These days, most people have a personal computer. They are used in workplaces everywhere, and in homes all over the world. The predominant type of computer for personal use was, initially, a desktop system. These computers could be moved, but it was not convenient to do so. Typically they were large and bulky, and needed a wired source of power. Of course, that has changed significantly over the past five years or so. Laptop computers, and then notebook computers, then palm-tops and PDAs, and now a new generation of smart phones are making desktop computers completely unnecessary for the average user. But what about peripherals, like scanners and printers? It's convenient to take a computer anywhere you go, yes, but wouldn't it be MORE convenient if you could also print anywhere you were? It would be, and it is.

Portable scanners and portable printers are readily available from many well-known manufacturers. Epson makes them, as does Dell and HP, just to name a few of the top providers. They can be separate components, if you have a need for only a printer or a scanner, but combination portable scanner and printer units are becoming extremely popular. A combination printer and scanner is no larger than a single function portable printer or scanner or compact printers for laptops.

Many of the higher end models also have faxing capabilities. These devices are extremely small. Most are just over 10 inches in length, and about 3 inches wide. They easily fit into a computer attaché or briefcase, and most weigh in at less than a pound. Inks and cartridges aren't required, because most use thermal printing technology. They are extremely popular with traveling salespersons, delivery truck drivers and even law enforcement personnel. Some devices use rolled paper, which is torn off when the job finishes. Others use standard 8.5 x 11 sized single sheets, which must be hand-fed into the print area. A typical portable printer and scanner will print three pages per minute at 200 dpi quality and can be purchased for somewhere from $200 to $400, depending on the specifications. Higher end models have much higher print quality and use ink cartridges, but are not as small. They are still considered quite portable, however, and are even sold in canvas carrying cases to tote them along.

These types are typically sold as companion gear to digital cameras, although they print standard documents too. The devices themselves communicate with laptops, handhelds, PDAs or smart phones by a variety of means. They can be cabled to a standard USB port easily enough, although most are wirelessly connected through wi-fi, IR signaling or Bluetooth technologies. The models with wi-fi and Bluetooth connectivity are the most popular.