The Remarkable History of the Photocopier

Chester Carlson - Vintage and modern photocopier representing the evolution of photocopying technology.

Everything About Photocopiers You Didn’t Realise You Wanted to Know!

Welcome to a fascinating exploration that proves once again that every day is indeed a school day. Throughout the UK, exam season is upon us. This article about the history of the photocopier is dedicated to all the hardworking teachers who’ve imparted wisdom day in and day out and to the students who are stepping up to the plate this month, ready to take on their exams. You inspire us to keep learning, growing, and appreciating the continual journey of knowledge.

Today, at Evolve Document Solutions, we are heading back to school ourselves, delving into the intriguing history of a tool that’s as familiar in the classroom as it is in the office – the photocopier. We are about to embark on an educational odyssey, charting the remarkable history of this unassuming machine and its impact on our lives.

So, whether you’re taking a break from marking papers, looking for a distraction from exam revision, or simply part of our Evolve Document Solutions community, we invite you to join us.

Let’s learn something new today about a machine we often take for granted and, in doing so, celebrate the spirit of continual learning that drives us all. Onwards, fellow learners, our class on the history of the photocopier is about to begin!

This article is your golden ticket to unearthing the riveting tale of the humble photocopier. Yes, ‘riveting’ and ‘photocopier’ are in the same sentence – and no, we haven’t had one too many cups of office coffee.

The Story of the History of the Photocopier has it all:

  • An ingenious inventor battling rejection,
  • A groundbreaking technology struggling to find its footing, and
  • A revolution that forever transformed the landscape of the modern office.

Whether you’re a photocopier leasing buyer, an office administration professional, or simply someone with a curiosity about everyday objects, sit back, sip your tea, and prepare to embark on a journey through the remarkable history of the photocopier. Trust us, this is everything you didn’t realise you wanted to know!

So, ready to peek behind the copy cover and delve into the inner workings of this indispensable office hero? Let’s get this paper chase started!

The Advent of Photocopying Technology

Cast your mind back to a time before the buzz and whir of the photocopier filled the office air. We’re talking about the pre-photocopier era, where document duplication was, to put it mildly, a bit of a kerfuffle. Ah, the good old days of painstakingly handwriting duplicates, carbon paper smudges, and spirit duplicators that made your office smell like a chemistry lab. And let’s not even get started on the mimeograph machines – getting ink everywhere was simply part of the job description!

Enter Chester Carlson, an American physicist and inventor, who, as legend has it, grew tired of copying patent specifications by hand at his day job. Can you blame him? Inspired by his own frustration (and presumably sore hand), Carlson embarked on a mission to develop a machine that could do the work for him. Little did he know, his quest would revolutionise office life forever.

In 1938, in a makeshift lab – which was, in fact, his humble kitchen – Carlson successfully invented a process he called ‘electrophotography’. It was the world’s first dry copying process, a far cry from the messy methods of the past. But alas, the tale takes a twist: despite its potential, electrophotography struggled to capture the imagination of manufacturers. Poor Carlson was met with a chorus of ‘no thank you’ and ‘not interested’. If only they knew!

But don’t fret, dear readers. This story has a happy ending. Though initially met with scepticism, Electrophotography was destined for greatness, albeit under a different name. In the next chapter of our journey, we’ll delve into the transformation of Carlson’s ingenious invention into the modern photocopier and the birth of an industry titan, Xerox Corporation. Stay tuned!

Chester Carlson’s Xerography: The Birth of Modern Photocopying

Remember our resilient inventor, Chester Carlson? After many a door slammed in his face, a glimmer of hope finally appeared on the horizon in the form of a small, New York-based photographic paper company known as the Haloid Company. Intrigued by Carlson’s curious invention, they decided to take a gamble, little knowing they were about to hit the jackpot.

Haloid and Carlson teamed up to refine electrophotography, transforming it from a concept cooked up in a kitchen to a commercially viable technology. In a marketing stroke of genius, they decided ‘electrophotography’ was a bit of a mouthful and opted for a slick, futuristic new name: ‘xerography’, derived from the Greek words for ‘dry writing’.

But how does this ‘dry writing’ work, you ask? Xerography is a fancy dance of physics and chemistry. It’s a process that involves charging a photoconductive drum, projecting an image onto it, attracting toner particles to the areas not exposed to light, and then transferring and fusing this toner image onto paper. Sounds complicated, right? But the beauty of it is that it all happens at the push of a button!

With xerography, Haloid and Carlson had brought a futuristic vision to life. But, as with any great innovation, it was met with scepticism. People found it hard to believe that a machine could duplicate a document without any wet ink or direct contact with the original. The naysayers had to see it to believe it, and in 1959, they did just that.

