Xerox 914 Hits A Midlife Crisis

The name brand is as synonymous with copying as Tylenol is to headache medication and Kleenex is to tissues. It wowed the copywriters and ad sales workers in the Mad Men era. As much as we loathe its performance at times, we rely on it for everyday office duties. And at the end of the day, some of us have been known to go postal on a few. This year, the Xerox 914, the first one-piece plain paper photocopier — turns 50 ... a half-century of reliability, creation and endless (well, sort of) possibilities for the information age. "Why no champagne?" asks Edward Tenner of The Atlantic, as he is one of the few people to report on the iconic office product's legacy:

Although Xerox celebrated the 914 in fall 2009, it wants to move on from hardware-manufacturing alone to being what its Web site calls "a true partner in helping companies better manage information"—that is, a provider of business services, software, and new forms of paperless imaging. The 914 is a classic brand, but not a living one like the Swingline stapler or Bic pen. And although millions still make photocopies, the practice has been in decline.

But Tenner notes that Carlson's influential product should still be remembered in the digital age for its developments in personalization, disaggregation and creation when it comes to all things paper (and don't forget procrastination, but I'll leave that up to others to figure that one out).

Hmmm ... although we are all being urged to "go green" and to send, transfer and read files on phones and computers, we all have our memories with the photocopier — good and bad. I still remember the copy shop at my alma mater. It literally looks like a time capsule made in 1985 — stacks of papers everywhere, copiers galore, and the strong smell of printing ink. And I remember walking uphill — both ways, through snow — to pick up my communication law study packets. OK, not all of that is true. But man, those were the days. The Xerox machine — getting us out of (and into) jams since 1959.

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