Arts & Culture

How photocopiers changed the way we work

From their creation in the fifties to their consistent use in today’s modern offices, the humble photocopier is an essential item that businesses simply could not operate without. Transcending the office environment, photocopiers even helped to transform the world of politics and art in the 20th century, providing people with mass information in an incredibly short time frame. To put it simply, getting your message out to a wide audience had never been easier.

In today’s world of information, the rise of 3D printing and more digital-specific methods of transferring data have seen a shift in the way that we work. However, no matter how far technology progresses, we expect to see photocopiers remain an important part of the office for the foreseeable future. Read on as we take a look at the importance of photocopiers and how they changed the way that we work.

Where did it begin?

Up until the fifties, copying a document and spreading printed knowledge was a time-consuming and tedious process that wasn’t accessible to most. It would often mean having to handwrite books and documents in small batches, that would then rely on word of mouth to be shared. Thomas Jefferson was known to use a pantograph, the most stripped back form of a photocopier, created from wood and connected to a duo of pens that would imitate the lead pen, to create mechanical copies. Other crude, yet similar copying machines were created at this time. At the turn of the 20th century, the closest machine to the photocopier, the mimeograph machine, was created.

This all changed in 1959. Xerox introduced the ‘914’, the world’s first easy-to-use photocopier, that was electronically powered and simple enough for any worker to use. The ‘914’ was groundbreaking in terms of its speed and productivity, having the ability to produce around 2,000 copies per month and printing each copy in as little as seven seconds. This made a huge change to the way that information moved around and by 1966, Xerox was printing a total of 14 billion copies for Americans each year. Newspapers, posters and flyers all became staples in offices, for politicians and in the military, helping to shape today’s working environment in a multitude of ways.

How did the photocopier affect offices?

From its introduction to offices in the 1970s, the photocopier completely changed the way that companies and offices functioned, introducing an entirely new way of recording, processing and storing information. Instead of giving a possibility of plagiarism and untruth, the photocopier meant that staff were able to print and store information that workers could understand and gain access to much more easily. The mass-production capabilities of photocopiers and printers also meant that there was added transparency in many companies and office environments, as company directors, managers and employees were able to keep track of past statements and documents.

Outside of the office, the photocopier changed the political landscape, giving minority groups and smaller political parties the chance to be heard by the mass public. Important messages were able to be copied in their thousands, and distributed across cities, regions and even countries. As well as affecting the political landscape, the photocopier also became a huge help to public services and the health industry, providing an easy way to alert and educate the public about certain illnesses or outbreaks. Condé Nast and NBC took advantage of this, using the photocopier to print thousands of copies of posters and fliers that were then distributed across New York for AIDS awareness campaigns.

What did the photocopier mean for creatives?

As well as providing easy-to-access sources of information and data, the photocopier was a brilliant addition to the creative world. Up until its introduction to the mainstream, publishing relied on crude methods of reproduction or hand-crafted creations. For artists and creatives, the scope of potential was much more limited.

The photocopier introduced a new world of possibility, with the ability to create zines, magazines and booklets a reality for anyone. Illustrations could be mass produced and sold to the masses, and creating mixed media work became more attainable and attractive.

Advertising and marketing industries hugely benefited from this, discovering new and inventive ways to interest and engage the public. This helped to push the marketing industry to new heights, in turn creating space for more printed marketing agencies and an entirely new way of promoting products and brands.

How has the photocopier developed?

Since the photocopier’s introduction to offices in the seventies, there haven’t actually been many big changes. The development of the combi-photocopier was the biggest advancement and one that happened within a decade of photocopiers being introduced to offices. Most offices today now have a combi-photocopier, which has proven to be perhaps the most popular form of the photocopier. Other than this, the majority of changes have been superficial.

