A printer is a machine for printing text or pictures, especially one linked to a computer. This is the dictionary definition of a printer, but it hides some important facts.
The first printer
The first proper printer, that functioned similarly to todays modern printers, is often considered to be the printing press - invented by Johannes Gutenberg. It is known as the Gutenberg press.
After the invention of this printer, it quickly spread to towns Europe, leading to massive increases in reproduction via printing in medieval Europe. These early printers are thought to be one of the key factors in the explosion of learning and science in Europe.
Ever since the first printer, printing processes and technology have been moving forward. During the industrial revolution more parts of the printers were automated and new techniques were developed. Leading Koenig and Bauer to develop much faster printing presses. They sold the first two of their new presses to The Times in London.
Koenig and Bauer eventually perfected their design so that it printed on both sides of the page - this began the start of newspapers becoming more and more widely available.
Many other inventions had to occur before printers could do what they can do today - including the invention of dot matrix printing, xerography and laser printing. Today printers vary massively in the technologies they use to create their output. With some being tailored to recreating fine art paintings or high quality photography. While others are aimed at reproducing copies for the lowest possible cost - or the least impact on the environment.
Printers are devices capable of many different functions. Multifunctional printers are prevalent and often form the core of many businesses day to day operations. Single function printers are still available and often cater to situations where space requirements limit the size of the device or where cost is an issue - as they are much cheaper than their multifunctional counterparts.