The Ammonia Chronicles: Hello, Xerography!

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Great memories!

Great stories Cathie! We were all fortunate to participate in a constantly-changing industry with many bright, entrepreneurial people, some of whom were colorful characters. I also enjoyed reading the anecdotal comments posted by others. I look forward to your next column Cathie.

Chuck Gremillion more than 8 years ago

And, even more "xerographic" memories

Hey Cathie, thanks for sharing your memories. That brought back thoughts about my own experiences and observations, small-format and large-format. At the time (Oct 1970) I joined my father-in-law's small blueprinting company, we already had one Xerox machine, a Xerox 914. And, I fondly remember the fire extinguisher housed in the bottom compartment of that machine. That machine was "so" slow that we still used our diazo machines to blue-line-print specs. But only a couple of months after I joined the business, we "stepped up" to an ultra-high-speed Xerox 2400 (24 cpm). After renting that for a while, we bought it. We were told that we were one of the first in the area (the DC area) to have outright-purchased a Xerox machine. Beyond the faster speed offered by the Xerox 2400, it had an "automatic feeder" (I, personally, was the "automatic feeder" (one by one) operating the Xerox 914, so it was refreshing to acquire a real automatic feeder, although I have to say that the automatic feeder on the Xerox 2400 did trash a lot of "originals" (much to my chagrin and to the chagrin of customers whose originals that feeder trashed.) We went on to add an IBM Copier 1 - fed by a roll of paper rather than cut sheets. And, we added a "Dash 20" collator to our IBM (noisy, but effective.) And, we added a Kodak 100 (loved that machine.) On the large-format side of things, we rented, then later purchased, a Xerox 1860. I hated how that machine operated - lots of jams - very unreliable - I got to know our Xerox service techs very well. We later moved to a Xerox 2080, but, as everyone who had one of those knows, the output size limitations (24" wide output) left a lot to be desired. Then, along came the remarkable Shacoh 920, introduced to reprographers in the U.S. by Darris McCord in 1981. Cathie, it was at a MiniMax meeting in Chicago in October 1981 when I received my first one-page brochure on the Shacoh 920. That machine was excellent, we ended up replacing all of our Xerox 2080's with Shacoh 920's, and it was nice to be able to offer 36" wide output. Looking back, if I was asked to pick three pieces of large-format imaging equipment that seriously affected - had a dramatic impact on - the reprographics industry, I'd pick: Shacoh 920, OCE 9800, HP DesignJet 600 and the table-top Xerox copier (can't remember the model number.) Thanks, again, for sharing your memories!

Joel Salus more than 8 years ago

More Xerox Memories

Cathie, I would like to add my thanks as well to your recollections. I had the dubious distinction to have worked for Xerox when the 914 and other dinosaurs were still in use. I had more than my share of experiences repairing damages to machines after prints had caught fire while jammed in the fuser. I remember sand that was used as developer in the 600 MEP, 1860, and other antique engineering machines that came before the 2080. I even worked on one of the Xerox Standard systems, which was in fact a camera that exposed selenium plates. In that system, the toner was "cascaded" across the plate to develop the image. A piece of paper was then placed atop the plate, and exposed to a transfer current. Finally, the paper was "cooked" in a devise much like a pizza oven to fuse the image to the paper. The technology has certainly changed since those bad old days. I do feel fortunate to have met many bright and wonderful folks throughout the intervening years. I have found the folks involved with wide format to generally be a well informed and resourceful group. What a gift to have worked with so many of them!

Carl Byrne more than 8 years ago

The ammonia chronicles

Cathie, it is wonderful to read about old times. You certainly brought back memories by chronicling major changes in our industry. That said, I must admit that I am one fellow who is very appreciative of how the evolution changed our industry for the better. But that's another story. In the mean time
"Thank you for the memories"!

Paul Fridrich more than 8 years ago

More Xerox history

In the 50s, my Dad was a member of the NY Blueprint Club. Joe Wilson Jr. invited the group to a preview of the 914 at the Waldorf Astoria with the hope that some of them would sign up and become Haloid Xerox dealers. They couldn't get the machine to work during the demo and everyone laughed it off as a folly; happy that it wasn't going to effect their profitable photostat business. In the early 60's Dad bought one. The 914 was the first piece of equipment that I operated for The Blue Print Company. It had a tendency to burn up jammed paper, so it came with a fire extinguisher.

John Deermount more than 8 years ago

Xerox History

I distinctly remember the smell of "toasted paper" and remember thinking that maybe the machine was running a "little too hot" . . .

Cathie Duff more than 8 years ago


Your dad was absolutely right about the 914. The first one I saw was at the Norfolk Naval Base and it was very apparent that it was destined to change our business. Some things you never forget, like where you are when major events occur.

Your article made me think about what I was doing when the 914 came out. I was selling Ozalid Printmasters to replace the original potash blueprint machines. And at the time they were truly innovative. Boy, how things have changed.

Also made me thing about the old vendors (K&E, Post, Dietzgen & Bruning) and the massive 500 page bound catalogs they used to have. Each catalog probably had over 30,000 items. Now we can count on one hand the old vendors that are still in business. We can almost count their entire catalog product numbers on two hands.

Cathie, we are certainly senior citizens when we can name more companies that have disappeared from this industry over the years than there are current providers.

Makes me very happy to be on the service side of the business and not the manufacturing side. We are certainly more adaptable and have a better future.

Andy Keaton more than 8 years ago


Agreed, Andy. I really don't know anyone any more who actually KNEW people named Dietzgen and Bruning. Here's to a bright future!

Cathie Duff more than 8 years ago

AM Bruning

I ran across this blog totally by accident. I was a Tech Rep for Bruning in the mid 80's. The times really began changing in a hurry, and Bruning got caught with their pants way down. The first thing I thought about upon reading these posts was...ammonia. I remember going home and I could literally inhale household ammonia and hardly smell it. Now, I didn't do that but one time to show my wife, but it was amazing. Then we came out with this gosh-awful fluid to replace ammonia. I honestly don't know which was worse. Plus the prints felt tacky and weren't very sharp. Then ink pen plotters hit the scene, then toner, and it just kept going. All Bruning could do was try to purchase companies that already had the technology and try to hang on. Couldn't do it and we were bought out by Oce in 1990.

Bill Pippin more than 8 years ago

Love the history

Thanks Cathie for the contribution here. Sure do miss the 2080 days! Look forward to reading more of the stories.

Tom Taubenheim more than 8 years ago


Hi Cathie, Your article brought back many memories. Thank you!

Mike Stupak more than 8 years ago

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