Are you like the many employees all over the world that takes for granted the fact you can print, copy and scan at the touch of a button? It wasn’t always the case, so the team at XBM have looked back at the history of the photocopier.
On the 22nd October 1938, inventor Chester Carlson first used static electricity by using a handkerchief, light and dry powder to create a copy. Whilst this was a major breakthrough, his first experiments were explosive and he caused many sulphur fires, and he nearly burned down his apartment.
In December 1946, after working on this in his spare time and patenting his ideas, he signed the first agreement to license electrophotography technology for commercial use. However, it would be many years before copying like we know today became common practise with secretaries and employees all over the UK were using carbon paper to make duplicates of their notes. It would be years before people could actually use this technology as they do now. Until then, secretaries everywhere were stuck using carbon paper to make copies.
The photocopier transformed the way businesses worked. Imagine it now, having to painstakingly copy every document by hand. Before the copier came into existence, there were numerous attempts at early copy automation, yet all were imperfect. That is, until 1959, the year Xerox released the first "modern" version of the photocopier.
Called the "914,", it was bulky, weighty and very complicated to use. It was about the size of two washing machines, and some of them literally caught on fire.
To make the copies, the machine used a rotating drum to create an electrostatic copy image. The image was transferred to a copy paper using toner, and then the whole thing was sealed using heat. Incredibly, it could create copies in just seven seconds – not terribly far off from the printing speeds of copying and printing machines you might purchase today. This was just the beginning of the wonder of photocopying technology, which rapidly hit offices across the country.
There was huge demand for the machines, even taking Xerox by surprise. The company had estimated that a customer would make approximately 2,000 copies a month. However, people wanted to copy more than that and some clients made almost 100,000 copies a month.
The photocopier changed work cultures and workflows too. Sharing of information had now become so much easier and this led to the collaboration boom and more people working together. It also sped up the way in which people were able to work and how they worked.
Competitors in the 70’s
Not until well in to the 1970s did other technology companies make a copier. Companies such as Canon and Minolta released their own photocopiers – yet Xerox continued to dominate the market. However, over time, these competing technologies improved, and consumers eventually had access to a wide range of photocopier models, from low-end units to enterprise models.
These devices are now more like multifunction devices. They are often known as all-in-ones. They copy, print, fax and scan from one place. Many modern photocopiers can track usage to reduce unnecessary printing and copying. The most advanced machines tend to come with a digital touchscreen display, wireless accessibility and other user-friendly features.
The machines can range wildly in price, and many printer companies offer numerous configuration options, allowing companies to customize their machines to meet a business's needs. And companies that don't have the cash on hand to buy a machine might lease them instead.