It hasn’t always been so easy to make copies. We now can just walk up to a photocopier machine and press the print button and we instantly receive perfectly replicated copies of our original. Just forty seven years ago the copy machine was a pen and some sheets of carbon paper. Instead of pushing a button you had to write and write and then write some more!
Just before the 60’s this was a reality and carbon paper was a big seller. Chester Carlson, a patent attorney knew how much of a pain it was to continue rewriting everything by hand because Carlson had arthritis. Carlson had an idea of designing a machine that would automatically make copies, so he didn’t have to do all of that copying by hand. Think about doing your job without a copier. You probably will have a hard time imagining it. Did you know that most manufacturers didn’t think that a copier would be of much use? Chester tried for years to get people to catch his vision but nobody was interested. Between 1939 and 1944, Carlson got the thumbs down by many corporations, including IBM, Kodak, General Electric, and RCA.
In 1937 Chester invented a process called electrophotography. They renamed it Xerography in 1938. He figured out that if the image of an original document was projected onto a photoconductive surface, current would flow only in the areas where the light shined on it. The first copy was made with a sulfur coating on a zinc plate. He took a glass microscope slide and wrote on it 10-22-38 ASTORIA with ink. He then pulled down the shade to darken the room. He built an electrostatic charge buy rubbing the sulfur surface with a handkerchief. Then the slide was placed on the surface and a light was shined on it for few seconds. He then sprinkled lycopodium powder on the sulfur coating. Gently blowing on the surface, the loose powder blew off and all that was left was the inscription, 10-22-38 ASTORIA. 10-22-38 is the date that the first photocopy was made. Astoria was the location.
The Birth of Xerox The company that decided to take a chance on Carlson’s dream was the Haloid Company. Haloid was a photo-paper manufacturer in New York. Guess what they came to be known as? Yes, the Xerox Corporation. In 1960 the first office copier was produced. It was the Xerox model 914. It was the first office copier that could make copies on plain paper.
Being a copier repairman for over twenty years I have seen the good copiers with the bad copiers. I began working on copiers in 1983. The copiers that I began working with were messy and they would not last long in between servicing. The prices for the machines were very high especially for higher volume copiers. There were some interesting ways of transporting the paper through the machine like the Sharp SF-740. It grabbed the paper with two gripper devices that were driven with chains. This machine fused the toner to the paper with a toaster oven type device.
Some people may even remember having to pour toner into the copier from a bottle. But today’s copiers have a cartridge system that works well. They keep most of the toner inside the copier, not on you best pair of slacks or your dress. They have rollers for fusing the toner to the paper and have very sophisticated paper feed and transport systems that help reduce jamming problems. Digital copiers are now on the market. Now you can not only copy, but print, scan and even fax with them. Perhaps the most revolutionary change in the industry is the full color copier. The sales of full color copiers have really started to explode. There are a lot of new and exciting products being introduced and the quality is really quite good. We have come along way from Carlson’s ’10-22-38 ASTORIA. I just can’t help to think what the future will bring us. What will the copier of the year 2020 look like?
Chestor F. Carlson (1906-1968). Chester F. Carlson was born on February 8, 1906 in city of Seattle. His father was a barber and they came to live in San Bernardino, California. He was a bright young man and was curious of how things worked. Carlson’s mom died when he was seventeen years old. They say that Carlson donated $100 million to charity before he passed away in 1968.