Haloid, now rebranded as the Xerox Corporation introduced the Xerox 914 – the world’s first automatic, plain-paper photocopier. With the ability to make 7 copies per minute (a far cry from our modern machines, but revolutionary at the time), the 914 was a game-changer. It was so successful that ‘Xerox’ quickly became synonymous with ‘photocopy’, and the office world hasn’t looked back.

In the next part of our journey, we’ll explore the evolution of the photocopier, diving into the technological advancements and innovations that have shaped the machines we know and love (or sometimes love to hate) today. Buckle up! It’s going to be an exciting ride!

Photocopier Evolution: Technological Advancements and Innovations

With the success of the Xerox 914, the photocopying world was set alight. The ’60s and ’70s saw a burst of innovations, each one pushing the humble photocopier to new frontiers. From the hulking, monochrome behemoths of yesteryears, photocopiers have evolved into sleek, multifunctional devices that can print, scan, fax, and email, making them the veritable Swiss Army knives of office life.

One of the most notable advancements was the leap from analogue to digital technology in the ’80s. Digital photocopiers replaced the old drum-and-toner method with a scanner and laser printer combo. This not only improved the quality of the copies but also allowed for a host of additional features like collation, automatic resizing, and double-sided copying. Talk about a glow-up!

The ’90s greeted us with the arrival of colour photocopiers. Gone were the days of dull, black-and-white documents – offices were suddenly awash with vibrant, colour-rich copies that could rival a rainbow! This breakthrough was a game-changer for industries like marketing and design, where visuals are key.

But the photocopying industry wasn’t done innovating just yet. In the 2000s, we saw the rise of multifunctional devices (MFDs) that combined printing, scanning, faxing, and copying in one machine. These clever contraptions not only saved space but also streamlined workflows and reduced energy consumption. Plus, they brought us closer to that elusive paperless office we’ve dreamed of since the dawn of the digital age.

From Chester Carlson’s first xerographic copy to today’s high-speed, colour, multifunction machines, the photocopier has come a long way. But its journey isn’t over. In the next section, we’ll delve into the impact of photocopiers on business and society, exploring how this unsung hero of the office has shaped the way we work and live. So, refill that tea mug and read on!

Impact of Photocopiers on Business and Society

As we’ve journeyed through the evolution of the photocopier, it’s clear this machine is more than just a corner-office staple. It’s a silent revolutionist that has left an indelible imprint on business operations and society at large.

Let’s start with the democratisation of information. Before photocopiers, information was a precious commodity, limited to those who could afford to produce and distribute it. With the advent of photocopying, information became more accessible and less expensive to distribute, levelling the playing field and sparking waves of innovation and change.

In the office realm, photocopiers have been instrumental in increasing productivity and efficiency. Think about it: without the photocopier, we’d still be hand-copying documents, spending more time duplicating information than creating it! The photocopier has not only saved us from this drudgery but also enabled us to share and disseminate information quickly and efficiently.

However, the photocopier’s journey hasn’t been without a few bumps along the way. With great power comes great responsibility, and the ability to duplicate information quickly and cheaply has raised ethical and legal questions. Intellectual property rights, copyright infringements, and privacy concerns have all been hot topics in the photocopier saga.

And let’s not forget the environmental impact. While digital photocopiers have reduced paper and energy usage, they still contribute to e-waste. The toner used in photocopying can be harmful if not disposed of properly.

But fear not, photocopier enthusiasts! Many manufacturers are taking strides towards more sustainable practices, like recycling programs and energy-efficient models. And as we’ll explore in later sections, the future of photocopying holds promise for even more eco-friendly innovations.

In the next section, we’ll delve into a practical guide for leasing buyers and office administrators, looking at the crucial factors to consider when choosing a photocopier. So, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a rookie in the realm of photocopier leasing, stay tuned!

Choosing the Right Photocopier: A Guide for Leasing Buyers and Office Administrators

We’ve journeyed through time, tracing the path of the photocopier from its humble beginnings to its prominent role in today’s offices. Now, let’s take a moment to focus on you, the photocopier leasing buyers and office administration professionals, the unsung heroes who keep our offices humming along smoothly.

Choosing the right photocopier for your office is no small feat. It’s not just about picking the shiniest machine on the showroom floor. There are several factors to consider to ensure you’re making a wise investment.


How many copies does your office make per day or month? Photocopiers are rated for a certain monthly volume; consistently exceeding this can lead to breakdowns.


Measured in pages per minute (PPM), this factor is crucial for offices with high copying demands. There’s nothing more frustrating than a photocopier that can’t keep up with the pace of business.


