*NEWS*XEROX’s TRUE ORIGINAL
*NEWS*XEROX’s TRUE ORIGINAL
2007-04-06 at 11:24:00 am #17521
In the world of copiers, a true original
When the creator of Xerox described the inventor of xerography as an
“unreasonable man,” he meant that as a compliment of the highest order.
In “Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox,” business management
consultant and investment management professor Charles D. Ellis notes that,
after Chester Carlson’s death in 1968, Wilson seized every appropriate
opportunity to laud the intrepid innovator for his vital contributions to the
progress of xerography and Xerox.
On one of those occasions, writes Ellis, Wilson alluded to an observation by
George Bernard Shaw in praising Carlson: “All progress depends on the
unreasonable man . . . because reasonable men accept the world as it is while
unreasonable men persist in adapting the world to them. Chester Carlson was
Readers of this biography will come away convinced that Wilson was even more
unreasonable, in that positive sense of the term, than Carlson.
Carlson pursued the idea of electrophotography for decades, despite setbacks
and discouragement from the scientific and business worlds. But, as Ellis makes
clear, it was Wilson who took the risks with Carlson’s idea that ultimately
paid off in the towering reality of the Xerox Corp.
“Carlson’s technology dream — brilliant as it was and so very timely –
came true and made him a fortune he generously gave away,” Ellis wrote.
“He became one of the nation’s best-known inventors because his brilliant
invention interconnected with Joe Wilson’s extraordinary entrepreneurial
leadership. Carlson and Wilson profoundly changed each other’s lives.”That
interconnection occurred, Ellis points out, because Wilson realized that after
World War II, his family’s comparatively small company, Haloid Corp. of
Rochester, N.Y., needed to develop new products for its long-term survival.
Haloid’s primary product was sensitized photographic paper, and it was in
direct competition with the giant Eastman Kodak C., also in Rochester.Ellis’s
narrative focuses in great detail on Wilson’s untiring efforts to accomplish his
vision by using the technology Carlson pioneered. Wilson on several occasions
attempted to form partnerships with larger companies such as IBM, RCA, General
Electric, and Bell and Howell. Although some licensing agreements on xerography
were reached with other companies, Wilson ultimately took the risk of
committing Haloid to making and marketing the breakthrough 914 copier.One of
the book’s most intriguing chapters, “Five Cents,” homes in on how one of
Wilson’s lieutenants came up with the idea of how to make big money by leasing
the copiers to businesses and institutions. The idea was to charge customers a
low monthly lease and 5 cents a copy after a certain number of
copies.“Charging five cents a copy was a long, long way from the estimated
$25,000 purchase and its sticker shock,” Ellis writes.The book is also a
portrait of a man who personified the highest ideals of what a corporate leader
should be.“He devoted his life to creative and effective leadership in public
service . . . And when appropriate, he used the profitability of Xerox and his
own increasing wealth to lead the process of social change,” he writes.