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HP's first DeskJet printer offered continuous plain-paper printing and industry-standard print resolution.

HP DeskJet Printer, 1988

The HP DeskJet was the first mass-market inkjet printer. Customers knew its predecessor, the HP ThinkJet, because HP had been first to market with the inkjet printer, but HP wanted to refine the technology and produce a better product. The name DeskJet was introduced to draw a clear distinction from the preceding inkjet printers HP had sold.

The DeskJet offered continuous plain-paper printing and higher print quality than its inkjet predecessors. At about $1,000, it was the least expensive non-impact printer on the market at the time it was introduced. However, HP wanted to bring the price down even more. By 1993, when HP had achieved enough sales volume to employ economies of scale, the list price was $365. Customers could now get a printer that was superior in every way to an impact printer (such as a dot-matrix printer or daisy wheel printer) for the same price. And by 1994, the DeskJet offered a color printing upgrade, creating single-handedly a revolution in color printing.

Perhaps the most significant technological achievement in the early days of HP's DeskJet printer was the creation of a very inexpensive, disposable print head that could be built into the ink cartridge itself. The value and efficiency of a disposable print head is in its ability to guarantee a consistently high level of print quality over the entire life of the printer. Competitors offered permanent print heads, which tended to clog and need replacement.

The DeskJet developed into HP's current Deskjet, Officejet and Photosmart printer lines, all of which are based on thermal inkjet technology.