UK Photocopier Guide
Since they were invented, by Chester Carlson in the 1930s, photocopiers have become a staple and indispensable part of working life.
Despite initially being turned down by over 20 companies, including IBM, who felt there was no market for such a device. Carlson's 'xerox machine'
eventually became so popular that the word 'xerox' came to be synonymous with photocopying.
However, the Xerox company has done its best to prevent Xerox from becoming a genericized trademark, which would mean the relinquishment of their rights over the term. It may be for this reason that the slightly more cumbersome term 'photocopier' retains its popularity.
Despite the great leaps forward in document processing that photocopying has enabled, photocopiers have also been exploited in the services of plagiarism and counterfeiting.
As technology advanced, and colour and digital photocopiers became available, governments became increasingly concerned by the problem of forged currency, and introduced various technologies to combat this.
Currency has been adapted by the introduction of watermarks, microprinting and holograms, and some photocopiers have been equipped with software that recognizes currency and prevents it from being copied.
There is also the issue of copyright infringement, particularly in academic institutions, where individuals work with a prohibitively large number of books, and find it impractical to purchase all of them for the sake of a relatively small amount of text.
In some regions, universities get round this problem by paying a certain amount per photocopy to copyright collectives, which then distribute the funds to various journals and periodicals. In others the content of classroom materials is meticulously researched and attributed.
Although they have revolutionized both office and cultural life, and made documents far more accessible to the general public, photocopiers are not without their disadvantages, and are potentially a health hazard if used incorrectly.
The ultra-violet light they produce can cause eye irritation and burns, and they give off several harmful chemicals, including selenium, cadmium sulphide and carbon monoxide. There is also a fire risk from the combination of excessive dust and overheating parts.
Users of photocopiers are advised to ensure that the machine is positioned in a well ventilated area, away from workstations, and that it is regularly checked by a qualified professional.
Despite all these drawbacks, however, photocopiers are generally acknowledged to be a massive advance in the transmission and dissemination of information, and have certainly played a big part on making the world what it is today.