Printing Power to the People

There was a time when printing was the sole domain of ink-stained wretches who carefully set pieces of metal, covered them with ink, and started the presses. More recently, individuals could have their own mini-presses, with metal meeting ink in a typewriter’s insides instead of a print shop. Today, though, computers allow people who don’t know a doctor blade from a deckle edge or a pica from an elite to produce a colorful printed product without too much more than the press of a button.

On the Dot

Of course, the first computer printers weren’t exactly producing a slick, stylish product. They were essentially automated typewriters, dutifully tapping out your computer-entered words. The cheapest and quickest ones made up letters from a series of dots, not necessarily in the smoothest and most readable way.

Laser Sharp

Laser printers got rid of the need for something to strike a piece of paper and instead made letters with toner, like a copy machine. The result was a much more professional-looking product, at least in form, if not in content. Pages could include photos, a variety of fonts, and decorative elements of all sorts. You just had to be careful when replacing that toner cartridge, or you’d know how those ink-stained wretches of old felt.

The Inkjet Set

Inkjet printers seem to have taken over for home and home office use these days, and in addition to having petite little cartridges that are easy to replace, they add color to the picture. With a huge array of templates available online and in word processing software, ordinary folk can print photographs, flyers, greeting cards, booklets, and pretty much whatever else they can imagine.

Of course, for those times in our lives when we want something particularly polished—wedding invitations, business cards, our first novel—we’ll still turn to professional printers. Short of that, just go to your computer and hit print.