The information age has had several milestones over time. From the invention of the Gutenberg printing press, to the first vestiges of modern computers or the first rustic Internet-like communications networks in the 20th century. And among those milestones, there is also the Xerox 914.
It is normal not to know or have never heard about the Xerox 914, but the device is part of the aforementioned milestones: it was the first photocopying machine in history, which revolutionized work environments since its introduction in 1959.
Like all gadgets of its day, the Xerox 914 was truly a 650-pound (294-kilogram) hulk measuring 107 centimeters high by 117 wide and 114 deep (42 by 46 by 45 inches). But for places like offices or businesses, size was less of an issue than utility, as the Xerox 914 could create seven copies per minute.
Let’s stop for a moment in what happened in any office in 1959. Before the age of digital information, all records and documentation were carried out on paper. And if today and with all the existing digitalization, photocopiers are a vital device in any company, in 1959 the Xerox 914 meant a before and after.
With such a machine, the limitations on copying and distributing information simply disappeared.
The Xerox 914 was based on a technique called xerigraphy, invented by Chester Floyd Carlson in 1938. Xerography uses electrostatic charges that are transferred to a surface and then destroyed by light, except in areas where there is a shadow. Then, through the use of heat, the ink sticks to the paper where the static charge is present, thus obtaining a high-quality copy of the original document.
With the Xerox 914 you could make up to 100,000 copies per month, using plain paper (the 914 in the name comes from 9 x 14-inch sheets); In addition, it did not damage the original documents, the ink did not suffer from filtration problems as it was a dry process, and for many companies the business model was convenient, since the copier could be rented by paying a fixed amount for a quantity of copies to perform.
Soon after its introduction, the Xerox 914 was already a vital piece in many offices in the United States. Because the initial idea of its inventor was simply to be able to make copies of originals, but it was soon discovered that copies of copies could also be made, without considerable loss of quality.
The complexity of that first machine also brought with it some problems. Xerox had to provide significant technical support to its customers for the installation and operation of the copier and that meant the inclusion of a small extinguisher, as the Xerox 914 tended to overheat and generate flare-ups.
However, all these complications were minimal details beside their global importance. The Xerox 914 was a revolution not only for the business world, but also for other types of segments such as education, in which the copies and distribution of books or study materials would be a vital part.
After the Xerox 914 would come other versions of the same machine, which allowed faster or better quality copies to be made. But beyond those improvements, the first copier had already marked a path in which there would be no turning back; the copier became something bigger than its creators ever imagined.