It’s hard to imagine, but not even three decades ago households had no idea they could someday own a computer printer in their home. To those of us who use printers on a daily basis, we wonder what the world would be like without this amazing technology.
The evolution of the modern printers of today started in 1938. Chester Carlson invented a dry printing process, commonly known as Xerox, which was the foundation of the modern day printer. The patent placed by Carlson would lead to what we know commonly today as the home printer as well as ink & toner cartridges used to print on these machines.
Original Laser Printers
At the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center developments began in 1969 to build the original laser printer historians know as EARS. Xerox engineer Gary Starkweather developed the technology which utilized laser beam technology to print electronically on paper. The first “high-speed” laser printer was later developed by IBM in 1976 operating at speeds of more than 100 impressions-per-minute. Pesky ribbon and ink cartridges were used, but very hard to manipulate and refill during the early years.
Inkjet Printers in Homes
In 1976 the first inkjet printer was invented, but not until 1988 were inkjet printers introduced as a product available to consumers. Hewlett-Packard is reported to have released the first Deskjet printer, priced around $1,000 which by today’s standards is still a steep price point. The printer was utilized both in offices and at home.
Four manufacturers represent the largest market share for inkjet printer sales including: HP, Canon, Lexmark (a 1991 spin-off from IBM) and Epson. They’ve dominated the marketplace for the past two decades. Many factors led to the growth of these brands and the volume of printers sold. The improvement to speed, efficiency and price of the devices and accessories such as ink & toner have created the ability for average everyday consumers to purchase and maintain their printers.
After 1988 when the first printers were first sold, the need for ink & toner became prevalent. Specific manufacturer toner was needed for the brand of printer a consumer purchased. Canon ink for instance, would need to be utilized for Canon specific printers. Printing documents both in the home and in the office were a necessity, but the cost seemed to be out of range for some consumers. Around 1990 inkjet cartridges and printer ink became readily available and were much easier to install than ribbon and other toner options, as well as cheaper options available in the market.
Today inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer, transferring droplets of ink or toner onto paper, plastic or other surfaces. Advancing technology in the field of printing has included the use of wireless printing, getting rid of connections to your PC or laptop. Additionally, three-dimensional printing, which prints thick cross-sections of material on top of one another to create a 3D tangible object when finished, has been developed to improve on the use of the everyday printer.
The modern day printer continues to advance in technology as wireless capabilities have been developed, three-dimensional printing and easy to use ink & toner is developed. It’s hard to imagine our lives today without these helpful devices in our home and offices.