A huge part of my Communications research in grad school has a lot to do with the introduction of technology and how this influences the behavior of media usage and society. I focus primarily on new and social media, but I often refer to examples from the past such as the invention of the printing press, which led to books and newspapers, radio, television, and the Internet.
There are obviously hundreds of devices and technologies that have shaped and developed the system of information sharing and public discourse that we have today, but one of the many devices that have contributed to our presently Internet-focused community of social sharing, which I never really considered before, is the Xerox machine.
I was reminded of seventy-fifth anniversary of the photocopy machine from an online radio segment from NPR. Chester Carlson had invented the first-ever photocopy machine in his tiny apartment in Queens, New York and made Xerox a household name that revolutionized the workplace.
For years no one would go over to the photocopier machine to “photocopy” a piece of paper. You would ask a secretary, or run over before a meeting to “Xerox” a copy of the document yourself. In fact, I still remember having to carry pocket change with me in the library to “Xerox” a copy of a document in the 90’s.
The Xerox machine had changed the way we distributed information in the workplace. It made things quicker and easier and altered the behavior and the lexicon of the community that it was introduced to. This was a technology that gathered people together at times for quick office chats, nonsensical Xeroxing pranks that involved dropping your pants on the photocopying machine, and oftentimes frustrated people who couldn’t get the darn thing to work and had to watch the machine eat their original document and/or catch fire. It was all still truly game-changing.
“The laser printer brought to the desktop and the common man in the office the ability to produce output that until then you needed to go to a press or you needed to go to a third party external print shop to produce that kind of quality output,” said Angele Boyd, a business analyst at the International Data Corporation, about the photocopier in the NPR segment.
It was in this segment that reminded me of how every piece of technology introduced and used by the public is a factor in the future direction of society. Every technological advance has its naysayers, skeptics and individuals that are drowning in fear of what they believe will come as society tries to integrate the technology into everyday life. But it’s those that open their minds, while still remaining cautious about the technology’s future implications on society that help shape and better the world as time continues onward.