Hewlett-Packard introduced font cartridges in 1984 for its new range of LaserJet printers and the first series of font cartridges were designed for the original LaserJet, the LaserJet Plus and the LaserJet II series.
The cartridges contained a small selection of bitmapped fonts in ROM, and were numbered 92286A to 92286Z. Each cartridge was designed with a specific purpose in mind (for example, tax returns, presentations, word processing, barcodes etc.) and ranged in price from $150-$330 each. The cartridges supplemented the small range of built-in fonts and helped keep the cost of the printer down by reducing the amount of built-in memory required. Hewlett-Packard referred to the cartridges as ‘hard fonts’ as they were contained in hardware, as opposed to ‘soft’ fonts that were loaded onto the computer from floppy disk (Hewlett-Packard supplied soft fonts on a choice of 3.5-inch or 5.25-inch disk) and then downloaded to the printer’s memory as required. Early LaserJet printers could use hard or soft fonts, but at first more fonts were available on cartridges and they didn’t use the printer’s limited memory.
Although Hewlett-Packard did release some font cartridges for later LaserJet models, software fonts eventually won out as they were more flexible in their use (many fonts could be used in one document), they didn’t need to be contained in expensive cartridges, memory considerations became less important, and Microsoft began bundling fonts with the Windows operating system.