Xerox was considered a useless invention

Posted on Mar 11, 2022      125

Is it possible to imagine our modern life without the photocopier? Billions of photocopies are made around the world every day and I can't believe that it took the inventor of this indispensable machine years to put his “brainchild” into mass production.

Chester Carlson, a graduate of the California Institute of Technology, found himself in a difficult situation: finding a job in the United States in the thirties was difficult. The country was in a terrible crisis. With difficulty, the graduated physicist could get a job as an assistant patent lawyer.

Every day, Carlson had to copy a lot of documents. The page had to be photographed, then took a long time to make the picture. The junior associate had to work late into the night. That’s when he thought about the possibility of making a device that would speed up making copies of documents.

Carlson made the world’s first photocopy in a shed kindly provided by his mother-in-law. In that shed, he worked hard on a machine that would make the work of any office worker much easier. The first copy bore the inscription: “10-22-38 ASTORIA. This was the date and place of a successful experiment: October 22, 1938. But “Astoria” was the name given by the inventor to the very room where he conducted his experiments. For the first copying image, Carlson used wax paper and powder with an admixture of sulfur, which stuck to the wax when heated.

Carlson could get a patent for his invention only four years later. And then began a long and painful search for a company that could launch the copier into mass production. The young inventor stubbornly proved the necessity of such a useful thing, but all he heard in response was ridicule. Even Linda, the young scientist’s wife, tired of waiting for “golden mountains” and filed for divorce.

Only in 1947, the humble, firm Haloed gained the right to manufacture copy machines. Two years later, the first model came out. Such a copying process was called “xerography,” which literally means “dry writing” in Greek.

Over time, the little-known company Haloid developed into the major corporation of Xerox, whose name is still firmly associated with copying technology, and Chester Carlson became a millionaire. Interestingly, the inventor spent most of his money on charity.

The man who gave the world the wonderful machine died in 1968 at 62. He died quickly and quietly: he fell asleep during a session at a movie theater in New York City and never woke up again.