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Some technology never dies...

By Steve Simmerman | 02/12/2015 | 5:38 PM

As I prepared to board my flight the other day with my new Surface Pro 3 in anticipation of using the WiFi onboard the plane, it struck me that I had some pretty amazing technology at my disposal.  I also saw baggage handlers on the ground feeding bags into the cargo area of the plane using handheld RF devices busily scanning bar codes as they worked.  Pretty impressive technology surrounding me.  But, as the traffic in the jetway backed up, I stood waiting to get on the plane and I noticed some very interesting technology being used by the airline. 

It wasn't tablet-based, it wasn't wireless, it wasn't touchscreen, didn't use Bluetooth, wasn't Cloud-based and didn't even use Windows! Imagine that!!  But it worked and it seemed like perfectly good technology for the job at hand.  Could a new system be installed with state-of-the-art technology?  Probably so, but as the old saying goes, "if it ain't broken...." What really struck me was not the dust shields on the monitor and keyboard, but I was drawn to the printer sitting on the shelf below. You may not be able to see it in the photo, but the printer is a Microline dot matrix printer. 

I did a little research on the history of Microline printers and found out that OKI made the first model in 1978 in a deal with Radio Shack. It turns out that Radio Shack needed a source for low cost printers for their personal computers, thus the Microline 80 was born and has enjoyed a very successful evolution as a workhorse dot matrix printer still being sold today!  It's funny that the Microline line of printers has stood the test of time, while we see Radio Shack on verge of collapse. According to this history of the Microline printer, it truly is a workhorse with an MTBF of 20,000 hours - that's nearly 10 working man-years!  The printhead has a 200 MILLION character life and the ribbon has a 3 million character life - pretty impressive, no wonder they are market leaders in low cost, high quality dot matrix printers around the globe. So while it may not be sexy looking technology supporting the flight operation, it sure looks like it's delivering the functionality needed to do the job.  Now I realize that this workhorse will likely be replaced with some tablet-based, wireless printing solution at some point in time, but I find it hard to imagine that when this system was first installed that anyone on the development or implementation team would have believed it would last this long. 

Send us some examples of workhorse technology that has stood the test of time at your place of work.  And if you happen to include an example using a Microline 186 we might just feature that in our next blog!  Delivering a solution to address a business need does not always imply that it has be the sexiest technology available - just remember that the next time you board a plane.

Microline 186





















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About Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman

Steve Simmerman is a Senior Director with JDA. Simmerman has more than 25 years of experience in the supply chain industry including software, consulting and material handling. He has focused his efforts on working with clients to achieve high performance supply chain results through partnerships and creative solutions. He is a member of CSCMP, WERC, and MHIA and is a regular contributor to several industry publications and events. Simmerman holds his undergraduate and MBA degrees from The University of Notre Dame.


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