A plotter is a computer
A computer is a programmable machine designed to sequentially and automatically carry out a sequence of arithmetic or logical operations. The particular sequence of operations can be changed readily, allowing the computer to solve more than one kind of problem...

 printing device for printing vector graphics
Vector graphics
Vector graphics is the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygon, which are all based on mathematical expressions, to represent images in computer graphics...

. In the past, plotters were widely used in applications such as computer-aided design
Computer-aided design
Computer-aided design , also known as computer-aided design and drafting , is the use of computer technology for the process of design and design-documentation. Computer Aided Drafting describes the process of drafting with a computer...

, though they have generally been replaced with wide-format conventional printers. It is now commonplace to refer to such wide-format printers as "plotters," even though they technically aren't.
Pen plotters print by moving a pen
A pen is a device used to apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used, with a nib of some sort to be dipped in the ink. Ruling pens allow precise adjustment of line width, and still find a few specialized uses, but...

 or other instrument across the surface of a piece of paper.