I still remember the excitement of being allowed to run off copies on the school photocopier, watching in amazement as it perfectly stapled each set of copies. The whole room was delicately scented with fresh toner on paper. Of course, as we get older, our appreciation of the photocopier changes to one of the time and energy-saving benefits that it can offer.

A photocopier creates an electrostatic image of a document on a rotating drum, using it to transfer powdered ink called toner onto a piece of paper, then sealing it with heat. It’s hard to find an office, a school or even a business without a photocopier these days. From its inception in the fifties, the photocopier has become a much-loved piece of office equipment.

It’s played a significant supporting role in the transformation of culture, politics and art throughout the 20th Century, making it possible to provide people with mass information very quickly.

However, despite our love affair with the humble copier, the cost of a photocopier remains high. As copiers have become capable of more than simply printing, copying and stapling, the cost has remained too high for some companies to shoulder.

Despite this, and despite the rise in new technologies such as 3D printing and more digital-specific methods of transferring data, the nation’s love of the photocopier continues. But what is it that fuels this? Here, we’ll take a look at the importance of the photocopier over the years.

Photocopiers and how they changed the way that we work.

The early days of the humble photocopier

Until the advent of the photocopier, copying a document and sharing printed knowledge was a time-consuming and tedious process, inaccessible by most. Books were written by hand and word of these books shared by mouth. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States used a pantograph – an original and stripped back form of photocopier made of wood and connected to a duo of pens that would imitate the lead pen during the 1700s. There were other crude, yet similar copying machines around this time too.

The mimeograph machine was created at the turn of the 20th century which was closer still to the photocopier that we know and love today.

Then in 1959, Xerox introduced the ‘914’. This was the world’s first easy-to-use photocopier. It was electronically powered and was unprecedented in terms of speed and productivity. The 914 would enable the user to produce around 2,000 copies per month, each copy printed in as little as seven seconds.

These days HP, Epson, Canon and Brother are all doing what they can to bag themselves a piece of this lucrative photocopier market. However, despite the tougher competition, Xerox still enjoys the number one spot in terms of market share in the States, holding over 50,000 patents worldwide and investing $1bn in research and development every year.

How did the photocopier change the workplace?

The photocopier transformed the way that people worked, providing an entirely new way to record, store and process information. Employees could print and store information that workers could easily understand and access. Photocopiers also facilitated a degree of transparency in many companies and office environments, enabling directors, managers and employees to keep track of past statements and documents.

Meanwhile, outside of the office, minority groups and smaller political parties were now able to reach out to the mass public through the use of photocopiers.

For creatives, the photocopier enabled them to share their ideas with the world

Up until then, creatives had been dependent on crude methods of reproduction or hand-crafted creations but the photocopier introduced the opportunity to create zines, magazines and booklets. Illustrations could finally be mass-produced at an affordable price. This acted as a catalyst for the burgeoning marketing industry.

Since the creation of the 914, there have been a number of technological advancements that have each left the mark on the copier market.

However, new developments such as multi-purpose photocopiers that can fax, copy, scan and print, and the increasing digitalisation of photocopiers mean that the cost of investing in a photocopier remains high.

Photocopiers can now be networked more easily without extensive cabling to enable organisations to centralise their printing, making management of printing equipment easier and more cost-effective. Copies can even be printed whilst on the road, ready for an employee’s arrival at the office. Printers can be monitored for upcoming issues remotely. And we can reliably get advance warning when toner or paper is running low.  Security is another key area in which photocopiers are becoming increasingly sophisticated, stepping up to meet the legal and ethical demands of data protection.

So, what’s next for the humble photocopier?

I feel confident that the focus on security will continue, as we all come to identify more effective methods of protecting our copied data.

And, as 3D printers also come to the market, it becomes increasingly possible to duplicate 3D items in the same way that the photocopier enabled us to reproduce 2D images or pages. Maybe we’ll see some kind of combining of these two pieces of equipment over time?

One key change we will see will be the accessibility of photocopiers to smaller businesses.

These days the internet and the ease of printing and publishing digital content means it’s easier than ever to set up a business. And new businesses will need access to copiers and printers, but it seems archaic that new businesses should be disadvantaged by not having access to the vast amounts of capital bigger businesses have the luxury of calling on. By leasing a photocopier, these new (or small) businesses can benefit from this critical piece of office equipment in the same way that larger businesses can.

What’s more, with new services such as ASL Flex, businesses can also scale up or down the photocopiers they lease to reflect their needs within an agreed variance on their contract. This removes the risk of taking out a lease contract with the flexibility that it offers, enabling businesses to avoid unnecessary overheads when things are quieter, but expand their photocopier fleet at the drop of a hat when business demands.

To find out more about how you can lease a photocopier on a flexible lease with ASL Flex, contact us today on 01954 782333.