In computing, a printer is a peripheral which produces a text or graphics of documents stored in electronic form, usually on physical print media such as paper or transparencies. Many printers are primarily used as local peripherals, and are attached by a printer cable or, in most new printers, a USB cable to a computer which serves as a document source. Some printers, commonly known as network printers, have built-in network interfaces, typically wireless or Ethernet based, and can serve as a hard copy device for any user on the network. Individual printers are often designed to support both local and network connected users at the same time. In addition, a few modern printers can directly interface to electronic media such as memory cards, or to image capture devices such as digital cameras and scanners; some printers are combined with scanners or fax machines in a single unit, and can function as photocopiers. Printers that include non-printing features are sometimes called multifunction printers (MFP), 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.