The LaserJet Printer, Almost 30 Years Later

laserjet printer history

LaserJet Printer History: The 200 Million Milestone

In 1984 HP introduced its first LaserJet printer.  Even though HP didn’t invent the laser printer, it was the first company to take it to the mass market with a desktop version, according to Wikipedia.

Fast forward nearly 30 years.  Today HP shipped its 200 millionth LaserJet printer.

And supposedly paper is dead….  Apparently somebody forget to tell all the businesses and people buying those printers.

In an interview, David Laing, Director of Innovation for HP LaserJet and Enterprise Solutions, told us the LaserJet printer history.  It’s one of innovation.  Many of those innovations empowered small businesses, he said.  “As I reflect on the HP LaserJet and when it first launched, it gave small businesses the ability to look bigger.  A small business had the ability to appear more professional, like larger companies, at a reasonable cost,” Laing told us.

Another milestone for small businesses came in 1998, when HP launched the first color all-in-one device for the mass market.  “The all-in one saved small businesses money because you didn’t need to buy a separate printer, copier and fax any more,” he said.

The Printer Evolves Into A Business Kiosk

HP laserjet printer today  with mobile

Today, new milestones are being chalked up at a fast clip.  The all-in-one printer has evolved into what Laing calls a stand alone business kiosk.  “These multifunction machines used to be called ‘peripherals’ but now can function as a stand alone kiosk for a small business.”  In other words, given the direction of today’s technology, you don’t necessarily need to use a computer to locate and print documents.

Users can print directly from mobile devices such as smartphones (see above).

Another area involves accessing documents stored in the cloud directly from the printer.   HP’s newer devices have touch display panels so you can search, print and scan documents, without having to use a desktop computer or laptop.  Some models even have pullout keyboards for enhanced functionality.

From these devices you can locate and print documents stored in cloud filing systems such as Dropbox, and Google Drive.  HP also has its own cloud file storage system called Flow CM, which Laing says has more advanced technology than competing cloud file-storage systems.

For instance, using Flow CM you can search the entire text not only of written documents, but also in audio and video files. You don’t need to create a written transcript first — the technology is capable of searching the audio and video.  It also is intelligent enough to detect the meaning of the words, Laing claims.  “Previously this technology was available only for large enterprises, but now is available for small businesses,” Laing noted.  The technology came via HP’s acquisition of Autonomy a few years ago.

The actual 200 millionth LaserJet machine will be placed in the HP offices in commemoration of the LaserJet printer history.  To mark the occasion, the company is also holding a sweepstakes and awarding special limited editions as prizes. The sweeps is open through December 24, 2013.

Images: stills from HP video


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

11 Reactions
  1. The printer remains in use today because it is still the standard despite the advances in digital tech. The fact that newer models are adapting to the changing times are making them almost irreplaceable as we shift from the paper model to the “iPad does everything” model. I don’t see printers going away for a long time, and they’ll always have a place for people who want something solid in their hands.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      It’s amazing to see what the humble printer can do today. And to think all of that innovation occurred during my adult lifetime.

      One way I am noticing the fast pace of change is when I watch an older movie. Watching a movie from the 1980s today is like watching ancient history.

      Fascinating to see all the change….

      – Anita

      • You’re absolutely right. What’s even more amazing is that everything happened so fast. And this evolution did not only happen to printers. It also happened to mobile phones that was born and evolved through my lifetime.

  2. Gosh, it’s been almost 30 years? Where did the time go? It feels like only yesterday; a similar feeling to when I first started using the internet.

    It’s cool to see how much the laser printer has come along. It’s kinda like its own computer in terms of what it can do.

    • Hi Ebele,

      I think you hit the nail on the head with that statement:

      “It’s kinda like its own computer in terms of what it can do.”

      Printers have become like computers. Next we’ll probably hear something like how the typical LaserJet printer has more computing memory than the first space rocket. Wouldn’t surprise me…. 🙂

      – Anita

      • Oh, it wouldn’t surprise me either, Anita! All that’s required for that to become a reality is time.

        I think over time, laser printers will be no bigger than the size of an iPad. Or maybe an iPad that doubles up as a laser printer 🙂

  3. Anita,

    No matter how much I want to go paperless, printing on my LaserJet is still necessary for work purposes in where I live 🙂

    • Hi Ivan,

      Well, I think it’s that way just about everywhere. A lot of small businesses still use paper in their marketing and operations. I think of all the service providers out there who print out and distribute neighborhood flyers. I get flyers all the time, and mostly they are from small businesses, such as landscapers, snow plowers, home improvement contractors, and so on.

      – Anita