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Happy 51st Birthday to the Xerox 914

Today’s post is from business reference librarian Ellen Terrell.

I will admit that sometimes I can’t conceive of a time when copiers were not part of the landscape, but before 1960 that was very much the case.  So the fact that the Xerox 914 was unveiled on September 16, 1959 marks a milestone, if a somewhat unheralded one and its driving force, Chester Carlson a somewhat unknown inventor (however he was on a 21¢ stamp as part of the Great Americans series).

Replica of Chester Carlson’s original Xerox copier (from the Historic American Engineering Record collection)

Carlson first built and patented “Electrophotography” (US patent 2,297,691 issued October 6, 1942) which Battelle and Haloid helped to further develop. Electrophotography being a bit of a mouthful, was changed to xerography(which  eventually become the abbreviated Xerox). While earlier versions of what we know as photocopiers were created, the commercial version of the 914 wasn’t sold to the public until 1960. It was an instant success.  The machine was so successful, that Haloid changed their name to Xerox in 1961 just 2 years after the introduction of the 914.

If you want to know more on Carlson and the Xerox 914 David Ownes’ Copies in Seconds : how a lone inventor and an unknown company created the biggest communication breakthrough since Gutenberg : Chester Carlson and the birth of the Xerox machine  or Susan Zannos’ Chester Carlson and the development of xerography can continue on with this story.  As a note, the New York Public Library has Chester Carlson’s papers.

Photocopiers have come long way. Most businesses, law firms, and libraries have one or more! There are even stores dedicated to making of copies and copiers in our homes. I wonder what Chester Carlson would think about that?

3 Comments

  1. maria scoones
    September 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    it,s so informative that i enjoy it mind you takes me a few hours….

  2. lentigogirl
    September 16, 2010 at 9:11 am

    When did it come into common use? I recall using carbon paper and mimeograph machines (creating weird purple masters) well into the late 1970s.

  3. Ellen Terrell
    September 27, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    I remember the color (and smell) of those mimeograph machines too!

    While the copy machines were popular right away, there did seem to be a number of years where older systems stuck around – for cost reasons I suspect.

    Of course Xerox didn’t stay the only player and once other companies like Ricoh, Minolta, Panasonic, Toshiba, Canon, Konica entered the market in the late 1970’s and 1980’s, the race was on for cheaper and smaller models that could do more. This was likely when the phasing out of the mimeographs occurred.

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