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The field of print management is always changing, and most of us in the industry spend our time on the lookout for new technologies coming over the horizon. But last week, I ran across a great article from the IEEE Spectrum website (yeah, I’m that guy) that took a look back at the advent of high-speed printing. Specifically, the development of the legendary IBM 1403 printer.

It was fast. How fast? How does 1100 lines of print per minute sound? Not bad for something that was basically a warp-speed typewriter using long chains of embossed metal characters and solenoid-driven hammers to print a new character every 4 to 6 microseconds.

The sheer engineering involved is impressive enough, but a single sentence from the article caught my eye:

“With all 132 hammers actuating and the chain blasting along, the 1403 was stupendously noisy, a trait which some creative programmers leveraged to get the printer to make music (of a sort).”

That’s Incredible! As impressive as modern laser printers and inkjet devices may be, you’ll never hear one play “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” or other top 40 hits.

I didn’t grow up in the era of machinery like the 1403, but like many of you, I did spend my formative years around a lot of dot-matrix printers and floppy drives. And bad music from the 80’s. So on this Throwback Thursday, courtesy of some very talented YouTubers, I present you a small musical reminder of just how far we’ve come. Enjoy!

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