Archive for Thursday, February 22, 2007

When photocopying today, remember the Hectograph

February 22, 2007

How easy it is to make copies now of any printed material with all the fancy new printers available in our homes or places of business. This makes me remember how our teachers in the middle 1930s made the copies of our test papers for all the students using a Hectograph.

The Hectograph is a gelatin duplicator. It is a printing process that involved the transfer of an original prepared with special inks applied to a pan of solid type gelatin that would absorb the ink from the original.

This would take a few minutes. Each individual sheet of special paper would be pressed onto the image and the print would transfer to the paper. You could make about 20 to 25 copies at the most. Any more than that, the copies would be faded and blurred.

I can remember seeing this done and it was totally fascinating. The teachers or students that did this usually ended up with blue fingers.

During the 1940s in high school we used a mimeograph machine. A special stencil was mounted onto a drum that could be turned by hand or electrical. In typing class we learned how to make a stencil for this machine. We had to be really careful because if you typed an o too hard, the center would come out and it would come out as a big round blob.

Each year the printing process progressed tremendously. In 1960 the photo copy machine was invented by Chester Carlson. He was a physicist. In 1934 he started working to perfect a dry copy and by 1938 made his first successful copies using electrostatics. He is remembered as being the father of xerographic printing.

Carslon's neighbors knew him as "the mad scientist" after his years of struggle, plagued with crippling arthritis, and using his kitchen for experiment. He died in 1968 at age 62 after earning $150 million for his invention. He gave $100 million to charity.

We are so lucky to have the conveniences of copying, and we do not stop to think about the years and years of experimentation to make this work.

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