History of Brother Printers

Brother Industries is one the world’s leaders in home and office printing machinery. Established more than a hundred years ago by Kanekichi Yasui in Japan, it started as a sewing machine company called Yasui Sewing Machine Company.

Over the decades product range continued to grow, making Brother Industries to become what it is, a multi-billion enterprise with over thirty thousand employees working at offices in 44 countries around the world.

Let’s go over some of the major events from the history of Brother printers:

Inception & Rise of Brother Printers

By early 1950s their business had grown into mass producing sewing machines and exporting them across the globe. Brother Industries had also started to produce other home appliances like washing machines and knitting machines.

From 1960s Brother Industries had started to focus on providing machines required by businesses like cash registers and electronic number crunching machines. After launching their first alphabetical typewriter (model number: JP1-111) in 1961 Brother Industries had placed its steps towards business machines.

Incidentally Max Howard founder of Centronics a computer printer manufacturer and Max Hugel the president of Brother International were neighbors. They developed a business relationship when Max Howard needed a reliable manufacturer for printer mechanisms.

With Centronics and Brother’s collaboration a highly regarded dot matrix printer called Model 101 was produced in 1971. This was not only their first computer printer but also, worlds first high speed dot matrix printer in the year.

Some of the features that separated M101 from rest of the printers at that time were:

○     Innovative print head with patent winning seven wire solenoid impact system.

○     High printing speed of 165 characters per second & support for 62 characters including 26 special characters

○     First printer with Parallel port (then called Centronics Interface), which soon became industry standard for computer printers.

Beginning of Laser Printer Era

Within a year after Brother collaborated with Centronics to develop the M101, they were producing and marketing various impact printers on their own. Their entry to electro-photographic printing was marked in the late 1980s after producing several electronic typewriters and computer peripherals.

Launch of First Laser Printer

After nearly a decade of producing dot-matrix and daisy wheel impact printers, Brother launched HL-8, their first laser printer in 1987.  At the launch it was priced at $2895, which was just $200 more than the main competitor HP II and offered a better hardware with more memory and support for more fonts.

HL-8 earned a distinctive market share because of its price, high speed and excellent compatibility with HP’s Printer Command Language. It’s a no surprise that it also received PC Magazine’s "Editor’s Choice" award.


Entry to SOHO Printer Segment

Brother’s next major launch was in the year 1994, a laser printer called HL-630. HL-630 was the first laser powered by Brother’s own engine.
It became known for its lowest price among laser printers at $399. The attractive price allowed Brother to penetrate SOHO laser printer segment.
Besides the price HL-630 also featured attractive specs like:

○     Printing Speed : 6 Pages per minute

○     Graphics Resolution: 300 x 300 dpi

○     Engine Processor: 25 MHz

○     Memory: Standard, 512KB, upgradable up-to 2MB

○     Interface: Parallel Port & Optional Serial Port

HL-630 was followed by almost identical HL-645, with only major change being increased standard memory size from 512KB to 1MB.
Next upgrade in Brother’s Laser printers range was HL-660, which featured higher graphic resolution of 600 x 600 dots per inch while maintaining same printing speeds of 6 pages per minute


First Multifunction Printer:
By the year 1995 Brother had many successful fax machines and laser printers which led them to develop their first Multi-Function Device, MFC-4500ML.


MFC-4500ML was a Printer, Scanner, Copier, Fax as well as PC-FAX in one box. The idea of space saving cost effective multifunction devices was welcomed by the market and opened gates for upcoming Laser MFD at SOHO users.

Followed by the success of 4500ML, MFC-7000FC was launched in 1997.  It was first color multifunction device to cost less than $1000 and placed foundation for the vast inkjet multifunction printers we see today.

In 1999 Brother launched, MP-21C the first of its kind mobile color printer. It allowed users to carry their printer along with a laptop for mobile printing. It weighed just about 2 pounds and required no external power supply.


Making of the Best Seller Laser Printer:
Along with venturing into multifunction printers, Brother continued to improve their laser printers; the HL series was further upgraded with HL 1040 and HL-1240 models.

 HL-1240 was launched in the year 1999 and featured high printing speeds of 12 pages per minute and supported both Parallel and USB ports.

It achieved great success for its low cost high performance printing abilities and besides becoming a bestseller laser printer, won many awards like the ‘Most Valuable Product‘ Award from PC Computing, CNET.com’s ‘Editor's Choice’ as well as Number 1 position on PCWorld's  ‘Top 10 List of Printers’ for 2000.

Another major stone in history of Brother Printers was HL 5040, a high performance printer able to push out prints at 21ppm and featured maximum resolution of 2560x600 dpi. It was awarded ‘World Class Award’ by PC World and ‘Editor's Choice Award’ by PC Magazine.

Expansion of Multifunction Devices
While the HL Series of Laser printers continued to improve with new models, from early 2000s Brother launched several new multifunction devices to meet the increasing demand for space saving all-in-one printers.

 There were suddenly new all-in-one printers coming in for different market segments like:


This inkjet multifunction printer had two paper trays and Auto Document Feeder support to allow automatic feeding of pages for scanning and making copies. It was able to print at maximum speed of 20 pages per minute and make copies at 17 pages per minute.


It featured 5 in 1 functions and high print speed of 20 pages per minute. It had a smaller footprint yet lacked no features required by an active workforce at offices like, network connectivity, flatbed scanner and support for PC Fax.


In 2004 Brother launched their first Color Laser Multifunction Printer. It reduced cost of printing compared to inkjet printers and also featured a higher speed of printing at 31 pages per minute for monochrome and 8 pages per minute for color prints.

But this wasn’t the end, following the launch of above mentioned Multifunction devices, brother launched successors every year in each category to improve the features. For example MFC-9440CN was replaced by MFC-9420CN which among other upgrades included a helpful feature to print directly from an USB storage device.

Current Generation of Brother Printers

The technological advancement continues till date and Brother currently offers printers like the HL-6180DW, which can connect to a network wirelessly along with USB & Ethernet interface. Printing speed has been further increased to up to 40 pages per minute as well.

The multifunction devices have also advanced significantly; there are devices like MFC-8950DW capable of scanning and printing of two sides of a page in one pass. It can also connect to a network wirelessly or over Ethernet, print from a computer over USB and print directly from USB storage as well.