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Developing the Office Copier
June 1, 2010

The idea of making quick copies on regular paper was a long time coming. Most didn’t see its potential when Chester Carlson first conceived of it in 1935. A patent attorney, he was exasperated with the difficulty, mess and expense of making extra copies of patent specifications. Through research, hard work and will power, he created a process and patented it in 1937, making the first successful dry copy the next year. Needing capital and technical expertise to further develop the machine, he shopped his invention to many American businesses, finding closed doors at every turn.

But in 1944, he came to Columbus, Ohio to visit Battelle, a nonprofit research and development organization for which he handled some contracts as a patent attorney. When Mr. Carlson told Battelle scientists about his invention, they saw the broad applications for such a machine that others had not.

The company signed a contract to develop the process. The scientists there worked to find out what worked and what didn’t and how to improve the powder image. By 1946, Battelle asked Haloid, a small New York photocopy business, to sponsor further development. A professor at The Ohio State University helped coin the name, xerography (dry writing in Greek), and the Haloid company eventually became Xerox.

In 1948, the first xerographic image was produced in public, in Detroit at the American Optical Society meeting. The next year, Haloid created a machine, “the Model A,” to use the technology to make lithographs, but it would take more than a decade to get low-cost, convenient copiers into offices.

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