Saturday, December 4, 1999
XEROGRAPHY (the word is derived from two Greek words meaning dry and writing) was invented by Chester Carlson. Carlson, born in 1906 (exact date is not available), belonged to a family that had to struggle for its livelihood. At the age of 12, a lean and thin boy, he did odd jobs in California, adding to the resources of the family.
By the age of 14, Carlson became the main supporting member of the family as both his parents were invalids. He was up at 5 a.m. and worked all day. Under such circumstances most boys would probably drop out of school, but Carlson was determined to carry on. On Saturdays and Sundays, he worked in a chemical laboratory. When he was 17 years old, his mother passed away. He wanted to gain a degree in physics. With an ailing father to support and financial constraints, it was tough on him. He managed to get a degree in physics, but by then he had a debt of Rs 6,600.
Despite the degree in hand, he couldnt manage a job. He applied to over 80 firms, but in vain. He finally joined a New York electronics firm. While working there he realised the dire need of a machine that could copy the original. He thought of the great advantage and convenience that such a machine could provide.
In 1935, he started working on his idea. For three years he worked all alone, spent hours and hours reading and trying to work out a solution to his problem. He was carrying out three tasks at a time. He was studying for a law degree and had to attend evening classes. He held a job for survival and also pursued his dream. He worked in a tiny room in a suburb of Astoria.
His investigations finally brought him successful results. On October 22, 1938, he wrote the words "10-22-38 Astoria", and he used his invention to bring out an exact copy of the same. It was the first electrostatic copying. This was later called xerography, which means dry writing. With the invention by his side, he knocked the doors of numerous companies, but nobody seemed to be interested in his work.
The Battele Memorial
Institute, a non-profit organisation did agree to support
him, but financially, it wasnt working out well for
Chester. He got a real break when the Haloid Company,
later called Xerox Corporation, negotiated with him for
commercial rights. In 1950, the first Xerox machines were
available in the American market. The Xerox company saw
the bright future of this great invention and they put in
millions of dollars into further research work and
marketing. Then the Rank Xerox Ltd. owned by the Rank
organisation (J. Arthur Rank had a chain of cinemas under
him), and Xerox Corporation was launched in Britain to
market the machines to various countries. Within a couple
of years, the profits of the Rank Xerox multiplied over a
hundred times. The wonder that the machine does for us,
is beyond expression. Almost every student, teacher,
office employee practically everybody uses
it. Carlson, finally got to live in great comfort and
enjoyed the fruits of his hard labour.
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