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MOTAT explores office revolution: starting

Fujifilm Business Innovation New Zealand (FBNZ) has provided four heritage photocopying machines dating back to the 1950s to MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. The donation includes one of the earliest commercial photocopiers, the Rank Xerox Model 1385.

Piotr Wnuk, Fujifilm donates four heritage photocopiers to MOTAT, New Zealand Printer, 31 March 2023

Fujifilm Business Innovation New Zealand (FBNZ) has provided four heritage photocopying machines dating back to the 1950s to MOTAT, the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland. The donation includes one of the earliest commercial photocopiers, the Rank Xerox Model 1385.

MOTAT’s commitment to caring for and preserving these machines acknowledges the significance and impact this technology had in modernising New Zealand working culture throughout the second half of the last century.

“We’re so pleased to be receiving these devices from the Fujifilm team,” said Belinda Nevin, curatorial research manager at MOTAT. “To have several machines that showcase the technological developments and advancements of photocopying in the mid-20th century is rare and we’re looking forward to having these items within the MOTAT Collection.”

The Model 1385 was among the first commercially available xerography machines, later known as photocopiers. The Model 1385 provided to MOTAT was built in 1953 and used at the Government Printing Office in Wellington. Although the 1385 machine made copying less time-consuming, it did involve a manual six-step process to create one copy, and it would take around five minutes to complete the process per sheet of paper.

Kevin Ptak, head of marketing and communications at FBNZ, said: “These machines were the first of their kind to enter New Zealand workplaces, starting a new era in office technology and completely changing how people worked.

“It was a pivotal moment in our technological history. Workplace technology has changed enormously since these machines launched, but we are still committed to bringing cutting-edge technologies to Kiwi businesses that help people work smarter.

“We’re thrilled MOTAT will preserve them as part of the wider collection that will tell the history of office technology to New Zealanders for many generations to come.”

The four photocopiers from FBNZ showcase the developments in technology from the 1950s through the late 1970s and (in addition to the Model 1385) include Rank Xerox Model 422, a version of the famous Model 914 photocopier launched in 1959 which became the first commercially successful device and launched the revolution in office photocopying.

FBNZ also donated Rank Xerox Model 660, introduced in 1966, as the first “desktop” photocopier, weighing 86 kilograms.

The fourth machine, which will soon be displayed at MOTAT, is Fuji Xerox 2202, launched in 1979 in New Zealand and introduced adjustable printing controls and the cassette-type paper tray.

Mike Wood was an Auckland-based technician servicing these devices for almost 50 years. He reports much of his time in the early years was spent with a cleaning rag in hand, as maintaining early photocopiers was as much a part of keeping them running as actually fixing paper jams or technical issues.

“When I heard there was a chance some of the machines were going to MOTAT, I was very pleased that people will be able to see the history,” commented Wood. “It’s amazing to think about what we had when I was young and what we thought was advanced technology compared to what we have now.”

The invention of the first photocopier was a solution to the time and physical effort previously required to produce multiple copies of a document. Its inventor, physicist Chester Carlson, started working on a modern photocopier in the 1930s.

Carlson was motivated by his crippling arthritis, which made it difficult for him to copy documents manually. Carlson’s invention remained largely a personal project before receiving external financial support in the 1940s, and the technology became widely available.

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
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