If you first started using computers in the 1970’s or 80’s you’ll be familiar with the early noisy, chattering dot matrix printers and their wide, striped paper that had to be lined up and held in place with a clip.
While the ability to move words and images from screen to paper was something of a marvel for many users, the results looked very basic by today’s standards and less professional than could be achieved by a traditional typewriter.
In the later 80’s and 90’s laser and inkjet printing became more affordable, bringing with them the ability to print on standard-sized paper – it suddenly seemed as if everyone had personalised letterheads!
The ability to knock out a couple of dozen, or even hundred, copies at comparative cost helped spur the popularity of fanzines.
Younger readers might like to know that before the internet allowed like-minded fans to get together online and share their thoughts and mutual interest in the latest hit band or Hollywood hunk, an earlier generation did this by signing up for fan-made magazines which got delivered by the postman.
As prices fell, colour printing also become commonplace in homes and small offices and a whole new class of photo-style paper became available so users could even print off their cherished pictures and frame them.
Of course, what no-one said at the time is that these inks were far more prone to fading than a professionally developed photo, and it’s doubtful many people still have the same prints adorning their fireplaces.
It’s hardly surprising that the fad for home-printed photos passed pretty quickly and that most printing of digital photos is done by big firms, either on the high street or via websites where you simply upload your pictures, select the size and number and wait for the courier to arrive.
It’s slower than doing it yourself but the results are far better.
There are other areas where the professionals will always be able to deliver better quality products than cheap home machines – printing banners, exhibition materials or sales brochures at home will never look as good as getting it properly printed on high quality paper with decent binding.
The next revolution of home printing is likely to be 3D, one day we’ll be able to order the latest iPhone online and have a fully working model appear magically from within our printer.
But in the short term the technology, certainly in a domestic setting, is likely to be used for more mundane purposes such as printing a new teaspoon when you discover one’s missing or knocking out an extra coffee cup when visitors pop round and you find yourself one short!