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A Brief History of Printing

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Welcome back to the PrinterStop blog! In this post, we thought it would be fun to tell you all a little bit about the history of printing and how we got to be where we are now.

The earliest kind of “printing” was referred to as woodblock printing. It’s a technique used to print text, images, or patterns, and was used in east Asia to print on both paper and fabric.

Moveable type began around 1040 and was first created out of porcelain by Bi Sheng. He also created wooden moveable type, but the ink soaked into the wood and changed the evenness of the type. He quickly changed to clay because it was more consistent and had better results than the wood. This first moveable type was not used often; however, due to the high number of Chinese characters. Metal movable type began to be used in Korea around 1230 and spread to Europe between the 14th and 15th century.

Many of you have probably heard of Johannes Gutenberg, who is credited with developing the printing press in 1439. The lettering was consistent in the printing press which led to different fonts and sizes. This revolutionized book production, and communication in Europe was forever changed.

A few hundred years later in 1796, lithography was developed as a way to print on a smooth surface. It uses chemical processes to create the image. It is still used today to make posters, books, newspapers, maps, and any mass-produced piece that has print and images. Chromolithography, a way of color printing, came around in the 19th century. It was very expensive to do and would sometimes take months! In fact, oftentimes maps would be printed without color and they would make young boys color them in by hand.

The photocopier first came around in the 1960’s and was introduced by Xerox. By 1969, we had the laser printer, the IBM model 3800! It was first commercially used to print documents like invoices and mailing labels. It was very large, and some are still used today.

The first printer made for one computer was the Xerox Star 8010 in 1981. It was very expensive ($17,000), so only a few laboratories and institutions could afford it. Once more people began to buy personal computers in 1984, the HP LaserJet 8ppm was released. More laser printers began to quickly follow from other companies.

Digital printing became popularized in 1993. It’s defined as the reproduction of digital images on a surface, such as paper, film, plastic, vinyl, labels, etc. It differed from previous forms of printing because every impression could be different! The ink and toner do not absorb; instead they form a layer on the surface. It requires less waste as far as the chemicals are concerned, and it is great for small print runs.

Today, we are starting to experiment more and more with the technology of 3D printing. Now we can turn a virtual model into a 3-dimensional object!

Whatever your printer needs, you can be certain we can meet them at PrinterStop. We hope you have learned a little about the history of printing through this post, and we look forward to helping you find the best printer for you. 

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