NPR - Copy machines can be found in every office, and most of us take them for granted. But 75 years ago, the technology that underpins the modern photocopier was used for the first time in a small apartment in Queens.
Inventor Chester Carlson used static electricity created with a handkerchief, light and dry powder to make the first copy on Oct. 22, 1938.
The copier didn't get on to the market until 1959, more than 20 years later. When it did, the Xerox machine prompted a dramatic change in the workplace.
The first commercial model, the Xerox 914, was bulky and cumbersome. It weighed nearly 650 pounds. It was the size of about two washing machines and was prone to spontaneous combustion.
But even literally going up in flames wasn't enough to kill the product. In fact, it was in high demand.
"There was a distinct need for simple copying like this, and it just took off," says Ray Brewer, historical archivist for Xerox Corp. "We sold thousands of these machines, and the demand was such that we were manufacturing them in large quantities."
Brewer says the popularity of Xerox technology abroad inspired more clandestine uses for the copier. Some machines actually had miniature cameras built into them during the Cold War for the purpose of spying on other countries.