Why Did Old Printer Paper Have Holes?
Posted on 23rd May 2023 at 12:46
From the earliest days that office printers were owned by workplaces, printers would output results on paper with punched holes on the side, for a good reason.
For longer even than there have been computers, office printers have been a central part of many workplaces, but for over eight decades and countless evolutions they all had a strange idiosyncrasy in common.
Unlike today, when most types of printer paper and stationary match common letter writing standards, older printer stationary was sold in rolls or folded concertina stacks of various sizes with tear-off strips of evenly spaced punched holes on either side.
This was a necessity in no small part due to the electromechanical nature of a lot of pre-computer office equipment and is known as continuous stationery.
Whilst most associated with dot-matrix printers, it was originally used in the 1920s, as autographic registers would be used to create copies of forms and invoicing information by pulling paper using sprockets that hooked onto the holes at the side of the paper.
When punched-card tabulating machines started to be used in the 1920s, the continuous stationery used for autographic registers would quickly be used as well.
However, the point where it moved away from specialist administrative offices and into more general workplace use with the rise of preprinted punch cards, particularly the larger and more sophisticated ones pioneered by IBM.
What moved the technology from specialised workplaces into small businesses, homes and schools was the rise of the microcomputer revolution in the early 1980s, which led to the development of consumer-grade printers.
In order to keep them simple, cheap and easy to use, they relied on continuous-roll paper and dot-matrix technology, which meant that they could very noisily print simple documents at a lower quality than typewriters or modern print technology but were typically legible.
By the 1990s and the rise of desktop publishing, dot-matrix printers were largely superseded by laser printers on the business side and inkjet printers for consumers, which could produce much higher quality documents using standard paper sizes, using less rudimentary loading methods.
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