Office Photocopier Turns 50

Fifty years ago this month, Xerox shipped out the first commercial document copying machine. This technical innovation began with Chester Carlson, a New York attorney, who discovered in the 1950s that photoconductivity could be used to create a mirror image of a document. From CNN's historical overview:

Carlson spent more than a decade trying to design a working model of his copier -- an obsessive and mostly fruitless quest that cost him his first marriage -- until the Haloid company finally showed an interest.

By the mid-1950s, Haloid had devoted a team of engineers to the project. It was a huge gamble. The team toiled seven days a week in a Rochester warehouse, but progress was slow. One early version of the machine stood almost 12 feet tall. Another could only make copies in the dark. Engineers improvised by cobbling together crude prototypes out of spare parts, such as aluminum pipes and rabbit-fur brushes.

Link via Gizmodo | Photo: 1940s era industrial photocopier, courtesy of the US Social Security Administration

Actually, Chester Carlson made his first xerographic image (photocopy) of the word "Astoria" (a neighborhood in Queens, NYC) in 1938. He tried to partner with companies like IBM, but their market research showed a total market of about 100 machines worldwide! Oops.
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Yes it was not a popular invention and took many years to bring to the market. Interesting Xerography today is still the basis of laser printers and digital photocopiers, all be it with a laser reducing resistance instead of a reflected light source
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