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Although inkjets were available in the 1980s, it was only in the 1990s that prices dropped enough to bring the technology to the high street. Canon claims to have invented what it terms "bubble jet" technology in 1977, when a researcher accidentally touched an ink-filled syringe with a hot soldering iron. The heat forced a drop of ink out of the needle and so began the development of a new printing method.

Inkjet printers have made rapid technological advances in recent years. The three-colour printer has been around for several years now and has succeeded in making colour inkjet printing an affordable option; but as the superior four-colour model became cheaper to produce, the swappable cartridge model was gradually phased out.

Traditionally, inkjets have had one massive attraction over laser printers; their ability to produce colour, and that is what makes them so popular with home users. Since the late 1990s, when the price of colour laser printers began to reach levels which made them viable for home users, this advantage has been less definitive. However, in that time the development of inkjets capable of photographic-quality output has done much to help them retain their advantage in the realm of colour.

The down side is that although inkjets are generally cheaper to buy than lasers, they are more expensive to maintain. Cartridges need to be changed more frequently and the special coated paper required to produce high-quality output is very expensive. When it comes to comparing the cost per page, inkjets work out about ten times more expensive than laser printers.

Since the invention of the inkjet, colour printing has become immensely popular. Research in inkjet technology is making continual advances, with each new product on the market showing improvements in performance, usability, and output quality. As the process of refinement continues, so the price of an inkjet printers continue to fall.

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