Today, enterprises around the world rely upon printers and copiers on a daily basis. It seems surprising to consider these essential office tools did not even exist until comparatively recently! If you enjoy sharing interesting trivia items with others, consider memorizing some of these milestones in the history of the printer and copier sales industry:
- A businessman named Johannes Gutenberg created the prototype of the first modern printing press in Mainz, Germany in the mid-1400s, roughly 42 years before Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the Western Hemisphere. He developed moveable metal type to allow for the more rapid printing of written materials. Today, historians believe he produced around 180 copies of the first book printed in Europe using this technology: the Gutenberg Bible. Only 48 copies survive; originally marketed for 30 florins each, one of these copies sold for $2.4 million in North America in 1978. In 1987, another copy commanded a sales price of $5.4 million at an auction.
- The invention of copier and printer machines did not occur until hundreds of years later. For generations, clerks made copies of important business documents by hand.
- In 1874, a law student named Eugenio de Zuccato developed stencil duplicating. He called his invention the “papyrograph”; it involved creating stencils and then pressing ink into the stencil to form facsimiles. The use of stencils eventually led to the development of the mimeograph machine; it gained popularity during the early 1900s.
- After the invention of the typewriter, which became widespread by the mid-1880s, office workers frequently made a limited number of copies of typed documents using carbon paper.
- A physicist-attorney named Chester Carlson developed the earliest modern copier machine in the late 1930s when he invented electrophotography, i.e. “xerography”. This process revolutionized copying documents because it permitted the reproduction of an unlimited number of copies without stencils. The first commercial photocopier based on his work reached the public years later, but by the early 1960s, Chester Carlson became a founder of the firm which eventually became the Xerox corporation.
- IBM marketed the first commercial laser printers in 1976. This process used laser technology in conjunction with electrophotography.
- Hewlett-Packard worked to develop ink jet printers during the 1970s. The company also sold laser jet printers by the early 1990s.
Printing technology continues to develop today. This field expanded rapidly with the popularization of computers!