Laser Printers

Dover laser printer

The Dover was a prototype for Xerox’s first commercial laser printer, the 9700, which printed 120 pages per minute on standard paper.

Laser Printers

Xerox physicist Gary Starkweather realized in 1967 that exposing a copy machine’s light-sensitive drum to a paper original wasn’t the only way to create an image. A computer could “write” it with a laser instead.

Xerox wasn’t interested. So in 1971, Starkweather transferred to Xerox PARC, away from corporate oversight. Within a year, he had built the world’s first laser printer, launched a new era in computer printing…and earning billions for Xerox.

Unlike the company’s Xerography process, however, Xerox had to share the laser printer market. IBM and Canon soon developed competing products.

Xerox PARC Scanning Laser Output Terminal (SLOT)

Gary Starkweather prototyped the first laser printer by modifying a standard Xerox office copier. It printed 60 pages a minute at 500 dots per inch. It took almost five years to produce a commercial version: the huge, expensive 9700.

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Gary Starkweather

Starkweather is shown with one of his early experimental laser-printer optical systems.

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IBM 3800 Model 1 laser printer

IBM beat Xerox to market with its 3800 laser printer, which could print more than 350 pages a minute on continuous, fan-folded paper.

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HP LaserJet ("LaserJet Classic") laser printer

HP’s fourth laser printer cost much less than other laser printers, yet still offered excellent print quality. First-year sales exceeded 250,000.

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PostScript lapel button

Computers needed special software for each early laser printer. John Warnock and Charles Geschke’s 1984 PostScript was the first “universal” language for laser printers.

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Apple LaserWriter Plus laser printer

The LaserWriter was expensive compared to the cost of a small computer. But the PostScript printing software made it easy to combine text and graphics into attractive output, similar to that of much more expensive specialized systems.

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Laser and optics assembly, SX-type

This was the heart of Canon’s second mass-market laser-printer, the LBP-SX. The Hewlett-Packard LaserJet II and Apple LaserWriter II were essentially relabeled LBP-SX engines with additional software.

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