Saturday, March 28, 2015


In 1938 Xerography, a dry printing process was invented by the American inventor Chester Carlson.

The word ‘Xerography’ comes from the Greek word which means ‘dry writing’. It was the foundation technology for copiers and laser printers.

Carlson applied for patent in 1939 and in 1942 the patent was granted to him.

But he was not successful to catch the interest of companies towards his invention. Later on, Carlson succeeded to negotiate commercial rights of his invention to Haloid Company in 1947.

This was the biggest deal of the life both for Carlson and for the company Haloid, which became one of biggest companies in the world due to this invention. Later on this company was renamed as ‘Xerox’.

In 1967 a young researcher in Xerox's Webster Research Center in Rochester, Gary K. Starkweather was sitting in his lab thinking instead of copying someone else's original, if we use a computer to generate the original and here only the idea of the laser printer was born.

At that time, the lasers were expensive devices, but convinced that the cost of lasers would drop over time and also there was a market for laser printing technology, Starkweather stuck to his guns.

His ideas were not meeting the requirements from Xerox management. Hewas told to stop working on the laser printer project. But he couldn't.

He just go through with his idea ignoring all ifs and but. He convinced people to get different parts for building it. The prototype was ready in 1969. It was built by modifying an existing xerographic copier.

Starkweather disabled the imaging system and created a spinning drum with 8 mirrored sides, with a laser focused on the drum. Light from the laser would bounce off the spinning drum, sweeping across the page as it moved through the copier.

The hardware was completed in just two weeks, but the computer interfacing and software took almost 3 months to get completed.

Printers were now a pillar of the company's growth strategy. Starkweather's drive to create the laser printer eventually transformed a small copier company into one of the world's imaging powerhouses, and revolutionized the computer printing industry.

When Xerox build the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in California in 1970, Starkweather came for salvation. 

Out of hostile territory,  he was finally given the freedom to conduct his research without fear of retribution. Starkweather went to work on building the laser printer.

In 1971, just nine months after joining PARC, Starkweather completed the first working laser printer.
He named it as ‘SLOT’, an acronym for Scanned Laser Output Terminal.

The digital control system and character generator for the printer were developed by Butler Lampson and Ronald Rider in 1972.

 The combined efforts resulted in a printer named EARS (Ethernet, Alto, Research character generator, Scanned laser output terminal).

 The EARS printer was used with the Alto computer system network and subsequently became the Xerox 9700 laser printing system.

Xerox 9700 was introduced in 1977, it was the industry's first commercial laser printer.
It was a wild success, few customers would produce the 200000 to 300000 prints per month needed for the unit to be profitable.

Starkweather shifted his research onto personal laser printers, and again worked against Xerox.
Xerox was a company that liked large, fast laser printers. They saw departmental units as the profit center for laser printer technology.

Xerox failed to realize that the profit wasn't in the printer but in the ink toner and the paper. As a result, the company was beaten up by Hewlett-Packard, which introduced the first personal laser printer in 1980.

Xerox always encouraged new ideas but never really liked to pursue them for very long. Things like Postscript, the laser printer, the personal computer, the bitmapped screen, the iconic interface, Ethernet, packet switching, all of this came out of PARC. And none of it, ended up as a product of Xerox.

In 1985, Office laser printers become available with high quality text and graphics. One of them is the Apple LaserWriter, a PostScript laser printer.

 HP LaserJet is introduced around the same time and uses the same Canon engine as the LaserWriter.
In 1987 Starkweather however left the company after 24 years of service. Following a 10-year stint at Apple Computer, Starkweather joined Microsoft Research in 1997. These days, his main area of research is display technology.

During mid-1990s, Xerox Majestik offers comparable image quality and colour to Canon CLC range and the color laser printing market becomes competitive in the market.

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