4 Milestones in Office Printing
Printers for Your Office: 1953 to Now
While we’re all waiting for someone to finally win the “Paperless Office Revolution” we continue pumping out pages and pages of documents on our office printers.
This seems to me a good time to take a wistful look at how far office printers have evolved over the years as well as a peek into the future of office printing. Let’s talk about four milestones in office printing.
1. Dot matrix printers.
If you don’t remember floppy disks—and I’m not talking about the little plastic encased ones, I’m talking about the old 8-inch floppies that really were floppy—you may not remember dot matrix printers. The first of these was developed back in 1953 for use with the Univac computer.
When dot matrix printers eventually hit the office environment they were loud beasts that were often enclosed in sound dampening boxes just so people could survive the day. Crates of paper were tractor fed through these machines, which led to an office skill that has virtually disappeared today: tearing off the edges of tractor fed paper.
2. Laser printers.
The first laser printer was a development of Xerox’s PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) in 1969. After all, Palo Alto was the birthplace of personal computing and Xerox had the copier technology, so wedding the two was a natural. I might also note that it was from PARC that Steve Jobs stole the idea of the computer mouse. The company released the first laster printer in 1977. The machine was huge and cost thousands of dollars and generated more than $1 billion in revenue for Xerox. Maybe we should stop complaining about the price of inkjet cartridges.
3. Inkjet printers.
The inkjet printer technology was patented back in 1951 by Siemans, but it wasn’t until Hewlett-Packard introduced the DeskJet printer in 1988 that they really became popular. The original DeskJet, by the way, retailed for $1000. I wonder how much replacement cartridges cost! Closely related to the original inkjet technology are the bubble jet printers. Canon came up with this idea.
It’s interesting to note that with the development of inkjet printers, office printers have in a way taken a step back in time moving closer to the original dot matrix printers. The print head in inkjet printers moves back and forth across the page just like dot matrix printers, except without the unbearable decibels of noise.
4. PC-less printing.
Today we’re in the process of breaking the umbilical cord between our PCs and our printers. Cloud-based printing is on the immediate horizon. With printers networked over the Internet, all our devices—smartphones, notebook computers, laptops, iPads—will be able to print from anywhere to virtually anywhere.
That’s where we came from and where we are now in the world of office printing. I don’t expect to see the entirely paperless office in my lifetime, how about you?
David Ching is a marketing strategist for EQA Office furniture, a San Francisco based office furniture retailer. EQA offers office furniture including office chairs, cubicles, conference tables, workstations and receptionist desks.