History of Computer Printers

A woman using a printer and photocopier bank

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The history of computer printers started in 1938 when Chester Carlson invented a dry printing process called electrophotography commonly called a Xerox, the foundation technology for laser printers to come.

In 1953, the first high-speed printer was developed by Remington-Rand for use on the Univac computer. 

The original laser printer called EARS was developed at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 and completed in November 1971. Xerox Engineer Gary Starkweather adapted Xerox copier technology adding a laser beam to it to come up with the laser printer. According to Xerox, "The Xerox 9700 Electronic Printing System, the first xerographic laser printer product, was released in 1977. The 9700, a direct descendant from the original PARC "EARS" printer which pioneered in laser scanning optics, character generation electronics, and page formatting software, was the first product on the market to be enabled by PARC research."

IBM Printer

According to IBM, "the very first IBM 3800 was installed in the central accounting office at F. W. Woolworth’s North American data center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1976." The IBM 3800 Printing System was the industry’s first high-speed, laser printer. It was a laser printer that operated at speeds of more than 100 impressions-per-minute. It was the first printer to combine laser technology and electrophotography according to IBM.


In 1992, Hewlett-Packard released the popular LaserJet 4, the first 600 by 600 dots per inch resolution laser printer. 

In 1976, the inkjet printer was invented, but it took until 1988 for the inkjet to become a home consumer item with Hewlett- Packard's release of the DeskJet inkjet printer, priced at a whopping $1000. 

The History of Printing

The earliest dated printed book known is the "Diamond Sutra," printed in China in 868 CE. However, it is suspected that book printing may have occurred long before this date. 

Before Johannes Gutenberg, printing was limited in the number of editions made and nearly exclusively decorative, used for pictures and designs. The material to be printed was carved into wood, stone, and metal, rolled with ink or paint and transferred by pressure to parchment or vellum. Books were hand copied mostly by members of religious orders.

Gutenberg was a German craftsman and inventor. Gutenberg is best known for the Gutenberg press, an innovative printing press machine that used movable type. It remained the standard until the 20th century. Gutenberg made printing cheap.

Ottmar Mergenthaler's invention of the linotype composing the machine in 1886 is regarded as the greatest advance in printing since the development of moveable type 400 years earlier.

Teletypesetter, a device for setting type by telegraph, was developed by F.E. Gannett of Rochester, New York, W.W. Morey of East Orange, New Jersey, and Morkrum-Kleinschmidt Company, Chicago, Illinois The first demo of Walter Morey's "Teletypesetter" took place in Rochester, New York, in 1928.

Louis Marius Moyroud and Rene Alphonse Higonnet developed the first practical phototypesetting machine. The phototypesetter that used a strobe light and a series of optics to project characters from a spinning disk onto photographic paper.

In 1907, Samuel Simon of Manchester England was awarded a patent for the process of using silk fabric as a printing screen. Using materials other than silk for screen printing has a long history that begins with the ancient art of stenciling used by the Egyptians and Greeks as early as 2500 B.C.