The First Printer Inventor was Remembered

Robert Howard, who invented the dot-matrix printer that helped fuel sales of personal computers, was remembered this week for his curiosity and generosity, according to

Howard, who died recently at age 91, founded Centronics Data Computer Corp. — which commercialized the printer — with seven employees in Hudson in 1968. He grew the company to more than 6,000 workers worldwide, including 3,000 in New Hampshire.

“He always was innovating,” said Salem resident Frank Romano, a college professor who over the years chatted with Howard about the inventor’s latest projects. “He always was looking for new ideas.”

Howard, whose net worth would grow into the hundreds of millions, donated more than $100 million collectively to various charities, including the University of New Hampshire and the Dublin School in Dublin, according to his family.

Howard worked with An Wang, the founder of Wang Laboratories, to develop an anti-skimming computer system for casino chips. That led Howard to invent the dot-matrix printer.

Graphics Arts Monthly credited two of Howard’s inventions on its list of “10 ‘Enabling’ Technologies That Invented Print’s Future.” One was the dot-matrix printer. The other was hatched at Presstek.

“With Presstek on-press platemaking technology, and Heidelberg marketing clout, DI (direct imaging) introduced press automation that spurred the development of digital workflow,” the publication said. “This technology allowed printers more ability to improve productivity and decrease operating costs with high quality for much less.” Howard served as chairman of the board at Presstek until the late 1990s.

“The innovative vision that Bob Howard had for Presstek, and its role in the print industry when he founded the company … has been carried forward by many dedicated and talented team members over the years,” Chief Operating Officer Geoff Loftus said. “We can all be thankful for his role in the genesis of the company and for the thriving Presstek that continues on today.”

In a New York Times interview in 1982, Howard said: “The world considers me a businessman, but I consider myself a scientist.” Smith said the dot-matrix printer probably ranked tops in his father’s heart.

“The dot matrix because it changed the computer world,” Smith said. “It was really the first real computer printer, high speed that was out there, and I think that’s what he was most proud of.”

Source: newhampshire

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