Milestones:Development of the Laser Printer

From IEEE Milestones Wiki


Development of the Commercial Laser Printer, 1971-1977


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.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the Milestone Plaque Sites

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

Details of the physical location of the plaque

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

How the intended plaque site is protected/secured

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

Historical significance of the work

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.

Features that 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.

Significant references

Supporting materials