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by Dinesh Thakur

When personal computers first came out, daisywheel printers were the only type of affordable printer that could print sharp-enough text for important documents like business communications or college papers. Daisywheel printers work by pounding raised, fully-formed letters made of metal or plastic against the paper through a ribbon, just like a typewriter.

To be precise, a daisywheel printer has the characters mounted on the end of narrow projections arranged in a circle, like spokes on a wheel, or like petals on a daisy. If the printer has the raised characters mounted on a ball that spins around, as on an IBM Electric typewriter, it's not technically a daisywheel, but some people would call it that anyway. "Formed element printer" is one generic term for any typewriter-like machine. We used to call such printers "letter quality" printers, but then many dot matrix printers came out with "near letter quality" modes, and it became very easy to confuse them.