Technology advanced and saw photocopiers go from optical scanning to digital, essentially helping them become faster – and adapting to the world of computers. Rather than using light to scan and process a document, a document on a digital photocopier is first scanned and then saved as an electronic file which is used to print a replica. The results of digital photocopiers are superior to their predecessors, and a noticeable difference of print quality is apparent between the two. In today’s offices, you’ll only find digital photocopiers and combi-photocopiers.

Andrew HoyleHow photocopiers changed the way we work
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How to know which printer services are right for your business


From small businesses to large, almost every workplace will have printing needs. But, if you’re looking for a way to increase the reliability of your printing operation while keeping costs under control, how do you know which printer services are the right fit for your business? In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the options available from ASL, and which companies they may be best suited for.

Managed Print Services (MPS)

A Managed Print Services (MPS) contract begins when you contact ASL to discuss your printing needs. Our expert team will then work with you to understand precisely what printing services you need and develop, install, and maintain a bespoke solution for your organisation.

MPS is cost-effective for businesses which produce moderate to high amounts of printed material, or who need to implement strict monitoring or compliance solutions to regulate document printing or access. An MPS contract includes the cost of procuring and installing all of the hardware and software, so it can also be an ideal option for growing enterprises who are looking for financial predictability and to reduce their capital costs, or exposure to high-value, depreciating assets.

Managed Document Services (MDS)

For businesses with complex or high-volume workflows, Managed Document Services, or MDS, can streamline and optimise your entire document process from ingest to print.

MDS differs from MPS in that it includes print/copy management software and processes, as well as a document management, archiving, and retrieval system. If you have filing cabinets full of documents which seem to get fuller on a daily basis, then you will know the pain of wasting hours trying to find that one piece of paper you need. MDS can remove all of that stress and hassle by ensuring that you, and your team, can access any business document you require in seconds, right from your workstation.

MDS is also an ideal option for businesses who need to ensure confidentiality and security of the documents in their care. Because ASL offers document management software with full access control and auditing built in, you can be confident that only those who are authorised to access a document will be able to do so. Audit reports will help you to demonstrate your compliance, and ensure that you don’t fall foul of data protection legislation such as the GDPR.

Hardware leasing

Organisations with lower-volume, or simpler, printing needs may benefit from controlling their printing costs through a hardware leasing arrangement. These contracts allow you to procure the latest in copy and print technology for a fraction of the upfront cost and gain financial predictability because servicing, depreciation, and all consumables can be included in your monthly leasing payment.

Equipment leasing is available through ASL for our whole range of business copy and print solutions, from a variety of leading manufacturers including Canon, Kyocera, Ricoh and many others. Because ASL has strong partnerships will all of the leading manufacturers, we can negotiate the best value deals – on hardware and consumables – and pass those savings on to you, the customer, through your contract or leasing agreement.

Consultancy and Project Management

ASL offers all of our customers a bespoke, tailor-made service. However, for the very largest businesses or those with unusually complex needs, we are also able to undertake an entire consultancy and project management service.

With this option, our expert staff will work with your team to develop, implement, and support a printing and document service which will meet the needs of your business. Our project managers are trained to the highest standard, including PRINCE2, and all our engineers are CompTIA accredited, with many also Microsoft certified.

Once the ideal solution for your business has been identified, ASL will procure any necessary hardware, carry out the complete installation on your premises, and then work with you to train your staff to make the most of your new systems. Ongoing support is also covered, with our engineers and remote support teams available on call 24/7.

Software Options

If your business already has the printing hardware it needs, you may like to consider adding print management software to your set-up. Organisations which process and need to keep track of a large number of documents may want to examine a file management programme, or scanning software, to aid in digitising their workflow. Businesses whose primary concern is cost-control would benefit from print-queue management to ensure that staff are only printing essential documents, and reduce paper use.

ASL can supply a range of industry-leading software options, as well as offering support and assistance with installation, and staff training.

Whatever the size and shape of your business, contact ASL today to find out which of our printer services options best suits you.


Andrew HoyleHow to know which printer services are right for your business
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