What else do you need your photocopier to do? Scan, print, fax, email? Today’s multifunction devices (MFDs) can do it all and then some.


This includes not just the initial price or leasing cost but also the cost per copy, maintenance costs, and the cost of consumables like toner.

Leasing a photocopier can be a smart choice for many businesses. It offers flexibility, cost-efficiency and frees you from the hassle of maintenance and repairs. But before you sign on the dotted line, make sure to ask a few key questions. What does the lease cover? What happens if the machine breaks down? What are the terms for service and maintenance?

Armed with this knowledge, you’re well on your way to making an informed decision and choosing the photocopier that’s just right for your office.

In the next section, we’ll peer into the crystal ball and explore the future of photocopying. Spoiler alert: It’s more exciting than you might think! So, keep those reading glasses on, and let’s continue our adventure.

The Future of Photocopying: Peering into the Crystal Ball

Having charted the remarkable journey of the photocopier, it’s now time to gaze into the future. What does it hold for our trusty office ally? Will the rise of digital technology make the photocopier obsolete, or will it evolve and adapt as it has so many times before? Let’s take a speculative leap forward and see what might be in store.


As businesses worldwide become more environmentally conscious, the photocopier industry is set to follow suit. Expect to see advancements in energy efficiency, reduced waste, and more sustainable materials. Manufacturers may also expand their recycling programs and take on greater responsibility for the end-of-life management of their products.

Smarter Machines:

The Internet of Things (IoT) permeates every aspect of our lives, and photocopiers are no exception. Future photocopiers could be more connected, offering advanced analytics, predictive maintenance, and even integration with other office devices. Imagine a photocopier that orders its toner when running low or alerts IT when it needs maintenance. The future is smart!

Enhanced Security:

As photocopiers become more connected, they also become more vulnerable to cyber threats. But fear not! Future photocopiers are likely to have advanced security features, such as biometric access, encrypted data storage, and secure networking capabilities.

Going Beyond Paper:

As the world moves towards digitisation, photocopiers might evolve into sophisticated document management systems. They’ll do more than just copy, print, and scan – they’ll convert documents into editable formats, organise them, store them securely in the cloud, and make them easily retrievable.

3D Copying:

This may sound like science fiction, but 3D photocopying is already a reality in some sectors. While it might not become a standard feature in office photocopiers any time soon, who knows what the future holds?

Despite the rise of digital technology, the photocopier is far from becoming extinct. Its story is a testament to the power of innovation and adaptability. As we’ve seen, this unassuming office machine has continually reinvented itself to meet the changing needs of the office environment, and there’s no reason to believe it will stop now.

So, as we conclude our journey through the remarkable history of the photocopier, take a moment the next time you pass the photocopier in your office. Appreciate it for what it is – a powerful tool that, in its own quiet way, has played a pivotal role in shaping the modern world. Here’s to the photocopier – may its story continue to unfold in fascinating ways!

Conclusion: A Tribute to the Humble Photocopier

Dear readers, as we reach the end of our historical journey, we hope you’ve found a newfound appreciation for the photocopier, a device that, despite its ubiquity, rarely gets the recognition it deserves.

Who would’ve thought that a simple frustration could lead to an invention that revolutionised the office environment and the business world at large? Thanks to Chester Carlson, the tedious task of manual document duplication was replaced by a simple button press.

From its rudimentary beginnings, the photocopier has weathered the storms of scepticism, technological advancements, and societal changes, continually evolving to meet our changing needs. It’s gone from a mere copying device to a multifunctional powerhouse responsible for streamlining workflows and enhancing productivity in countless offices worldwide.

And it’s not just about business. The photocopier has played an important role in society as well, from democratising access to information to raising important questions about ethics and the environment.

As we look towards the future, it’s clear that the photocopier’s journey is far from over. With advancements in sustainability, smart technology, security, and digital document management on the horizon, we’re excited to see where this journey takes us next.

So, the next time you hear the familiar hum of the photocopier, take a moment to appreciate its rich history and pivotal role in shaping the world as we know it. Here’s to the photocopier – the unsung hero of the office!


A special thanks to all the photocopier leasing buyers and office administration professionals who keep our offices running smoothly. Your role in choosing, maintaining, and managing these invaluable machines is crucial. We hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and a deeper appreciation for the devices you work with every day.

Remember, when you’re standing by the photocopier, waiting for those pages to come out, you’re not just making copies. You’re part of a grand history, an ongoing journey of innovation and change.

And who knows? You might just be witnessing the birth of the next big thing in photocopying technology!