A printer is a basic necessity to any home office. The chances are there’s one sitting quietly close by while you read this. Most people rarely spare a thought for their printers unless they need to print something – they’re practical and functional, but they’re hardly the most exciting piece of machinery.
Having said that, every invention has a history, and even the most mundane objects sometimes surprise us. Here’s some of the most interesting facts you probably didn’t know about the humble printer.
- The world’s oldest surviving printed work is dated to 868AD – the Diamond Sutra from China. The print is a Buddhist text which emphasises the importance of not attaching ourselves to material objects.
- European printing technology was developed in 1440 by Johann Gutenberg. Sadly his invention did not make him a rich man, as he was sued by wealthy business partners in 1455 and was forced to give up his printing business. He fell into financial ruin before his death in 1486.
- The laser printer was invented by Xerox in 1969 and was built using a modified photocopier.
- The fuser rollers in laser printers heat up to almost 200 degrees to properly meld the toner to the paper. The rollers which move the paper are so fast that there is no time for the paper to smoulder or burn.
- The world’s smallest printer is the PrintStick by American manufacturer Planon. It measures a tiny 2x2x11 inches and weighs only 680 grams.
- The smallest printed book in the world is a 22 page Japanese picture book that measures 0.0291×0.0295 inches. It is made up mostly of flowers and requires a magnifying glass to see the pictures.
- The first ever laser printer designed for office use was the Xerox Star 8010. Released in 1981, it cost a massive $17,000 at the time.
- Toner is composed not of ink, but out of miniscule plastic spheres which melt in the printing process.
- The world’s largest digital printer is the Infinitus, made by Big Image Systems. It is used to print backdrops for film, theatre and TV sets, and can print on media up to 12 metres long and 50 metres wide.
- There is a 3D printer on the International Space Station. It is used to print tools to make repairs to the Space Station. It has been specially designed to print in zero gravity and will make longer space missions possible as there will be no need to carry extra parts and tools.