Updated: 05/19/2017 by Computer Hope

Computer inkjet printerA printer is an external hardware output device that takes the electronic data stored on a computer or other device and generates a hard copy of it. For example, if you created a report on your computer you could print several copies to hand out at a staff meeting. Printers are one of the most popular computer peripherals and are commonly used to print text and photos. The picture to the right is an example of an inkjet computer printer, the Lexmark Z605.

Types of printers

HP laserjet printerBelow is a list of all the different types of computer printers. Today, the most common printers used with a computer are Inkjet and Laser printers.

Printer interfaces

USB cable and portThere are a few different ways a printer can connect to and communicate with a computer (referred to as interfaces). Today, the most common connection types are by USB cable or via Wi-Fi. Below is a full list of cables and interfaces used to connect a computer to a printer.

History of the printer

Mechanical printer

The first mechanical printer was invented by Charles Babbage, for use with the Difference Engine, which Babbage developed in 1822. Babbage's printer utilized metal rods with printed characters on each rod to print text on rolls of paper that were fed through the device.

Inkjet printer

While inkjet printers started being developed in the late 1950s, it wasn't until the late 1970s that they were able to reproduce acceptable digital images. These better quality inkjet printers were developed by multiple companies, including Canon, Epson, and Hewlett-Packard.

Laser printer

In the early 1970s, Gary Starkweather invented the laser printer while working at Xerox. He modified a Xerox 7000 copier to be a laser printer, by having a laser output electronic data onto paper. However, it wasn't until 1984 when Hewlett-Packard introduced the HP LaserJet that laser printers became more widely available and affordable. The following year, Apple introduced the Apple LaserWriter, which introduced PostScript technology to the printer market.

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