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The Evolution of Printers and Printing

For almost as long as man has walked the earth he has had the driving desire to make his mark, to have some record of his legacy for those that come after him. From cave paintings and hieroglyphics to stamping and developing writing tools in order to record their history as well as their folklore and tales, man has excelled in printing. Over time printing has evolved and changed to become a tool, a machine that we take for granted. Every office has a printer these days and almost every home has a printer as well making life much easier.

Very few businesses can get by without a printer these days, even if the majority of their work is done on computers or done online. Even if all of your business is done on computer, having a backup on hard copy ideal because it means that you will have a reliable copy of all of your work if your computer crashes or if your power cuts out, you will always have the necessary information available so that you can continue with your work as usual. What makes printers even more accessible these days is their price, most printers are very reasonably priced enabling just about anyone to own a decent quality printer and enjoy the benefits of printing.

Printers and where they started

The early origins

The earliest example of printing was found in China and it dates back to 220AD. A simple piece of silk stamped with flower patterns using a wooden stamp gives us an indication of how printing was done. This type of printing is known as woodblock printing and it was a very popular form of printing during this time. This style of printing was later used on paper when printing came under the influence of Buddhism.

Stencilling was also an early, popular choice in printing and it dates back to the time before Christ was believed to have walked the Earth. Also popular in Asia, stencils were used to decorate fabrics and also to decorate playing cards. Stencilling was a popular choice because it took less time to do when compared to writing something out, allowing mass produced writings and decorated fabrics to be manufactured. However keep in mind that what we think of as mass production today is not at all what it was like back then. Today we would not be able to keep up with the demand if we only had stencilling at our disposal.

In 1040 porcelain type was used to print books. Later wood was used and then clay before the benefits of having metal type was discovered. Ink was placed on a type and the type would then be applied to paper or any other material that was used to print on. In around 1400 some of the most popular images printed was the images of religious figures.

Gutenberg’s Creation

The evolution of printing really took off with Gutenberg’s printing invention. Before the printing press, all printing was done manually. The stamps were manually applied to the materials to be printed on, the writing was done by hand and the type had to be manually pressed onto the paper but the printing press changed all of that.

A graphical example of Gutenberg’s Creation

Movable type was almost unheard of until his creation of the printing press however the invention is not his alone as he worked with 2 associates who later sued him. Although the concept of a moving press was not at all new, the Gutenberg printing press was able to print much faster than any other invention similar to his, making his printing press more economical.

He is best known for his printing of what we now know call the Gutenberg Bible, his most popular creation using his printing press. His Bible is hailed for its highly aesthetic look and for its technical precision.  He also printed a number of other books that are still around today but are protected in various libraries in different countries around the world. They are a testament to the beginnings of printing as we know it today. At the time it was an amazing achievement and it set the standard for future printing. The type was individually placed which meant that a number of different prints could be used and replaced when needed. Gutenberg was unsuccessful and not widely known during his lifetime but the legacy that he left behind for the future printer designers is one the remains important. With the printing press news could be printed quickly and sent to those who before did not have access to it and printing also increased the percentage of literate people within the population. It encouraged reading, it also inspired the renaissance, and has been accredited with influencing the popularity of science.

The modern computer printer

Modern day printers are designed to print information, images and other documents from a computer. The selection of things that you can print from your computer is almost endless. The modern day printer was first manufactured in 1969 after many years of development. This printer is known as a laser printer and since its creation thermal printing, 3D printing and digital printing has followed. Xerox was the first company to build and produce printers and it was Gary Starkweather who came up with the idea of using a laser beam to create an image.

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Modern day printers are connected directly to a computer or they can be connected via a network connection, linking the computer and the printer. Printing technology continues to grow and 3D printing is allowing people to print amazing things not on paper but as an actual workable object. In 2014 a 3D printer was installed on the International Space Station and in the same year the astronauts on the space station were able to print a wrench that they needed in order to fix objects on board the space station. Incredibly the wrench was emailed to the astronauts and printed from the email. This type of printing has pushed the boundaries of what we are capable of printing in ways that we have never before seen.

Printers are the one piece of office equipment that a business simply cannot do without and it is developing at such a rate that there is even talk of one day printing a car. The uses that printers have simply cannot be ignored and every serious business should invest in a printer that will be able to meet their needs.

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