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In computer science, Spool is an acronym for simultaneous peripheral operations on-line. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, computers used SPOOL software, e.g., IBM "SPOOL System", 7070-IO-076, to copy files from one medium to another: punch card to tape, tape to punch card and tape to printer, with occasional use for card-to-card copying. Early mainframe computers had no disk drives and slightly more recent ones had, by current standards, small and expensive hard disks; in later systems SPOOL use of tape disappeared in favor of disks. The introduction of the relatively inexpensive IBM 1401 led to a temporary reduction in the use of SPOOL software. The most common spooling application is print spooling: documents formatted for printing are stored usually into an area on a disk and retrieved and printed by a printer at its own rate. Printers typically can print only a single document at a time and require seconds or minutes to do so. With spooling, multiple processes can write documents to a print queue without waiting. As soon as a process has written its document to the spool device, the process can perform other tasks, while a separate printing process operates the printer. For example, when a city prepares payroll checks, the actual computation may take a matter of minutes or even seconds, but the printing process might take hours. If the program printed directly, computing resources would be tied up until the program was able to finish. The same is true of personal computers. Without spooling, a word processor would be unable to continue until printing finished. Without spooling, most programs would be relegated to patterns of fast processing and long waits, an inefficient paradigm.
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