Printing - How Far We've Come

By John Pickering

Our ability to print is what gives us a technological edge over our ancestors. It is what helps us to spread information, allows us the chance to read, and also means we can continue to improve with our own printing technology. Every few years it seems as though we're able to come up with a brand new way to print that is faster and more effective than ever before.

It's never been this way. Most of us today might still be able to remember back before printers were available to the average home. Within a few more decades, people won't even remember that within their lifetimes. But a peek into any history book will reveal that printers were never so common as they are now. In fact, just a few decades back and the idea of a color printer for the home would be absolutely unheard of.

Printing By Hand

A lot of people tend to forget that only a few centuries ago there was no way to print except through a utensil that could leave marks and a sheet of material to write on. In many cases paper did not even exist. Ask anyone today and they will think a pencil that you have to sharpen manually is a relic. Yet in times past the only way to obtain a copy of something was through another person who would take the original writings and then copy them down by hand. This was an expensive process which meant only certain people could afford to own books.

Difficulty in crafting and providing written material meant fewer people could read. After all, if there was nothing to read, why learn to do so? But when printed material became more available to society, the desire and ability to read began to grow. The ability to print is one of many extremely important factors when it comes to what we are able to do today. Bring any color printer of today back to the time of just 1980 and people would stand in awe of its speed and quality.

Expanding Across the Globe

Printing really took off with the advent of movable type. It was a simple concept that was still a painstaking process, but the benefits far outweighed any amount of time it took to craft a single page. Each word had to be placed individually, with an entire page being spelled out before a sheet of paper could be pressed onto it and printed in ink. Still, once the type was placed, hundreds of sheets could be printed and distributed to the public. Information became easier than ever to obtain.

The concept of moveable type was what eventually led to the creation of the printing press. While original moveable type designs were still relatively limited, the printing press became used all around the world, and from there history shows us how printing has progressed into machines to be faster, more efficient, and with the best quality we've ever seen.

Color, Photos, and Quality - Oh My!

Printing is nothing like it used to be. You can print whatever you want right now onto a multitude of mediums, from fabric to plain white paper. You can use the classic black ink that has been the traditional printer design for years, or you can print out a vibrant color photo. What used to only be in newspaper rooms and book publishing houses has shrunk down into machines that can perform a variety of functions.

But as printers excelled, so did their ability to handle color. From low quality to the glossy finishes we have today, we have gone so far as to make the need to develop photos obsolete. Now people can take a picture and then print it seconds later in the comfort of their own home. In some cases the quality is even better than with a traditional developed photo thanks to the abilities of the camera and printer together.

Printers are almost like their own entity now, evolving over time as we craft them to reflect our needs and desires. Not only do we print on paper, but fabric, thick glossy photo paper, edible sheets for cakes, and now 3D printers can make toys, plates, and other everyday items right at home. And if we can do that now, just what will we be able to do in another 100 years?

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