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 user 2009-11-24 at 10:14:15 am Views: 65
  • #22991
    Xerox set to mark 50th anniversary of venerable 914 copier
    The old Xerox 914 copier tucked into a small alcove on the second floor of Xerox Square barely shows its age, with a few flecks of rust on the table-sized piece of beige office equipment.And around the machine stands the 30-story corporate tower that it helped build.Fifty years ago this fall, Rochester-based Haloid Xerox launched the 914, which made photocopying cheap, easy and ubiquitous. And its subsequent success helped make what is now known as Xerox Corp. — a Connecticut-based Fortune 500 firm that employs close to 7,000 in the Rochester area and 54,000 worldwide.”It’s foundational to the company,” said Steve Hoover, vice president of Xerox’s Global Software and Solutions group. “It’s what really transitioned Haloid from a company that made photographic paper to a company that was in the business of documents. (And) it really changed the face of the office.”

    On Friday, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns will host a reunion of retirees involved with the 914 at the company’s Webster campus, marking that anniversary.The company unveiled the product at a New York City trade show on Sept. 16, 1959, and then began turning out the 600-pound pieces of equipment from a factory on Orchard Street on Rochester’s northwest side, with the first reaching customers in early 1960.

    And the story of the 914 has become stuff of business-class curricula and the 2004 history book Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg.

    When Joseph C. Wilson’s Haloid Xerox unveiled the Xerox machine — based on a process developed by inventor and physicist Chester Carlson — copying a piece of paper was limited largely to cumbersome, costly options as carbon paper, a lithograph machine and such chemically based processes as 3M Co.’s Thermo-Fax and Eastman Kodak Co.’s Verifax.

    The 914 — and the photocopying process overall, including numerous Xerox products to this day — are based around “xerography” or “electro photography,” which uses a drum charged with static electricity to attract tiny particles of toner that then get melted into place on the sheet of paper.

    And while Wilson had shopped the technology around to such potential investors as IBM, most indications were that demand for such a product would be slim at best.”Joe Wilson … made a decision to raise money, to work through friends here in Rochester and proceed on the 914 on his own — a very small company spending money they didn’t have for a product nobody wanted,” said 86-year-old Horace Becker of Penfield, who was chief engineer for the 914. (“I’m not an inventor — I’m neither the father nor the mother of the 914, I’m the midwife,” he said.)

    Since Haloid’s 914 was an untested product from a relatively unknown company, the firm started out leasing the machines to customers.”The rest is history,” said Becker, who retired in 1988. “The orders started to roll in. We started with the idea we’d build five a day (at the Orchard Street plant). Then we moved to 25 a day. When we finally moved out of Orchard Street to Webster, we were building over 100 a day.”

    According to Xerox, the company ultimately produced more than 200,000 914s between 1960 and the early 1970s.”The interesting thing is, the demand was so high that before we made hardly any return on our investment (on the 914), the marketing people already were saying we needed something … smaller and faster,” Becker said.”Almost before we made a dime on the 914, we actually started to draw pictures of what was to become the 813.”

    The xerographic process for one of Xerox’s digital iGen4 presses is fundamentally the same today as it was for a 914, though today’s technology uses a laser instead of a flash of light to expose the image, Hoover said.And while Xerox today also has a variety of inkjet printing products, he said, “I don’t think we are in any way looking for the end of the evolution of xerography. We have significant investments to continue to improve it.”

    Additional Facts
    914 trivia
    # The 914 name came from the fact the machine could photocopy images as large as 9 inches by 14 inches.
    # The first photocopy took about 15 seconds, with each subsequent copy taking a little more than 7