Survey of Design and Media Art
Instructor: Lindsay Grace

Computer Hardware Terms


Image Production

Dots Per Inch (DPI): The standard way of evaluating print or image quality of computer electronics. Often abbreviated to DPI, it describes the number of printed “dots” that a printer can fit in one inch of space. DPI may also be used to describe the scanning resolution of a scanner.

Cartridge: The part of the printer that holds ink or materials needed to disperse inks. Cartridges vary in size and shape and most are specific to a set of printer models. What is inside a printer cartridge varies depending on the type of printer, and the design of the printer. Some cartridges are ink soaked ribbons; others have complicated electronics and mechanicals inside them.

Impact Printer: A printer class that includes the dot matrix, daisy wheel, golf ball and Braille printers. All impact printers require some mechanical part of the printer to come in contact with the paper. Impact printers tend to be noisy and have print quality limitations because of the contact with the paper.

Non-Impact Printers: Printers that do not require direct contact between a printing mechanism and the paper (contrast with impact printer). Examples include inkjet printers and laser printers.

Dot Matrix Printer: A printer that presses a dot of ink onto paper to create patterns and letters. The dots are nearly imperceptible when the document is finished.

Inkjet Printer: A printer that sprays small ink droplets from a nozzle using electricity and magnetics to control the flow of ink. Inkjet printers are very quiet, but the cartridges are often the most expensive part of the printer. Example, printer costs $60, ink cartridge costs $35.

Laser Printer: A printer that uses a laser beam and mechanical elements to transfer images to paper. Laser printers produce high resolutions of up to 2400 dpi, but have higher initial costs when compared to impact printers and inkjet printers.

Image Acquiring

Scanner: A device that can convert a printed image to an electronic format. Scanners vary by size, style, and quality of scanning. Varieties include handheld scanners, and flatbed scanners. Flatbed scanners allow you to put a piece of paper on a glass “bed”. A flatbed scanner works much like a copier. Scanner quality is often measured in DPI. A scanner with 640 x 480 resolution would be a low quality scanner.

Digital Camera: Any camera that stores pictures electronically. Where a traditional camera stores an image on film, digital cameras store the image in memory. Digital camera quality is measured in resolution. High-resolution images allow for larger prints without degrading the quality of the image. A digital camera with an “optimal resolution” of 640 x 480 would be a very poor quality digital camera.