I had e-mail today about running dot-matrix printers in Windows, which confused me at first because fundamentally, getting one type of printer to work in Windows is no different from getting another one to work: You load the right driver and you go.
I guess people are used to having a disk or CD from the printer maker that they have to load, but if you go into the Printers control panel and punch through the options and tell Windows you want to set the printer up manually, eventually you’ll get a list of printer makes and models. I’ve never run a dot-matrix printer from Windows (I bought an inexpensive Panasonic laser printer with my first PC) but Windows 2000 includes drivers for a lot of printers that I remember from the past, including the Epson MX-80, which was common 20 years ago. I used one of those in high school, but this was the same school that was using manual typewriters to teach typing as late as 1990.
And I remember that during at least one of my stints selling computers at retail in college, we sold Epson and Panasonic dot-matrix printers. People bought them too, because they were cheaper than inkjets. I remember demoing a Panasonic unit under Windows 3.1 and possibly even Windows 95.
If you have an off-brand printer that Windows doesn’t include a driver for, there’s still hope. Find out what printer(s) your printer emulates. If you happen to still have the manual for the printer, it used to be common for the manual to include that kind of information. If you don’t, you may still have a chance. Epson was the de facto standard for dot-matrix printers, so just about every 24-pin printer could emulate an Epson LQ-1000, while most 9-pin printers could emulate either an Epson FX-80 or an IBM Proprinter, and most 7-pin printers could emulate an Epson MX-80. And most printers could step down and emulate 9-pin and even 7-pin printers, making the Epson MX-80 the lowest common denominator, but it had really lousy resolution, so it should be a last resort.
If the printer still doesn’t work, you can use Windows’ Generic Text-Only driver. You’ll be limited to whatever fixed-pitch font the printer uses by default (which will probably display onscreen as Courier), but it’s better than nothing, and should work with anything you can manage to connect to a PC.