Monday, January 5, 2009

Just a little history

read more at Frontier Blog

It's always a good idea to take the long view.

In 1937 Bulgarian physicist Georgi Nadjakov found that, when placed into an electric field and exposed to light, some dielectrics acquire permanent electric polarization in the exposed areas. That polarization persists in the dark and is destroyed in light. Chester Carlson, the inventor of photocopying, was originally a patent attorney, as well as a part-time researcher and inventor. His job at the patent office in New York required him to make a large number of copies of important papers. Carlson, who was arthritic, found this to be a painful and tedious process. As a result, he was motivated to conduct experiments with photoconductivity. Carlson used his kitchen for his “electrophotography” experiments, and, in 1938, he applied for a patent for the process. He made the first “photocopy” using a zinc plate covered with sulfur. The words “10-22-38 Astoria” were written on a microscope slide, which was placed on top of more sulfur and under a bright light. After the slide was removed, a mirror image of the words remained. Carlson tried to sell his invention to some companies, but, because the process was still underdeveloped, he failed. At the time, multiple copies were made using carbon paper or duplicating machines, and people did not see the need for an electronic machine. Between 1939 and 1944, Carlson was turned down by over 20 companies, including IBM and GE, neither of which believed there was a significant market for copiers.

In 1944, the Battelle Memorial Institute, a non-profit organization in Columbus, Ohio, contracted with Carlson to refine his new process. Over the next five years, the institute conducted experiments to improve the process of electrophotography. In 1947, Haloid Corporation (a small New York-based manufacturer and seller of photographic paper) approached Battelle to obtain a license to develop and market a copying machine based on this technology.

Haloid felt that the word “electrophotography” was too complicated and did not have good recall value. After consulting a professor of classical language at Ohio State University, Haloid and Carlson changed the name of the process to “Xerography,” which was derived from Greek words that meant “dry writing.” Haloid called the new copier machines “Xerox Machines” and, in 1948, the word Xerox was trademarked. Haloid eventually changed its name to Xerox Corporation.

In the early 1950s, RCA (Radio Corporation of America) introduced a variation on the process called Electrofax, whereby images are formed directly on specially coated paper and rendered with a toner dispersed in a liquid.

During the 1960s and through the 1980s, Savin Corporation developed and sold a line of liquid-toner copiers that implemented a technology based on patents held by the company.

In 1949, Xerox Corporation introduced the first xerographic copier called the Model A. Xerox became so successful that, in North America, photocopying came to be popularly known as “xeroxing.” Xerox has actively fought to prevent “Xerox” from becoming a genericized trademark. While the word “Xerox” has appeared in some dictionaries as a synonym for photocopying, Xerox Corporation typically requests that such entries be modified, and that people not use the term “Xerox” in this way.

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