Happy 50th Anniversary to Xerox’s First Copier — 914!

— Submitted by Christine Winter, Xerox public relations intern

“There she is in all her pride and glory,” gasped one Xerox retiree as she approached the Xerox 914 on display in the lobby of the Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation. “That’s my baby.”

The woman, probably in her late 70’s, was one of over 100 retirees and their guests that joined Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and Xerox 914 Chief Engineer Horace Becker to celebrate the golden anniversary of the first, automated plain-paper copier. Xerox introduced the device that revolutionized the way information was shared around the world exactly 50 years ago.

I had the privilege of sitting on the planning committee for the reception and greeting the many people who contributed to the successful launch of the Xerox 914, which would change how business was done in offices small and large. Past Xerox technicians, engineers and testers told stories and shared memories as they rustled through old photos. Some even brought their own. I felt proud to be a part of a great celebration, and a great company.

After mingling and posing for photos with retirees, Ursula stood at a podium in the production showroom for opening remarks. “We honor you and your families today for your sacrifices and perseverance.” She continued, “To the remarkable ingenuity and creativity of Chester Carlson, who invented what came to be called xerography. To the equally remarkable, risk-taking envision of Joe Wilson, who bet the fortunes of his family business on an idea that no one else wanted. And, to the men and women of Haloid and Xerox whose sacrifice and courage brought the 914 to market.”

Proud tears turned to smiles when Ursula gave Horace the floor, who opened with a sarcastic plea to his fellow retirees to “get back to work” because they left Ursula a rather large corporation and “she could use some good engineers.” But the best moment was when he called on the crowd to “take the time to go around and see what you helped launch.” “I want you to see why you should be proud. You didn’t just come to work everyday. You launched a means of communication that made it possible for the world to get ahead.”

The Xerox 914 has spawned decades of Xerox innovation and leadership. Thank you to those who made it possible.  To view photos and videos from the event, visit our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/#/XeroxCorp?v=photos

Christine Winter, Xerox public relations intern

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11 Comments

  1. Robert Tanner November 30, 2009 - Reply

    I joind Rank Xerox in London, about 1967. I was trained on the 1285, the 914, and the 813, and worked in the City of London. Our base was at No.40 Wilson St. Close to Liverpool St. Staition. I became a team leader in 1971. I insisted that the members of my team always made sure that that the copier they were working on was always in perfect working order before they left. Although it meant them spending longer on each call, it meant that it worked longer before it came back in again. We became the best section by far in the whole of the London walking area.
    On one occasion they reorganised the sections, giving us the worst section, while the worst section was given our’s.
    This upset the members of my team, but we continued to work the same way, and in six weeks, we were the best section again. It proved a point!
    I was always one of the first to be trained on new products, and I covered the exhibitions, and the launching of new products in the London area. Including Sorters, A.D.F’s, and the first fax mc.s.
    To say I loved my job would be an understatment, and my team and I had the greatest respect from our customers. My work No. was 578.
    If you want to know more get back to me.

  2. Christine Winter December 2, 2009 - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your story, Robert, and thanks again for your years of hard work and commitment to Xerox. I hope I can look back at my career with the same satisfaction some day!

  3. […] Real Business at Xerox, Wikipedia, Smithsonian NMAH, The Copier […]

  4. Richard Cross January 11, 2010 - Reply

    Christine belated congratulations on an elegant and evocative blog, and an extraordinary contribution from Robert.

    Those retiree’s certainly played their part in history and how marvelous to hear of David Kearns. I was talking to Tim Shriver, CEO of the of Paralympics fame last year who asked after him.

    I came across this link http://ideaseller.typepad.com/idea_sellers/2008/01/old-sales-messa.html?cid=96159324 ‘ It covers how Xerox devised and deployed a sales training school that served as the model for every professional sales training program that would follow. ‘ I t includes an inspirational Joe Wilson, the Xerox CEO in 1960, addressing a new sales intake those who sold the 914. Amazingly, but not for those who knew him I suppose his message stands the test of time.

    I agree with one of the commentators on the photo’s that Xerography was one of the inventions of the last century. As Stephen will know Rank Xerox as they were known were one of the first Western companies to operate in the former Communist bloc. Less widely known is the pivotal role of copiers and Xerox in the downfall of Communism. Recently (as you can guess I am a Xerox alumni) as part of a book I am writing on extraordinary people I interviewed our former Eastern Europe GM there, whom I worked for over twenty years ago. He reminded that one of his proudest moments after nearly 30 years of working in Eastern Europe was when Yiftechenko, the Russia poet, a Dumas representative after the first elections famously said ‘what I mean by democracy is when every household can have a Xerox copier’. The GM was also responsible for selling the copiers to philanthropist George Soros. In fact Kauffman biographer of Soros wrote ‘If you asked billionaire George Soros what his proudest achievement was, his answer would probably make mention of the hundreds of Xerox copiers procured for his native Hungary in the early 1980s by the cultural foundation he established there. The Xerox machines helped bring open communication to a Communist country that invested several decades in rigorously controlling the means by which information is disseminated.’ In fact it is maintained that copiers stood as a metaphor for the entire concept of an open society. They not only reflected the idea of unfettered access to information they also signified citizen involvement in finding data and passing it on.’

