IBM 3800

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The IBM 3800 was a continuous forms laser printer designed and manufactured by IBM. It is significant as a product because it was:

  • The first laser printer manufactured by IBM.[1]
  • The first commercially available continuous forms laser printer.

The IBM 3800 was developed and manufactured in San Jose, California.[2] Production was transferred to Tucson, Arizona[3] in 1980. It was also manufactured in Järfälla, Sweden.[4]


Development began in 1969 using a project code name of Jubilee. Later, the code name was changed to Argonaut. IBM did not however have a xerographic printer to base the Jubilee on (all printers up to this point were chain printers). This meant prototyping used an IBM Copier I which was not capable of anywhere near the product goal of 1 million pages per month. Therefore, dramatic developments were required in areas such as: paper path handling, lasers and optics, toner fusion and control electronics.[2]

First Laser printer[edit]

There is some dispute whether the IBM 3800 was the first commercially available laser printer or whether this distinction should be held by the Xerox 9700.[5] The IBM 3800 first shipped in 1976 while the Xerox 9700 shipped in 1977.[6] Another distinction between the two products is that the Xerox 9700 was a cut sheet laser printer while the IBM 3800 used continuous forms.


There were several models of the IBM 3800 Laser Printer.[7]

3800 Model 001[edit]

The model 001 was announced on April 15, 1975 and first shipped July 1976. It had a print resolution of 144 pels per inch (or dots per inch, pels are print elements) vertically and 180 pels per inch horizontally. It could print at 10,020 to 20,040 lines per minute depending on line density (which could range from 6 to 12 lines per inch).[8]

3800 Model 002[edit]

The model 002 was announced in 1979. It was a model 001 printer that had been modified to allow it to print kanji characters.

3800 Model 003[edit]

The model 003 was announced November 1, 1982.[9] The three main goals of the model 003 were:[10]

  • Improved print resolution. The model 3 had a print resolution of 240 x 240 pels versus the Model 001 and 002 which had a resolution of 180 x 144 pels.
  • Improved graphics printing capability.
  • Reduced service costs over the model 001.

To improve the resolution a new photoconductor material had to be used in combination with a specially designed digital voltmeter and a significant re-design of the laser print head. The helium-neon laser developed for the model 001 was retained, but lens were used to generate two printing beams that reflected off a slightly slower rotating mirror (the mirror in model 001 rotated at 15,300 RPM versus the model 003 which rotated at 12,700 RPM).[10]

3800 Model 006[edit]

The model 006 was announced on January 26, 1987 and shipped later that year. It was functionally identical to the model 003 but only ran at 134 pages per minute.[11] It could be upgraded to a model 003.

3800 Model 008[edit]

The model 008 was physically similar to a model 003 but supported double byte character set, which allowed kanji characters to be printed (effectively making it a replacement for the model 002). In comparison to the model 002 it could print three times more kanji characters (22,500) with significantly better print resolution.[10]

Replacement product[edit]

IBM partnered with Hitachi to OEM an Hitachi developed printer, released as the IBM 3900. It was announced October 1990 and shipped in late 1991.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "IBM Archives: 1976". IBM. 
  2. ^ a b "IBM 3800 Laser Printer Development". Ray Froess. 
  3. ^ "IBM Tucson products". IBM. 
  4. ^ "" (PDF). IBM.  External link in |title= (help)
  5. ^ "History of Computer Printers". 
  6. ^ "The Story of the Xerox 9700 Electronic Printing System". DigiBarn Computer Museum. 
  7. ^ "3800 IBM Printing Subsystem". IBM. 
  8. ^ Elzinga, C; Hallmark, T.M; Mattern, R.H.; Woodward, J.M. (September 1981). "Laser Electrophotographic Printing Technology". IBM Journal of Research and Development. 25 (5). doi:10.1147/rd.255.0767. 
  9. ^ "IBM Tucson highlights of the first decade". IBM. 
  10. ^ a b c McMurtry, David; Tinghitella, Mike; Svendsen, Roger (May 29, 1984). "Technology of the IBM 3800 Printing Subsystem Model 3". IBM Journal of Research and Development. 28 (3). doi:10.1147/rd.283.0257. 

External links[edit]