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Laser Printers - The History of Laser Printers
Although they serve very different functions, the laser printer and the photocopier make use of exactly the same technology, harnessing the power of electrostatic energy to transfer dry ink to the page. In fact, the laser printer is simply an adaptation of the xerographic machines invented thirty years earlier.
The photocopier is born
In 1938, an American law student named Chester Carlson (who would later become a patent attorney, cashing in on his skills as an inventor) succeeded in creating the first xerographic image, after many years of work. From the Greek words for "dry" and "writing," xerography uses the principles of static electricity to transfer dry ink (or toner) to the page. It was only in 1946 that Carlson found a company willing to manufacture his electrostatic photocopiers: the Haloid Company, which later became the Xerox Corporation. In 1949, Xerox's machines became commercially available for the first time. The Model A was large, complex, and required the user to perform several steps by hand in order to create a single copy. The first fully automatic xerographic machine, the Xerox 914, came on the market in 1959 and could print seven copies per minute. This is the model on which modern photocopiers and laser printers are based.
The first laser printers
In 1978, a Xerox employee named Gary Starkweather succeeded in adding a laser beam to existing Xerox photocopier technology to create the first laser printer. The Xerox 9700 could print 120 pages per minute (it remains the fastest laser printer to this day). However, its size and cost were prohibitive, particularly as personal computing became more and more popular and printers needed to be marketable to individual consumers.
Desktop laser printers
In the early 1980s, demand was high for a printer that could produce better quality text and graphics than the impact printers already on the market. Hewlett Packard answered the call with its LaserJet printer, which could print 8 pages per minute. HP made desktop laser printing possible by redesigning the toner cartridge so that it could easily be replaced by the printer's owner. While this design remains very popular, the expense and environmental questions raised by disposable toner cartridges have also spawned the creation of the toner cartridge re-manufacturing industry.