Line printers were sort of half way between the daisy wheel printer
the dot matrix printer
in that they had the speed
of the dot matrix (faster actually) and nearly the
quality of the daisy wheel.
there were really several different types of line printers, with
The description by McSnarf fits the
old IBM chain/train line printers which were available
as early as 1958 and its descendents which were
available well into the 1970's. Early versions
sounded like a machine gun, but later versions
had enough sound insulation to just sound like
lots of rapid tapping.
One of the most famous line printers is the Printronix printer,
which has been in the background of many movies, including Sneakers.
Unlike the IBM line printers, the Printronix
line printer was much closer to a dot matrix printer in quality and mechanism.
It had a print head consisting of 132 pins
in a horizontal line. Pins needed would fire simultaneously
and then the whole print head would shift over
one pixel and repeat (7 times) and then advance the paper one pixel
to print the next line.
The printronix had a character set in rom, but could also print
raster graphics. (I wrote a ghostscript driver, but never published it.)
The technical manual had big warnings about not exceeding the duty cycle
of the print head drivers or it would overheat. This whole process made a
nice satisfying chung chung noise and spit out your
print job out faster than you could cancel it.
Both IBM and Printronix still make and sell line printers,
but they are probably based on a totally different
technology. (I have not seen a modern one.)
The common characteristic would be high speed
and measuring that speed in lines per minute.