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In computing, a printer is a peripheral which produces a representation of an electronic document on physical media such as paper or transparency film. Many printers are local peripherals connected directly to a nearby personal computer. Individual printers are often designed to support both local and network connected users at the same time. Some printers can print documents stored on memory cards or from digital cameras and scanners. Multifunction printers (MFPs) include a scanner and can copy paper documents or send a fax; these are also called multi-function devices (MFD), or all-in-one (AIO) printers. Most MFPs include printing, scanning, and copying among their many features.
Consumer and some commercial printers are designed for low-volume, short-turnaround print jobs; requiring virtually no setup time to achieve a hard copy of a given document. However, printers are generally slow devices (30 pages per minute is considered fast, and many inexpensive consumer printers are far slower than that), and the cost per page is actually relatively high. However, this is offset by the on-demand convenience and project management costs being more controllable compared to an out-sourced solution. The printing press remains the machine of choice for high-volume, professional publishing. However, as printers have improved in quality and performance, many jobs which used to be done by professional print shops are now done by users on local printers; see desktop publishing. Local printers are also increasingly taking over the process of photofinishing as digital photo printers become commonplace.
The world's first computer printer was a 19th century mechanically driven apparatus invented by Charles Babbage for his difference engine.
A virtual printer is a piece of computer software whose user interface and API resembles that of a printer driver, but which is not connected with a physical computer printer.