prost (Reply 3):
And they're oh so wonderful when the ribbon is out of ink.

And I loved to change the ribbon...



Rush for ever; Yankees all the way!!
User currently onlineProst From United States of America, joined Oct 2012, 999 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 12054 times:

That may explain why the ribbon is always low!

User currently offlinePITingres From United States of America, joined Dec 2007, 1134 posts, RR: 13
Reply 6, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11992 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.



Fly, you fools! Fly!
User currently offlinecha747 From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 785 posts, RR: 6
Reply 7, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11877 times:

Quoting PITingres (Reply 6):
Because it works?

Fair enough...but so did hand-written bag tags, hand-written boarding passes, paper tickets, and.... well, you get my point. Everything else has changed, why not this?



You land a million planes safely, then you have one little mid-air and you never hear the end of it - Pushing Tin
User currently offlinetype-rated From United States of America, joined Sep 1999, 4990 posts, RR: 19
Reply 8, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11864 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?



Fly North Central Airlines..The route of the Northliners!
User currently offlineb757capt From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 1375 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11842 times:

Quoting OB1504 (Reply 1):

Long live the okie data!



The views written by this user are in no manner the views of my employer and should not be thought as such.
User currently onlineAeroWesty From United States of America, joined Oct 2004, 20539 posts, RR: 62
Reply 10, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 11828 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.



International Homo of Mystery
User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19565 posts, RR: 58
Reply 11, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 11761 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.


User currently offline9252fly From Canada, joined Sep 2005, 1391 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 19 hours ago) and read 11715 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.

User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 13, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 11500 times:

Quoting cha747 (Thread starter):
more computing power in the IFE than the Apollo astronauts had to land on the moon

Your smart phone has 10X or more computing power than the Apollo astronauts had on their ship. I don't think the Hubble has been upgraded to better than a 486 processor yet.

Quoting cha747 (Thread starter):
I just looked at the prices of a few dot matrix printers and they are actually pricier than entry-level laser printers.

But those entry level lasers will not handle the printing load at a gate. You need something running in the $900-1,200 dollar range for a laser printer - for every gate.

Quoting brilondon (Reply 4):
And I loved to change the ribbon...

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.


User currently offlineBreninTW From Taiwan, joined Jul 2006, 1633 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 11452 times:

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 13):
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.

And laser printers have this rather nasty habit of overheating at the worst possible moment ... something that rarely happens with DM printers.



I'm tired of the A vs. B sniping. Neither make planes that shed wings randomly!
User currently offlinejfidler From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 355 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 11419 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.


User currently offlineflyBTV From United States of America, joined Jul 2012, 24 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 11415 times:
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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.

[Edited 2013-07-04 20:55:10]

User currently offlineblueflyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 3970 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 10858 times:
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Quoting cha747 (Reply 7):
Everything else has changed, why not this?

Money.
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.



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineflyhigh@tom From India, joined Sep 2001, 393 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 10568 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.

long live dot matrix 


User currently offlineYLWbased From Hong Kong, joined Jan 2006, 829 posts, RR: 4
Reply 19, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 10142 times:

Majority of the Taxi Receipts in Hong Kong are printed with Dot Matrix printers, and courier forms.

I think aviation industry only makes up a small percentage of all dot matrix users.

YLWbased



Hong Kong is not China. Not better or worse, just different.
User currently offlineEIDL From Ireland, joined Apr 2012, 427 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 10012 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.


User currently offlinePalmyboy12 From New Zealand, joined Oct 2011, 57 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 9406 times:

Quoting cha747 (Thread starter):
Why are we still using 1970's/1980's technology in 2013 at the gate?

Why do we still board (and for most avgeeks, god-worship) an almost 50 year old quadjet?  



"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline." Frank Zappa
User currently offlineabrown532 From UK - Northern Ireland, joined Feb 2008, 152 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 9352 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....

User currently offline9lflyguy From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 164 posts, RR: 0
Reply 23, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 8945 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.  



