A Look Back at Document Imaging Milestones

The Edison Electric Pen copying device

The Edison Electric Pen copying device

With all the end-of-year prognosticating that’s going on, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at some of the office imaging milestones as a change of pace. You’ve heard the old saying, “You can’t tell where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.” This historical perspective illustrates how far the industry has come in a relatively short time, and suggests what’s possible in the future.

1876: Thomas Edison invents the Electric Pen. The Edison Electric Pen was designed to make copies of handwritten text. It worked as a perforating device to create stencils, and was sold with all the equipment and materials needed to make copies from those stencils.

Ad for the AB Dick Mimeograph

Ad for the AB Dick Mimeograph

1887: AB Dick licenses Edison’s patents to develop the mimeograph. AB Dick took Edison’s stencil-based copying to the next level, first by using a waxed paper stencil and then a coated paper wrapped around a rotating drum. Mimeograph machines are still used today, especially in regions where electricity is in short supply.

1938: Chester Carlson and Otto Kornei invent xerography. Xerography is the technology on which all electrostatic printing and copying is based today. It took Carlson 18 years to refine and automate the process to the point where it could be commercialized.

Chester Carlson and his original xerographic device

Chester Carlson and his original xerographic device

The Haloid XeroX Model A

The Haloid XeroX Model A

1949: Haloid introduces the first commercial xerographic copier. Haloid’s XeroX Model A was the first modern copying device. It was messy to use and required a number of manual steps. As a result, it saw limited success. Still, Haloid saw enough potential in the product to eventually change its name to Haloid Xerox, then later to Xerox.

1951: First commercial inkjet printing devices emerge. Siemens is credited with developing the first printing devices using ink. The application was printing output from medical strip chart recorders.

The Xerox 914

The Xerox 914

1959: Xerox 914 becomes the first successful plain paper copier. The Xerox 914 is the product that established the copier as a standard and necessary device for the office, at least for companies that could afford one. Haloid Xerox sold 10,000 of them by 1962, twice as many as projected.

1968: 3M introduces the first color copier. The Color-in-Color copier used a dye-sublimation process rather than an electrostatic process. It was popular primarily with artists.

1973: Canon introduces the first electrostatic color copier. Although an important milestone, the Canon Color Copier had little success.

Xerox Telecopier 200

Xerox Telecopier 200

1975: The Xerox Telecopier 200 is the first laser-based electrostatic device. The Telecopier 200 was actually a fax machine, but its use of laser technology set the stage for the advent of laser copiers and printers. It used technology developed years earlier at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center.

1976: IBM introduces the first laser printer. The IBM 3800 was designed for use with mainframe computers for high-volume printing using continuous feed paper. IBM beat Xerox, which invented the technology, to the market by a year when the Xerox 9700 was released.

IBM 3800 laser printer

IBM 3800 laser printer

HP Thinkjet

HP Thinkjet

1984: HP introduces the Thinkjet, the first mass-market inkjet printer. Although inkjet output devices had been around for many years, HP popularized the technology with the Thinkjet. In 1987, HP’s Paintjet became the first full-color inkjet printer.

Scanntronic MFP conversion kit

Scanntronic MFP conversion kit

1985: The first MFP devices emerge (sort of). In 1985, you could turn your Commodore 64 computer and dot-matrix printer into a multifunction printer with an add-on device from Scanntronic. This do-it-yourself conversion preceded commercial MFPs, which emerged in the 1990s, by at least five years.

Michael Nadeau
About the Author
Michael Nadeau is Editorial Director and Senior Market Analyst for ENX Magazine and ENX The Week in Imaging.