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Even though our long history is filled with various important events, the invention of the printing press was definitely one of the more significant ones. Never has the world of science experienced such a huge leap, as when the words of the world’s wisest men became shareable with everyone. However, printing was still a tremendously hard project that required enormous and expensive machinery. Who would have known back than that at some time in the future every household would be able to afford and store their own printer. Still, a journey to this point was in no way a short one.
The origins of household printers
The first printer was invented somewhere in the early 1400s, but it took more than five centuries for this technology to reach the point of becoming universally available. If we decide to talk about household printers in general, it must be noted that the very origins of this idea stem from Chester Carlson’s dry printing process – the famous Xerox. This machine, developed in 1938 , was the pinnacle of printing technology at the time, as well as the pioneer of this new (more practical) way of printing.
The next major step was most definitely taken in 1953, when Remington-Rand developed the first ever high-speed printer exclusively for the use of the Univac computer. Although this breakthrough was a huge success, progress had to wait a few more years until IBM came out with their revolutionary dye-sublimation printer in 1957. Believe it or not, this IBM marvel of technological achievement came to be the world’s very first dot matrix printer. From this point on, the modern household printer was only a few steps away.
Before we even start discussing printers in 1970s, it is important to mention one thing. When we speak about modern printers, there are two general types that are dividing the customer market. This division however was nonexistent until the 1970s, since this is when the first laser printer, as well as its counterpart, the inkjet printer, came to be.
First Laser Printers
The idea for the world’s very first laser printer came from a Xerox engineer, Gary Starkweather. His idea mostly consisted of simply modifying the already existent printer ideas and technologies with some innovations of his own. One of the greatest changes on this new model was adding the laser beam, which is what defined and named this entire category of printers. This “prototype” of Starkweather’s was simply called EARS and it was not a major commercial success. On the other hand, this amazing machine served as the basis for the Xerox 9700 Electronic Printing System which was released in early 1977.
Even though this was a huge discovery in the world of printing (especially for household printers), nothing big was going on in the field of laser printing until in 1992 the LaserJet 4 was released onto the market. This cutting edge printing technology, released by Hewlett-Packard, possessed the ability to print in an astounding 600×600 resolution that was unparalleled at the time. After that, it took quite a long time for laser printers to yet again outdo themselves.
The 1970s had one more gift to bestow upon mankind and yes, it was yet another printer. The first inkjet printer was released in 1976 and it has changed the world of printing as we know it forever. The revolutionary premise that allowed this to happen was an idea that some of the first inkjet developers had. Their plan was not to look for new ways to print, but to improve the traditional methods to perfection. The use of ink cartridges allowed users to get a simple and precise printing process. All they had to do is monitor the ink levels in the printer and occasionally replace the cartridge.
In 1988, the first inkjet printer hit the global market and it caused an unprecedented commotion among buyers. The incredible significance of this printer was matched only by its incredible price, which at the time amounted to $1000. However, it is important to note that at the time this printer was a pinnacle of technology and having the best always carries a toll to be paid.
In the end, printing has come a long way from its humble medieval origins to where they are today. Even though many will enter endless debates on laser versus inkjet printers, one thing is certain: this field of technology is constantly evolving and is likely to continue doing so in the future.