    Prior to Soros’s gift of Xerox machines to Hungarian libraries and Universities access to such machines was strictly controlled. Researchers were required to submit applications to copy materials and then wait several weeks. According to Kauffman the Xerox machines ‘leveraged a relatively small grant to change the landscape of Hungarian academia. ‘Quite suddenly without any announcement people in the intellectual and University environments were able to copy whatever they needed. This made it harder for the authorities to stem the flow of information.‘

    More recently Endre Danyi a sociologist writing about the Xerox project supports in characterizing Photocopy machines as a metaphor for an Open Society described how one of the Xerox machines meaning was a threat to the Communist system. They were seen as tools that in the wrong hands could turn out to be very hazardous; it became impossible to lock all machines away. The real political use was in their use by the powerless, ‘it amplified democratisation at the level of the individual’. For the real, the dominant meaning was ‘freedom or more precisely unfettered access to information.’

    By comparison in Czechoslovakia more overtly political use of copiers was made. Dr. Jiří Dienstbier in his Guarini lecture Charter 77 -30 Years on April 2, 2007 recounts how at the beginning of 1988 ‘we (Charta77 with playwright then President Havel as one of its founders) started publication of Lidové noviny as a regular monthly paper. Originally three hundred copies were made on Xerox. Thanks to activities of its distributors however, who multiplied the original copy on their machines, even the State security estimation was fifteen thousand copies of each number. These copies circulated among many other readers. When in November 1989 millions of Czechs and Slovaks went into the streets a lot of people were prepared and qualified to take a lead. Therefore the revolution was not chaotic…….Someone in the world press named it the “Velvet Revolution” and this label has survived ‘

    Later on James Billington’s, the Librarian of Congress and America’s foremost historian of Culture was in Moscow during Putsch of 1991 when they tried to overthrow Gorbachev. According to Billington; ‘the heart of the resistance was the Xerox machine; its nerve center, a system of multiple electronic communication links with the outside world; its eyes and ears, the young television technicians whose instant documentaries legitimising the resistance were presented in the manner of medieval miracle chronicles; and its key voices of persuasion, such implausible types as young priests, Afghan veterans, and provincial Siberians.

    All told what a remarkable heritage and reminder of a great company. An outstanding tribute to those early pioneers and alumni recognised by the event as well as those remaining at Xerox to hold and report on such an event.

  5. Jim Mooney September 19, 2011 - Reply

    I also joined RX in 1967 (April) working out of Luton office, Dublin (!) and Newcastle upon Tyne (1971 -72). I did the first day launch of the 2400CFP with sorter and slitter/perforator at the BEE and later the Fax. George Stephenson gave me lessons as guinea pig pupil as he developed Telehone Selling Skills in 1967 for Bill Wyman’s Branch, Luton. It was (is?) a wonderful company which set me up for a long and succesful career in sales. I will always be grateful.

    • Karen Arena September 20, 2011 - Reply

      Jim, What a story! And thank you for sharing it here with us. It’s the people, past and present, that make the fabric of this company and the iconic brand that it has become.

  6. Robert Tanner December 10, 2011 - Reply

    To cont. My story from the 30/11/2009.
    The first time I worked on the 914, I was not even employed by Rank Xerox. I had moved to Harlow in Essex. To get my own House, and job, for my wife and young family. I was working for A.E.I’s there. I was called up to the typing pool, and told that the Rank Xerox Eng. had said that the fault on the Xerox Mc. was due to a problem with the supply not the Mc. I chk. this out and there was no problems with the supply. So I asked them to call the Eng. back. I was asked to waite for him so I could tell him myself!
    While I was waiting I thought I would have a look to see if I could find the fault. I traced the fault from the mains input through to an area underneath the platten glass, I took off the side panel that was there, and found a small board with a rectification circuit on it, Two of the Diodes looked as if they were faulty Just then a voice above me say (“and what the bloody hell do you think you are doing”) I got up and said (“Im looking for your fault”} X-Eng. (“and I suppose you think you have found it”) Very Sarcaticly. (“Yes I have”) and I told him what I had found. X-Eng.(“Let me have a look.- F***ing hell I think your right”) He stood up, and much moor politley this time (“Have you worked on these befor then”) No! (“You have never worked on these befor, and you found this fault! You are waisted hear mate, You should work for us!”) So I did! See 30/11/2009.

  7. Robert Tanner December 13, 2011 - Reply

    To cont. My story once more. Ref, Commets 1&7.
    After finishing my course I was put to work in the City of London, I soon found that I was doing 8 to 11 calls each day! But then I realised that they were the same customers that I was visiting over and over againe. So I slowed down, and maed sure that the M/C I was working on was in its best working condition before I left it. My call rate droped from 8 to 11, down to 3 or 4. But the calls did not come back in again as quickly as they did before, and this gave me more time to do an even better job, and also some modifications. Things just got better, and better. However I did notice that other X-Eng. were being called up for intervews for promotion, So I went to see my manager to ask why? I saw his secretary and arranged to see him, But as I was leaving she called me back “can you come here at 11 o-clock tomorrow Bob, you have an interview for the team leaders job” I canceled the meeting I had just arranged. The next day I was promoted, and had my own team.

    • Janie Cram July 22, 2015 - Reply

      Were you aware of the marketing of the 914 in Tehran, Iran around 1955-59?

  8. Jan July 23, 2013 - Reply

    Hi, I have a copier in the Museum Rank Xerox 813 and Rank Xerox 660.
    If you are interested in this please write. Best Regards Jan

  9. Jan Kaluza July 30, 2013 - Reply

    Hi, I have in my collection of Rank Xerox Photocopying 813 and Rank Xerox 660The copier is efficient and makes prints.I have some views about the old copiers.I have some supplies: toner, developer and spare parts.
    Regards
    Jan – Poland

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