Robert Howard, Inventor Of The Dot-Matrix Printer is Remembered

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Robert Howard, Inventor Of The Dot-Matrix Printer is Remembered

 news 2015-01-13 at 11:04:39 am Views: 265
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    Robert Howard, Inventor Of The Dot-Matrix Printer is Remembered
    Man who invented your first printer remembered

    By MICHAEL COUSINEAU New Hampshire Union Leader

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


    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.

    “The most important thing was creating and giving to other people,” said his stepson, Brett Smith, who graduated from the Dublin School in 1988.

    Howard called Windham his home along Cobbetts Pond for more than a decade, primarily in the 1970s. He formed more than two dozen companies, including Presstek and Howtek, both in Hudson, during the 1980s.

    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.”

    At Presstek, Howard served as chairman of the board 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.”

    Howard’s New Hampshire roots remain.

    “He still owns a lot of property up in the Manchester area,” Smith said. “At one point, he was a huge real estate owner.”

    Howard’s son, Larry, graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1977 and now sits on the board of directors of the UNH Foundation.

    In his book, the elder Howard recounted his encounters with three future U.S. presidents.“As Centronics flourished in New Hampshire, we probably became one of the largest employers in the state, and with that came a certain political leverage,” Howard wrote.

    He said he became friends with William Loeb, then publisher of the Manchester Union Leader and the New Hampshire Sunday News. Loeb invited him to meet Ronald Reagan, who was running for president in 1980.

    “Bill insisted that I join him for his meeting with Ronald and Nancy Reagan. (We would also have a similar meeting with George H.W. Bush, who was also running for the Republican nomination, accompanied by his young son George.),” Howard wrote. “We sat and talked about almost every subject that Bill and I could think of” during the two-hour-plus meeting.Howard died Dec. 19 with services held in New York City.

    The Centronics Model 101 dot-matrix printer, circa 1970, was a product of inventor and entrepreneur Robert Howard, The photo of the printer is an image from his book, “Connecting the Dots.”