My opinions do not represent the opinions of my company. They are solely the opinion of the poster.
User currently offlineSlcpilot From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 583 posts, RR: 2
Reply 24, posted (1 year 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 8743 times:

Urban legend.... May be true or not...who knows?

Delta supposedly has several warehouses full of DM paper, and that's been part of the reason for the continued DM use. In fact, more than one gate agent has joked D-E-L-T-A

Destroy
Every
Last
Tree
Available

It seems to me a paperless cockpit will greatly reduce the need to print at the gate, but certainly not entirely!

Cheers!

SLCPilot



I don't like to be fueled by anger, I don't like to be fooled by lust...
25 smi0006 : Ughh the bane of my existence! I can't say how many flights have been delayed be a min here or there, as I rapidly try to rebuild the bloody things af
26 brilondon : They then could not say we just need to finish up the paper work to explain why they are 20 minutes late leaving the gate.
27 airbazar : What I've alays wondered is, why do we need printers at all? Can't that information be transfered electronically?
28 exFWAOONW : Fed regulations require a copy of the flight release signed by the pilot be kept for a minimum of 1 year, to ensure he has/had a correct copy in case
29 kgaiflyer : I just priced an Okidata Microline 320 at $500.26. OTOH, retailers are hawking cheap laser printers for as little as $129.00 in my area. True -- they
30 airbazar : You can do all of that with electronic versions, right down to signing it. I work in the financial services industry. We too have very strict SEC reg
31 flyby519 : Anything in aviation is a good 10-15 years behind the rest of the industries in the world.
32 exFWAOONW : True, but when the ^%%$ hits the fan, (I won't use the appropriate aviation version of that phrase) they want to see originals, not digiatal copies t
33 blueflyer : AFAIK, there is no approved electronic signature protocol for flight planning purpose yet. It's not necessarily an issue, there are many ways to make
34 Post contains images JBo : FOD?
35 FlyASAGuy2005 : From our IT site, we're getting them (TTY printer) for significantly less. Of course this is because we're getting a HUGE corporate discount. Flip si
36 Starlionblue : Rental car companies, for example. All the HK taxi receipts I have seen are printed with thermal printers, not dot matrix. There is a difference in m
37 MSJYOP28Apilot : The biggest thing keeping dot matrix printer alive is fear of modern technology. Just about everything can be done electronically. The FAA in most FSD
38 Starlionblue : Airlines are businesses and will (in an ideal world) make the investments with the best return. If this means moving to new printers, or away from pr
39 FlyDeltaJets : I worked ops for 1 airline and we had a virtual printer that allowed us to only print what was needed. Now the airline I currently work ops for anythi
40 jetblast : Seems a bit overkill! I order the DM paper as well as ribbons from Staples, they still make them.
41 DTW2HYD : It is possible but requires a software redesign to make sure no manipulations of electronic records is possible. Note that financial services industr
42 Viscount724 : And I assume a dot matrix ribbon is much cheaper than laser or inkjet printer toner. When I have to replace the 4 separate ink cartridges for my old
43 rfields5421 : By design. Gillette didn't get rich selling razors - blades is what made money
44 Klaus : Or unless you've got another iPad at hand (all airlines using them have one for each pilot as far as I'm aware). And even if both should break (highl
45 Goldenshield : Another thing to note is that airlines still use the SITA teletype messaging system for everything from inventory mangement to passenger manifests, an
46 sprout5199 : You don't take a sectional with you? IIRC here in the states, you are required to have one if you are flying beyond the local area(25 miles) of you h
47 Starlionblue : I do have a sectional. It's on the iPad. It is also on the iPhone for that matter. Exactly identical to the paper sectional except that I can zoom in
48 sprout5199 : I did some research and you are not "required" to have one, however, if there is an issue, the FAA will come down hard with the good old "failure to
49 Starlionblue : Absolutely fair. However lots of people get lost or miss radio frequencies with a sectional. I'm not saying one is better than the other in absolute
50 Post contains images sprout5199 : Well the C-150 I own has a TKM MX 300. A G1000 system is worth more than my airplane. Staying on subject, a dot matrix printer would fit right at hom
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