The history of the photocopier

An insight to the history and development of photocopying technology which includes various information about the first photocopying product in the market, the inventor and how copier technology has evolved and progressed within the office environment today.

The history of the photocopier

An insight to the history and development of photocopying technology which includes various information about the first photocopying product in the market, the inventor and how copier technology has evolved and progressed within the office environment today.

Chester Carlson, the inventor of the photocopier was originally a part time researcher, inventor and patent attorney. His job at the patent office in New York required him to make a large number of copies of important documents.

Carlson started to find that this became a painful and tiresome procedure. This encouraged him to carry out experiments with photoconductivity and electro photography in 1938.

Carlson made history when he created the first "photocopy" using a zinc plate, covered with sulphur. He used a microscope slide with the words "10-22-38 Astoria" written on it. He placed the slide on top of more sulphur and under a bright light. After the slide was removed, a mirror image of the words remained.

Carlson tried to sell his invention to a number of companies, but he failed because the process was still underdeveloped and multiple copies were made using carbon paper or duplicating machines, and people didn't feel the need for an electronic machine.

Between 1939 and 1944, Carlson was turned down by over twenty companies, including IBM and GE. They believed that there was no major market for the technology.

In 1944 a non-profit organization called Battelle Memorial Institute, signed up with Carlson to improve the process of electro photography.

In 1947, a small New York photographic paper company called Haloid approached Battelle and obtained a license to try and develop a new market based on the technology.

While Haloid and Carlson were working on the development, they decided that the phrase "electro photography" was too mind blowing and didn't have a good remembrance value, so they consulted a classical language professor at Ohio State University and later changed the name to Xerography, which meant "dry writing" in Greek.

Haloid called the new copier machines Xerox, which were later trademarked in 1948.

Xerox introduced the first xerographic copier in 1949 which became so successful that photocopying became popularly known as Xeroxing.

As the technology started developing, a new process of copying was discovered, which produced a copy of an electrostatic image by transferring a drum and a plastic powder called toner onto paper by being heated and fused.

During the extensive adoption of the xerographic photocopier technology, Kodak's Verifax photo-direct copy machines were being used. In 1969 Verifax prints required supplies costing 0.15 dollars, where Xerox prints could be made for 0.03 dollars including paper and labour. At that period, thermo fax photocopier machines where very popular in libraries and resource centres. The minimum wage for a US worker was 1.65 dollars and thermo fax photocopying machines produced letter-sized copies for around 0.25 dollars. Xerographic copier manufacturers took advantage of the high perceived value situation and by the early 1970s they marketed specially designed paper for only xerographic productivity.

By the end of the 1970s the xerographic procedure was one of the known requirements for most paper producers and office paper brands.

In the 1980s, Xerox's ability developed into allowing colour photocopies to be made. Around this time, some copier machines started to be replaced from the older drum-based procedure to a new technology using a transfer film or an inkjet. They also gradually become more advanced by being able to use untreated plain office paper for copying. As the copier technology progressed further, photocopiers were capable of printing duplex, two sided documents and the ability to sort and staple documents.

In recent years, photocopiers have replaced the older analogue process to the latest digital photocopier technology. With digital copying, copiers now effectively include a laser printer with an integrated scanner. This provides the copier with many capabilities such as automatic image quality enhancement and the ability to scan documents while printing them independently. Several digital copiers can function as high-speed scanners and can send documents via email or to a local network.

When copying a set of twenty pages twenty times, a digital copier scans each page only once and then uses the stored information to produce twenty sets. This process is called automatic digital collation and is one of the greatest advantages of digital copiers. When trying to do the same with an analogue copier, each page will need to be scanned twenty times, which will generate one set at a time, or by alternatively using twenty separate output trays for the twenty sets.

Low volume copiers also use digital technology and tend to consist of an ordinary scanner with an inkjet or a relatively inexpensive laser printer. These are much slower than a technical sophisticated office machine, but they are built in at a lower cost. Some low-end copiers also provide all-in-one solutions allowing colour copying combined with a printer and fax machine which is a great advantage for someone with a low budget.

Coloured toner became available in the 1950s, however full colour copier machines were not commercially available until 3M released the Colour in Colour copier in 1968. The Colour in Colour copier used a dye sublimation process instead of the previous electrostatic technology, although the first electrostatic colour copier became available when Canon released it in 1973.

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