The inventor of the laser printer at Xerox, Gary Starkweather, has died at the age of 81.
When Starkweather first proposed the idea of a laser printer to his boss at Xerox, they shut his idea down. But curious and determined, Starkweather persisted because he was convinced of the possibility of making precise copies.
Starkweather developed the printer at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center beginning in 1969 before completing it in November 1971
Even more interesting his how the genius inventor did it. Writes the Wall Street Journal:
To avoid blurry prints, Mr. Starkweather had to find ways to direct laser pulses precisely. He devised a cluster of revolving mirrors and a lens to guide the light. One of his breakthrough ideas came while he was mowing the lawn; he turned off the mower and drove to the lab to test it out.
The Xerox printer found itself in nearly every office and home eventually, making the company an absolute fortune.
We often forget how people we’ve rarely heard of impact our lives. Gary Starkweather was one of them, as was Evelyn Berezin who developed the world’s first processor.
The prescient Starkweather also issued a warning about the negative effects of our over dependency on technology. The WSJ writes:
Though he never lost his fascination with technology, Mr. Starkweather worried about some of the consequences. “We talk about productivity,” he said, “but I’ve watched people go from 40-hour weeks to 60-hour weeks.”
He disliked the pressure to stay digitally connected at all times. “A big question about the future of information technology,” he said, “is, ‘Do I get to stay human in the process?’ ”