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How Laser Printers Work


The Controller: The Conversation
A typical laser printer has a few different types of communications ports.
A typical laser printer has a few different types of communications ports.

Before a laser printer can do anything else, it needs to receive the page data and figure out how it's going to put everything on the paper. This is the job of the printer controller.

The printer controller is the laser printer's main onboard computer. It talks to the host computer (for example, your PC) through a communications port, such as a parallel port or USB port. At the start of the printing job, the laser printer establishes with the host computer how they will exchange data. The controller may have to start and stop the host computer periodically to process the information it has received.

In an office, a laser printer will probably be connected to several separate host computers, so multiple users can print documents from their machine. The controller handles each one separately, but may be carrying on many "conversations" concurrently. This ability to handle several jobs at once is one of the reasons why laser printers are so popular.