The Xerox 914 copier was introduced at a trade show in New York City, over 50 years ago, on September 16, 1959. The name 914 came from the fact that the machine photocopied images as large as nine by fourteen inches and the first copy took fifteen seconds, with each copy after that taking about seven seconds to complete. The old machine is currently housed on the second floor of the 30-story corporate tower called Xerox Square.
The 914 made photocopying cheap, easy and ubiquitous and its success made Xerox Corp what it is today. The Connecticut-based company is a Fortune 500 firm that employees over 54,000 employees worldwide. Last week, Xerox CEO Ursula Burns hosted a group of retired employees who were initially involved with the 914. "It's foundational to the company. It's what really transitioned Haloid from a company that made photographic paper to a company that was in the business of documents. And it really changed the face of the office," said Steve Hoover, Vice President of Xerox's Global Software and Solutions group.
The original copier was produced at a factory in Rochester, New York; each one weighed 600 pounds a piece. It was even the subject of a 2004 book, Copies in Seconds: How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg. And it was definitely a breakthrough in technology. When the copier came about, copying a piece of paper was mostly done with carbon paper, a lithograph machine, and chemically based processes such as 3M Co.'s Thermo-Fax and Eastman Kodak Co.'s Verifax. The 914 and many of today's photocopiers use xerography or electro photography.
Even though the Xerox's digital iGen4 presses is pretty much the same today as it was 50 years ago, today's technology uses a laser instead of a flash of light to expose the image. Xerox also has a number of inkjet products but executives say they don't think xerography is going anywhere anytime soon.
Joe Wilson, the founder of Xerox, originally shopped the idea for the new technology to investors such as IBM but no one was interested. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands, raising money and depending on friends to put the machine together. The original machine was leased to customers due to the fact that it came from a small, unknown company, and had yet to be tested. According to Horace Becker, the now 86-year-old chief engineer of the 914, "The rest is history."
"The orders started to roll in. We started with the idea we'd build five a day at the Orchard Street plant. Then we moved to 25 a day. When we finally moved out of Orchard Street to Webster, we were building over 100 a day," Becker told the Democrat and Chronicle.
Between 1960 and the early 1970's, over 200,000 o the 914s were produced. Becker says the demand was so high, hardly any money was made and almost before the company even turned a profit, they began planning the 813.