What Did We Do Before the Photocopier?
As with all inventions of its type though, it took a while for them to be accepted and it was a decade before they became commonplace in offices throughout the US. It took even longer for them to make their way to the UK where we have sometimes lagged behind our colonial friends when it comes to accepting new methods and ways of working. Considering we were the birthplace of the industrial revolution, it seems odd that we should be so adverse to taking on new ideas these days.
However, they’re now popular almost worldwide (certainly all Western countries and the East) and they are almost essential in today’s office. But what did we do before them? Well, the most common method of duplicating any kind of work was by using carbon copy paper. This was an extremely efficient and effective way of getting an exact copy of the document you were currently working on, but only one copy. You could try multiple pieces of carbon paper but eventually the thickness made it impossible for the pressure of the hammer to get through to the bottom. It was quite common to see three or four times copied documents that were unreadable.
So many places (including educational establishments like schools and colleges) took to using lithograph duplicators. If you were at school in the 70s and 80s you may remember the smell from these machines that seemed capable of only creating copies in a feint purple colour. They were bulky machines that were operated by hand and if you’d been playing around in class one day – it was probably you that had to do it.
The problem with them was – it wasn’t an instant copy. You first had to make a ‘plate’ which was the master from which all other copies were made. This wasn’t a difficult task, but it also wasn’t a doddle and meant a plate had to be made for each page. So, when photocopiers came along, they were seen as the ultimate in convenience, but there was one big problem with them – they were expensive.
But one thing’s for sure – things that are useful don’t stay expensive for long and the laws of supply and demand soon made it economic for everyone to get one. This was simply down to the fact that during the ‘desk top publishing’ boom of the 80s and 90s, many people wanted high quality printers and that meant laser printers. As the innards of a photocopier was essentially a laser printer, the two technologies could be developed together and so the cost of them came down drastically.
However, when scanners became popular, they started to be attached to printers themselves and so suddenly ink jet printers were able to copy. Why scan and print when you could simply copy with one press of the button? Photocopiers are now incredibly popular in all offices and also very cheap to run. Luckily we’ve embraced technology and the office has become and easier place to work.
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