Milestone-Proposal:Development of the Laser Printer

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Docket #:2020-06

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

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 the IEEE Section(s) in which the plaque(s) will be located 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:

1971 to 1977

Title of the proposed milestone:

Development of the Commercial Laser Printer, 1971-1977

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Xerox PARC researchers demonstrated the feasibility of laser printing on a one-page-per-second Xerox copier in 1971, and with computer-generated images in 1972. As the networked printer in 1974, it transformed office automation and led to desktop publishing at PARC. The Xerox 9700 printer proved commercial viability in 1977, and helped launch the non-impact printer industry into a new era of printed communication for print shops, home, and office.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

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 in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), 3333 Coyote Hill Road, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1314

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 facility at PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), formerly Xerox PARC, where the Laser Printer was invented.

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be mounted in the PARC (Palo Alto Research Center) facility lobby near where an Alto computer is on display.

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

Security protected lobby, open to the public daily from 8am to 4:30pm, 650.812.4000

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

PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), a Xerox company

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

Quote from the url site about Gary Starkweather’s induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame in 2012, see reference. This quote addresses technical significance, social and business importance. "While working for Xerox in Webster, New 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 printed in the San Jose Mercury News, a reprint from the Wall Street Journal The laser printer became over a $2 billion annual business. Similar articles appeared in the LA Times and New York Times. Social significance: allowed people to readily print computer files including graphics, 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."

A more detailed summary is given in reference, Thompson, Geoff: Development of the First Laser Printer.

The 5 patents, shown as references, support the features invented by Starkweather, etal. The story of the design is can be followed in the book, “Dealers of Lightning” and in the Starkweather oral history. Both are included as reference.

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

Prior to the laser printer, printing reproduced a fixed page image (copier technology) or generated a slow character-at-a-time output from computer data. The major obstacle was to find a means of generating computer data at copier printing speeds and to develop an optical system that could place the image into the copier. At the time, copier speeds greatly exceeded computer data processing speeds, and a computer driven optical system was not yet developed. The goal was to provide printing capabilities for computers to complement the development of the higher-power individual computer workstations that were being developed. Work was ongoing at PARC during this era. Reference: the fully approved milestone proposal, Docket #:2018-10, “The Xerox Alto Establishes Personal Networked Computing, 1972-1983.”

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

This invention commenced the era of high-speed single-page commercial printers, introducing this printing concept into both the commercial and consumer markets. Previous direct-contact line printers limited the quality and speed of computer reproduced images, which were being printed onto large spool-fed continuous-sheet paper stock. Invention of non-contact single-sheet laser printing led to the wide scale commercial adoption of computer based printing of higher quality custom images onto cut sheet paper. This concept of readily printing custom computer images onto cut sheet paper would eventually inspire development of other consumer market printers that came to fruition through the creation and application of different technologies.

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).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.