Though the history of print would begin with the first century woodblock printing process, Johannes Gutenberg is credited as being the Father of Print with his movable type printing press introduced in the mid-1400s. His press was responsible for the creation of the first printed books. Naturally, this first book was the Bible and has some interesting facts around it. The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has one of the rare finds and reported a few facts about the revered item. The Bibles used approximately 300 unique symbols and have about 2,500 pieces on each of their 1,286 pages with each page consisting of only 42 lines. The Bibles took anywhere from three to five years to complete and weigh 14 pounds! There are only 49 copies known to exist today with only 21 of them being complete. These books marked a new generation of print that, though modified, still exists today. A 1987 New York Times article reported one of the Bibles being purchased for $5.4 million, while rare-book expert Kenneth Gloss told Today that the book would cost anywhere from $25 to $35 million.
The next 500 years or so consisted of a variety of new printing presses that revolutionized the way print is done today. Mechanizing the press, putting paper on a roll, utilizing a rotary rolling system and implementing the Monotype and Linotype mechanisms have all greatly transformed the industry over the centuries. But today, we are mostly interested in digital printing, a field so new that its inventors still exist. Though the household names seem relatively insignificant now, perhaps Xerox will be as impressive and historic as the Gutenberg Bibles someday.
Digital Age Print
In 1938 the electrophotography process was created and Xerox revolutionized this process a little over a decade later with its introduction of the first photocopying machine. According to the Xerox website, electrophotography, later termed xerography, transformed office duties more than anyone had expected. Though this first model was unreliable, by 1959 Xerox had developed a new prototype that would allow copying to be done in a more efficient manner and generally avoided catching on fire, unlike its predecessor, reported CNN. Though Xerox no longer offers machines that strictly copy, the company is still alive and well with the incorporation of inkjet and eventually laser printers.
Though HP entered the market from a more scientific and technological standpoint, it did create the next best thing for mass-marketed printing after the Xerox. The HP DeskJet printer was released in 1988 at a costly $1,000. In coming years the price would lower significantly as the company aimed to create a more affordable option even as the quality improved. In 1991, the HP claimed to have embarked on a new adventure in printing by introducing the color printer. And in 1994, the company released the first all-in-one personal printing machine that we know today. Copying, printing and faxing could now all be done from one machine (although machines nowadays may nix the fax part). Liquid electrophotography was introduced when HP merged with Indigo, a new way of digital publishing.
New Age Print
Fortunately we are still in the printing industry's heyday and new technologies continue to be developed. Zink created the first inkless printing system in 2007 by using heat to activate certain molecules within the paper. Maybe you've never heard of it, but you probably didn't hear of Xerox until years after its introduction either. The newest innovation in print is the 3-D printer, although it was actually first invented in 1983, reported CNN. Only recently has the 3-D printer been popularized by the potential of becoming a personal and industrial unit. The printers are still expensive to purchase and run but the future may bring these costs down. From printing toothbrushes to ice cream to human tissue and hearts to houses … 3-D printing is here to revolutionize the world as we know it.