History of the Photocopier Machine

An Overview of the Fascinating History of the Photocopier Machine

Just imagine you have to create a copy of a particular document by writing it all over again. The mere thought runs shivers (and ache) down the spine. The point is, photocopier machines today, have become an integral part of our lives. So why not take a quick peek at the short history of the photocopier machine through this write up...
Do you know why the word 'xerox' is used in association with photocopying. It is because the technique used in photocopying was that of xerography. This is also the reason why Haloid Photographic Company (makers of photocopiers) changed its name to simply Xerox. The term xerography is made up of two words i.e. 'xeros' which means dry and 'graphia' i.e. writing. History of invention and development of the photocopier technology is quite interesting.

The History of Photocopiers

Chester Floyd Carlson, an American physicist is credited with the invention of photocopying technique. He developed this technique with the help of a sulfur-covered zinc plate. A microscope slide was used in the process for creating an image on paper. This method, developed by Carlson in 1938 was known as electrostatic copying.

Patenting and Refinement
In the year 1942, Carlson patented his electrostatic copying technique. Thereafter, he began his search to find an organization that could fund his invention to make it a commercial success. Though this invention had potential to attain commercial success, many big companies whom Carlson approached, didn't find any. Carlson's search ended in the year 1944 when he secured a contract from the Battelle Memorial Institute, a Columbus (Ohio) based non-profit organization. Refinement in Carlson's photocopying technique was brought about in the next 5 years. Three years later, Haloid Corporation, a firm that sold photographic paper, took interest in the technique of electrophotography. They approached the Battelle Memorial Institute to obtain a license for using this technology.

Xerox's Commercial Success
Xerox Corporation introduced their product, the 'Xerox 914' in 1959. This photocopier model turned out to be highly popular; The commercial success attained through sale of this machine was worth $60 million in just 2 years after its introduction.

James Watt's Copying Machine
In the year 1779, James Watt developed a copying machine which required manual transfer of ink to the paper. Although not as speedy and efficient as the photocopier of today, this machine instantly became popular in those times.

Dawn of the Digital Age
The digitization of photocopiers began in the 90s decade. In the beginning, hybrid technology was used for manufacturing photocopiers. Cost was the main issue in making available the digital and high-speed photocopier machines at an affordable price. It was in the late 90s that these photocopiers became affordable. Today's photocopiers perform many different functions apart from just copying. Scanning, printing, faxing, etc. are some of the functions these new age photocopiers can perform.

How does a Photocopier Work?

Along with all the information pertaining to facts, people and events associated with photocopier, one would also like to know about the working of this machine.
  • First step in the process of making a photocopy is placing the paper to be copied in an inverted position on the screen provided in this machine. A light beam is passed over the surface of paper; this beam gets reflected from white part of the paper and falls on a drum that is electrically charged. As the photons present in light rays hit the drum, electrons are emitted (from the surface of the drum). Positive charge present on the drum is neutralized due to the release of electrons.
  • Dark part of the paper doesn't reflect any light onto the surface of drum. This very part of the drum doesn't emit electrons and remains positively charged. Next step in the process of printing a photocopy is that of spreading toner on the drum surface; the toner is negatively charged and therefore sticks to the positively charged surface of drum.
  • In the final step of photocopying, a paper that is positively charged passes over the surface of drum. Now, the negatively charged toner parts away from the drum surface and adheres to this paper. Our photocopied paper is ready for perusal!
The photocopying technology has come of age and now we have its digital version that works quicker. Konica Minolta, Sharp, Canon along with Xerox are some of the leading companies that manufacture photocopier machines. In this article, we discussed the history of the photocopier machines and also studied their process of working. Technology has influenced our lives to a great extent, however, the invention of photocopier is something special. It will be remembered and cherished just like the printing press!