Who Invented the Printer

Who invented the printer? While many people developed the technology used for different types of printers, their work is built on concepts pioneered by Chester Carlson in 1938. Carlson invented electrophotography, a dry printing process. This process is commonly known as Xerox, after the company that first invested in Chester Carlson's idea.

Early Printers
Prior to Carlson's work, printing involved liquid material. Large presses could put ink on a page, but their huge size made them impractical for everyday personal use. Mimeograph machines used a chemical reaction to transfer the image from a master document to copies. They were great if you liked blue (the only color they could reproduce) and if you could tolerate the fumes from the mimeograph fluid.

Carlson's process eliminated the need for chemicals, relying on electrostatic charges and light to transfer an image from one surface to another. His first successful copy, made with the assistance of Austrian physicist Otto Kornei, was the transfer of 10.22.38 ASTORIA from a microscope slide to a piece of paper; it was the date and location (in New York City) where the copy was made.

Modern Computer Printers
A high-speed printer was developed by Remington-Rand for the Univac computer in 1953.

The inkjet printer came into being in 1976. It had its share of problems, and was very expensive (over $1,000). One of the problems was that the ink would clog the print head. Hewlett-Packard and Canon came up with an inkjet printer that used liquid ink held in cartridges. IBM tried to use electrically charged droplets, but this method did not work.

The first laser printer was created by the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. This project began in 1969 and was completed in 1971. Gary Starkweather, one of Xerox's engineers, based his design on the same technology used in Xerox copiers. The first consumer laser printer was released in 1977 by Xerox.

IBM also claims an early laser printer. The IBM 3800 was completed and installed in F. W. Woolworth's North American data center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1976. In 1992, Hewlet-Packard released the LaserJet 4, the first 600 by 600 dot-per-inch resolution laser printer.

Various companies have claims on the first commercial laser or inkjet printer, as well as different innovations along the way. But without the pioneering work of Chester Carlson, none of these printers would be possible. 

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