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What Did Printing Look Like Before Electronics?


The history of technology is always a history of culture and people, and nothing illustrates this better than the history of printing. Printing grew with cultures and societies, and the growth of the written word was also the growth of civilization.

The Beginning of Printing

Printing traces its origins to China, where printing first manifested itself as silk screen printing with a special writing brush. Silk was expensive, however, so the much more accessible paper made its debut in 105 AD. The first paper was made of hemp, mulberry bark, and old rags.

Jump ahead a few thousand years, and you have a much more familiar piece of technology: the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg printed the first moveable type creation, the famous 42-line Bible, in 1455 in Germany.

Gutenberg's invention was a clever device using screw mechanisms. The first printing press was essentially the standard for nearly four hundred years, hardly changing in design or conception.


Lithography (from the Greek words for "stone" and "writing") came next, a simple process based on the idea that oil and water won't mix. It was invented by Aloys Senefelder, a Bavarian, in 1796.

Lithography was first used to print music and became a medium known for its freedom of expression. Chromolithography followed soon after, making color printing a possibility at an affordable price for the first time in history.

The Typewriter

Another familiar staple of pre-electronic printing is the typewriter. Many individuals remember using these in their daily personal and business lives as late at the 1980s. The original typewriter, debuted in 1868, had only capital letters. We see the legacy of the typewriter in the peculiar design of our modern keyboard. It was originally designed to prevent frequently-used keys from tangling with each other on a typewriter. For better or worse, the QWERTY keyboard has survived the centuries.

Printing is an incredible tradition with a varied history. We appreciate our customers in allowing us to be a part of the amazing world of printing.

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