Evolution Of Printers – From Its Origins To This Day

The turning point in history was the invention of the printing press by the German inventor, Johannes Gutenberg around 1440. Those were big, bulky machines that helped to propel mass communication and made big changes to the evolution of society in general. That is known as the Printing Revolution. Safe to say, a lot has changed since then, and now you can have wireless and 3d printers in the comfort of your own home.

The invention of inkjet printing in 1950 helped a lot if the efforts to bring printing to everyone and from that moment, the evolution of printing and printers just skyrocketed. From hand-operated presses to 3d printers that can print and make various objects, even bridges. Yes, bridges! The evolution of printers is, to say the least, a fun and interesting topic.

If you want to know more, go with us on this amazing journey.

Origins of printing

Even though that Gutenberg invented the printing press over 600 years ago, the idea behind printing actually began much further away in history. Five thousand years ago to be exact, in Ancient Egypt, the Egyptians used seals to signal that they were owners of particular objects.

But, to print something on paper, you’ll need paper, and the Egyptians are credited for the invention of the earliest known form of paper, called the papyrus. It was made from the papyrus plant that was found, in those ancient times, across the river of the Nile, the longest river in the world, which stretches across most of the Egyptian territory. After that, the evolution of paper took place in Anatolian Greece, Ancient China, and Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica.

Ancient Egyptian artwork on a papyrus

As papers evolved, so the idea of printing began to take shape. The earliest known form of printing originated in China, almost two thousand years ago. It’s called woodblock printing and it was popular throughout East Asia at that time, and it was actually not the process of printing on paper, rather on the cloth. Even though that printing techniques have been used throughout Asia for quite some time, they were first used in Europe, not before the beginning of the 15 century.

Printing Press

Then, the revolution began with the invention of the printing press in Mainz, Germany, by Johannes Gutenberg. That had a tremendous impact on European society at the time, as the access to various books improved and helped massively in the creation of public libraries.

For almost five centuries the principles of printing remained almost the same, and that should speak more than enough of Gutenberg’s genius.

Still, that doesn’t mean that the printing process in the printing press that Gutenberg invented was easy. Firstly, it can’t be done by just one person, as the task requires two persons, as the device was huge, nothing compared to the printers we see today at home. But, before that, most of the books that you can see before the invention of the printing press were hand-copied by monks, and that was an even more slower and detailed process, not to mention that they weren’t been available to a lot of people.

Gutenberg’s printing press, to put it simply, worked like this: there are inked type blocks, placed in reverse, made from wood or metal and they are used to create words. Then, with the help of a roller, the ink from the type blocks is then being transferred to the paper, hence the process of printing is then complete. Obviously, there are a lot more details and processes on how it worked, which you can see here.


A printing technique that propelled the whole printing process to modern times was surely xerography. Xerography is a dry photocopying technique developed by Chester Carlson. He was so fascinated by the works of Pál Selényi, a Hungarian engineer, that he was so determined to develop xerography.

The first-ever picture printed with this revolutionary technique saw the light of day in 1938, in Seattle, Washington. The electrically charged surfaces help the dry ink to attach to the printer’s drum, therefore this printing technique creates a higher quality picture. That was a huge step forwards in the improvement of printing quality and in bringing printers to homes. In 1959 the massively successful xeroxing copier was introduced, named the Xerox 914 Copier. That copier weighed almost 700 lbs, which is unthinkable by the standards nowadays when you have the copying option in an all-in-one printer that costs under $150. For a long time, the Xerox company didn’t have much competition in the printers and copiers world.

Laser printers

Almost thirty years since the invention of xerograph printing, another breakthrough happened in the evolution of printers. In the 1960s, new printing technology was invented, called laser printing.

Printer toners close-up

It was invented by Gary Starkweather, an American engineer, and worker at the product development department at the previously mentioned Xerox. Laser printers use, as their name suggests, a laser beam that transfers information to the printer’s drum. The static electricity then builds up, attracting the toner, and not the ink (which laser printers don’t need) which then gives you a high-quality picture.

Laser Printer

Inkjet printers

Unlike the laser printers which use a laser, the inkjet printers have a nozzle that transfers the ink to the paper. That concept was developed even earlier than the laser printers, back in the 1950s. However, their development took a long time and inkjet printers hit the market in the 80s. But, in the 1970s, inkjet printers were able to print pictures from computers, which was a tipping point.

All-in-one printers

Similarly how Steve Jobs introduced iPhone to the world in 2007, as a device that is an iPod with touch controls, a mobile phone, and an internet communicator all-in-one, the all-in-one printers, which appeared in the 1990s, was a device capable of printing, copying, and scanning. Pretty cool, right?

Nowadays, these kinds of printers are everywhere, as it is better to have a printer with multiple capabilities than to get a separate printer and a copier. They are also rather small and there are many affordable options on the market.

Wireless printer

The wireless printer was invented almost 30 years ago, in 1993 to be exact, by Andrew Clams. That was a huge invention that enables printers to connect to a wireless network and gets rid of unnecessary cables while also letting you print remotely. Most of today’s printers are wireless and it’s pretty much considered a must that a printer needs to have wireless or Bluetooth connectivity.

3D Printers

Seems crazy, but the 3D printers were actually invented earlier than the wireless printers, in 1984, by Charles Hull. 3D printing technology is nowadays used in most industries to create numerous products.

It’s a huge revolution in the world of technology and it will certainly make an even bigger impact on the world as time goes by. As opposed to printing on paper, the 3D printers give you a three-dimensional object by adding layers on top of each other.

Now that you’ve learned about the whole evolution process of printers, see the 10 fun facts about printers!

By |2021-11-09T15:59:09+00:00October 19th, 2021|Pastime, Technology|