It wasn't the first laser printer - just as the Macintosh wasn't the first desktop machine and the iPod wasn't the first digital music player - but, in true Apple style, it was different, and that's what mattered. Functionally, it was very similar to the first HP Laserjet, which used the same Canon CX engine as the LaserWriter and had shipped a year earlier at half the price. However, while HP had chosen to use its own in-house control language, Apple opted for Adobe's PostScript, which remains a cornerstone of desktop publishing to this day.
It was a neat fit for Adobe, which had been founded by John Warnock when he left Xerox with the intention of building a laser printer driven by the PostScript language. Jobs convinced him to work with Apple on building the LaserWriter, and sealed the deal shortly before the Macintosh launched.
As a key part of the Apple Office concept, introduced through 1985's less popular Lemmings Super Bowl ad, the LaserWriter was network-ready out of the box, courtesy of AppleTalk, so system admins could string together a whole series of Macs in a chain and share the printer between them, thus reducing the average per-seat cost of the device. This made it immediately more competitive when stood beside its rivals and, as InfoWorld reported in its issue of February 11, 1985, 'Apple claims a maximum of 31 users [can be attached] to each LaserWriter but its own departments at its Cupertino, California headquarters hook up 40 users per printer.'
So, everything was in place on the hardware side. What was missing - so far - was the software.
Paul Brainerd, who is credited with inventing the term 'Desktop Publishing' heard of Apple's intention to build a laser printer and realised that the Mac's graphical interface and the printer's high quality output were missing the one crucial part that would help both of them fly: the intermediary application. Thus, he founded Aldus and began work on PageMaker.
The process took 16 months to complete, and when it shipped in July 1985, for $495, PageMaker proved to be the piece that completed the DTP jigsaw. The publishing industry was about to undergo a revolution, the like of which it wouldn't see again until we all started reading online.
Although it was later available on Windows and VAX terminals, PageMaker started out on the Mac, and firmly established the platform as the first choice for digital creative work - which is perhaps why it's favoured by so many designers today. It's hard to believe, in an age where we're used to 27in or larger displays, that the Macintosh's 9in screen, with a resolution smaller than the pixel count of an iOS app icon, was ever considered a viable environment for laying out graphically-rich documents, but it was.
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