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 user 2005-03-14 at 9:54:00 am Views: 137
  • #10854

    Deja Vu: A Look Back at the Photo

    No company has morphed more into a verb than Xerox. Blame brand loyalty or
    the company’s ubiquitous service, the underlying notion remains — we love our

    So what if we sometimes want to take a shotgun to it (like
    an Illinois country sheriff once did when the darn thing ran out of toner)? The
    relationship is love/hate, as photocopying is one of the most valuable
    inventions we paper fiends couldn’t live without.

    The first photocopy
    celebrates its 66th birthday this year, and the days of ye olde clunker are a
    fuzzy memory. Those behemoths may still be skulking in some convenience stores
    and pharmacies, but today’s savvy office workers invest in multi-function
    centres (MFCs) or digital copiers.

    Before his most famous discovery
    emerged, Chester Carlson worked as a patent clerk in the 1930s. Plagued by
    unending requests for copies of patents and drawings, Carlson applied his
    physics training to invent a new type of copying process. He focused on the
    interaction between light and electrostatic fields, blending sulphur, mould
    powder and a bright light. The world’s first photocopy was made in Queens, New
    York, in October 1938 and Carlson brought his patent to a small technology firm
    called The Haloid Company.

    In 1949, they produced the first commercial
    photocopier, but it required 14 steps to make one copy. After Haloid changed its
    name to Xerox Corp. (adding the final “X” to sound more like Kodak), they
    released a fully automated photocopier, Model 914, which earned the company and
    Carlson millions of dollars.

    Photocopiers are de rigueur for any office
    today, the most advanced models slicing into light-energy pixels to allow 255
    colour gradations. And the small office/home business MFCs offer a tossed salad
    of hardware: printer, copier and scanner in one unit.

    For all the
    widespread usage, one warning remains — photocopy with care. To better equip
    yourself against dangerous machines, strap on some shades: staring at the bright
    copier light can cause eye damage. And put on some UV sunblock: a New York
    dermatologist has seen copier light spark skin rashes. Oh, and remember that gas
    mask: some copiers emit ozone gases that irritate the sinuses, according to the
    British Allergy Foundation.

    These office nightmares won’t deter the
    millions who photocopy every day, who thrive on an invention discovered by a
    tired patent clerk. If Carlson had dismissed his idea as a passing fancy, Xerox
    would be just another noun — if it would exist at all.

    Did you

    • The first commercial photocopier required 14 steps to make one copy
    • Chester Carlson, the father of the photocopier, patented the landmark
      reproduction technique that landed him millions of dollars
    • The first photocopy debuted in 1938 at Carlson’s lab in Astoria, Queens
    • Tech firm Haloid changed its name to Haloid Xerox to sound more like “Kodak”