[IMGCAP(1)]My first exposure to computer printers came in the late ’60s, with the IBM 1403 chain printer. This was a freestanding behemoth that used a long chain, somewhat like a bicycle or motorcycle chain onto which were mounted character slugs, like those used in old-fashioned typesetting.

[IMGCAP(2)]The print job was received by the printer’s controller, which decided when the right character was in the right place over the paper, and electromagnetically fired a small hammer, pushing the type character against a ribbon and onto the paper. The 1403 sounded a lot like a high-pitched chain saw (which it was kind of similar to) and programmers like me learned about timing loops by programming the printer to play “Popeye the Sailor Man” and “Anchors Away”.

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