fanfold paper : Computer Hardware Buyers’ Glossary

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fanfold computer paper 14 x 11  fanfold paper
A type of paper popular in the early days of batch computing when a computer operator wearing a white lab coat handed you your computer results as hard copy from a line printer that printed on continuous forms with an IBM (International Business Machines) 1043 impact printer that printed a line at a time by pounding the paper from the back into a moving chain of metal stamped upper case characters, creating a deafening din.

Printing was fixed pitch, 10 characters per inch horizontally and 6 characters per inch vertically. The paper was usually 27.94 × 35.56 cm (11 × 14 in) including the two strips either side of sprocket holes. You could print 132 columns by 66 rows if you wrote over the perfs, 60 rows if you left a top and bottom margin. Old timer computer programmers unconsciously tend to limit themselves to 80 columns (the limit of a punch card) or 132 columns, the limit of the 1403 printer.

The fanfold paper had horizontal bars or alternately shaded backgrounds, always in pale green. The shade was chosen as easiest to both ignore when you wanted to ignore it and see when you wanted to see it. It also provided a restful contrast for the black printed text. That is the reason I use pale green to this day on my website for the background.

The paper itself was continuous with horizontal perforations every 11 inches.

A machine called a burster would split the continuous paper into individual sheets at the perforations.

Printing multiple copies using carbon paper (or later odd-smelling carbonless NCR (National Cash Register) paper) was common. A machine called a decollator peeled off each layer and discarded the carbon paper. You could also decollate using a long hallway to unravel the paper on.

The almost-extinct dot matrix printers still use fanfold paper, though inkjet and laser printers very rarely do, except in the massive printers used by the electric and phone company to print bills.

Today, nearly all fanfold paper is a custom form, e.g. An income tax receipt, a bill or a cheque, sometimes with a preprinted background, sometimes laser-printed in multicolours onto blank fanfold odd-size paper stock.


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