Milestone-Proposal:Development of the Laser Printer

To see comments, or add a comment to this discussion, click here.

Docket #:2020-06

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on "Actions" in the toolbar above, then "Edit with form". At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1970 to 1975

Title of the proposed milestone:

Development of the First Laser Printer, 1971-1975

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In 1972 at Xerox PARC, Gary Starkweather demonstrated his "scanning laser output terminal," (SLOT) using a Xerox 7000 copier as the base. A modulated laser beam scanned computer generated raster data onto the xerographic drum. In 1977, Xerox launched the 9700 laser printer at 2 pages per second based on Starkweather’s work. It was the most commercially profitable Xerox product resulting from research at PARC

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Santa Clara Valley Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Santa Clara Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: TaylorWinship

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Santa Clara Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Taylor Winship

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Santa Clara Valley Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Taylor Winship

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Dick Ahrons
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Geoff Thompson
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Xerox PARC 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto CA, 94304

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The Xerox PARC facility is the site where the Laser Printer was invented

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be mounted in the Xerox PARC facility lobby near the Alto that is on display.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Security protected lobby, open to public daily 8AM-4:30 PM, 650 812-4000

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Xerox PARC

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

Quote from Gary Starkweather induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012. This quote addresses technical significance, social and business importance. "While working for Xerox in Webster, Newi York, Gary Starkweather began work on an idea for a laser printer, a machine that could print any image created by a computer. Computer printers did exist at the time but were large, awkward, mechanical machines that had many limitations. After creating a crude prototype, Starkweather transferred to Xerox PARC in 1971 to continue developing his idea. At PARC, Starkweather created SLOT, his "scanning laser output terminal," using a Xerox 7000 copier as his base. A laser beam carried digital information, and the copier then developed the imaged digital information to make a print. In 1977, Xerox launched the 9700 laser printer which would become one of Xerox's best-selling products. In fact, the original laser printer made billions of dollars for Xerox, the most commercially profitable product to come out of the PARC facility."

From the Starkweather Laser Printer article prined in the San Jose Mercury News, a reprint from the Wall Street Journal Ref x The laser printer became over a $2 billion annual business.

Social significance: allowed people to readily print computer files, which enhanced social communications. From Starkweather obituary in the LA Times, "He originally received pushback from his employer, Xerox. But his invention eventually became nearly ubiquitous in every office and home."

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Before the laser printer, printing was a slow mechanical process.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

This invention started the era of high-speed printer both in the enterprise and consumer markets.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).