The origins of the photocopier and the future of 3D printing

They are two different things. Yet the unexpected, gigantic, enormous bang of photocopying and the way it went from non-existent to all-pervasive is likely to happen with 3D printing. Let it. It’s good. In the meantime, The Smithsonian Magazine has profiled the origins of the familiar photocopier and found some gems:

…in 1959, Xerox released the “914”—the first easy-to-use photocopier. The culmination of more than 20 years of experimentation, it was a much cleaner, “dry” process. The copier created an electrostatic image of a document on a rotating metal drum, and used it to transfer toner—ink in a powdered format—to a piece of paper, which would then be sealed in place by heat. It was fast, cranking out a copy in as little as seven seconds. When the first desk-size, 648-pound machines were rolled out to corporate customers—some of whom had to remove doors to install these behemoths—the era of copying began.

Or more accurately, the explosion of copying began. Xerox expected customers would make about 2,000 copies a month—but users easily made 10,000 a month, and some as many as 100,000. Before the 914 machine, Americans made 20 million copies a year, but by 1966 Xerox had boosted the total to 14 billion.

How the Photocopier Changed the Way We Worked — and Played – Clive Thompson, Smithsonian Magazine (March 2015)

Read the full piece.

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