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1403 Printer Supplies
Paper and Ribbons

Table of Contents
Paper - Continuous Form Paper, 14 7/8" x 11", 20 Lb, 1/2" Green Bar
- One of several current suppliers
- A Frank King story

- - a little background about printer ribbons -
- New 1403 Ribbons
- Ron's "re-inker" - 1
- Ron's "re-inker" - 2
- Tricks for ReInking Printer Ribbons
- Film Ribbons
- Ribbon Alignment

A Story, from Frank King, as told by Stan Paddock
When the IBM 1403 N-1 came out, it was faster then the IBM 1403.

But the IBM 1403 could print 7 part forms. (& paper, 6 carbons).

The IBM 1403 N1 could not do all 7 copies.

The customer was asked to see if they really needed all seven copies.
The answer was no.

So IBM gave them a faster printer and saved them on paper cost at the same time.!

- a little background about printer ribbons -
from "Volunteer Information Exchange" Volume 4 Number 4 March 24, 2014
1401 Ribbon Problem
Frank King, former IBM Customer Engineer and valued member of the 1401 restoration team, tells this story.
The 1401 uses a very unusual ribbon, about 14 inches wide and 100 feet long, it is in a roll on the 1403 printer. It advances automatically and when it reaches the end of the roll it reverses and is re-used again and again. And when the ink is pretty well used up, the customer can buy a new ribbon or “re-ink” the old one and re-use it.

It turns out that the left side of the ribbon is more heavily used than the right, so customers would often flip the roll to make it wear more evenly.

Frank had a customer, Burlington Mills, who always, flipped, re-inked and reused a ribbon until it was beyond repair. But the customer was not happy. They wrote a letter to IBM stating that the ribbon quality was poor and they were dissatisfied.

After short time, IBM wrote back and stated that they had great faith in their ribbon vendor, Burlington Mills. Problem resolved.

New 1403 Ribbons
We used to re-ink our ribbons for the 1403 until we found that are still available today.
Staples has them:
Google "IBM 1403 Printer Ribbon" and you will be surprised at the sources.
While it states IBM-4245, it is the same ribbon.

Oct 23, 2016, Stan said:
Google "IBM 1040400 Compatible Nylon Printer Ribbons"

Ron's "re-inker" - 1
Ron Williams designed and constructed this printer ribbon re-inker. His current recipe is 2 parts mineral spirits, one part 30 weight motor oil. The little ratchet assembly to help control the ribbon during re-inking is concealed beneath Ron's hand. Ron has retained the legal firm of Bluffem, Fakem, Nukem & Shaftsall to represent his intellectual property rights ;-))

Ron's "re-inker" - 2
Ron Williams (left) is showing Joe Prescot and Frank King his printer ribbon re-inking fixture. Ron's receipt is 2 parts mineral spirits, 1 part #30 motor oil, sprayed "evenly" onto a ribbon. He depends upon the dried ink remaining in the used ribbon to provide the pigment. He says this works up to 3 re-inkings, and by then the fabric is shot from the pounding anyway.

Film Ribbons
from Donald Whittemore May 2013
The film ribbons were one time use just like film ribbons in typewriters.
All the ink was transferred to the paper which left the film clear in that spot.

I recall at least 1 mystery/spy/etc novel where what the victim wrote was deciphered from the used film ribbon in their typewriter.

The one mainframe use I remember was when printing checks. They were probably used in publishing when a very clean image was needed. All fabric ribbons had some smearing.


from Ed Thelen

Yes indeed - the "one pass" ribbon -
    but the results were as good as the printer could produce -
none of the "artifacts" due to the threads of the cloth of the
    usual inked printer ribbon.

One on my customers used film ribbons occasionally,
    wish I could remember the application -
  It was a rather big deal -
    a) special attention to printer adjustments
    b) someone watching to stop printing and insert new film ribbon
           when print ribbon reversal
    c) at the end of that print run,
           the unused film ribbon was saved "for next time"

from Frank King

Most of the customers in that I knew that used the one pass ribbon 
(mylar, I think) used them for publishing. The material was very thin 
so the ribbon lasted a long time if it was stopped between uses quickly.

One data center used them to advertise their services.
One customer used one to write a letter to T. J. Watson Jr. and O. M. Scott 
to brag about the CE's on a 1401 installation. It was quite effective.


from Frank King

Yes, A Senior CE and I installed a 1401 (4K) Reader Punch and Printer at "The Data Center" in Greensboro NC. We started at 08:30 and had completed the diagnostics and turned the system over to the customer at about 12:00.

The customer had prepared a letter to T J Watson Jr. and O M Scott (President of Field Engineering). He had it punched up and ran it on the 1403 using a mylar single pass ribbon. Our field manager came in to see how we were doing, with plans to take us to lunch. The customer showed the letter to our manager and said, "If I had money for a stamp I would mail it to IBM Headquarters." I think that's the fastest I had ever seen my field manager move to get money into the data center manager's hand.

Needless to say a few weeks later we got an award from IBM.

The problem was that the salesmen in Greensboro started telling customers we could install a 1401 system in 4 hours. The reason that was not true, was because it was a simple system (only three boxes), we had no bugs, lots of manual labor help from the operators and we had just installed a 1401 tape system a couple of weeks before. Also, the room had been pre-prepared. The Senior CE was Sam Rushton and my manager was Clete Waldmiller.


Ribbon Alignment System by Ed Thelen, as told by Frank King, mostly
The red arrow points to the alignment mechanism that kept the 1403 printer ribbon properly aligned even when the ribbon had been printing mostly on the left hand side. This was a common case - and the lack of ink on the left caused the left side of the ribbon to shrink. This caused the ribbon to track badly in most printers, but not the 1403 - extra care from IBM, of course you paid for it also ;-))