X is for Xerox

C440682F-B7BA-4294-B626-95A02534D7B9One of my earliest jobs was working at a facility that fulfilled requests for scientific and technical document published by NASA. I worked the 4 pm to midnight shift, since I was going to college full-time during the day. My title was “reprographer” and my job was to stand in front of a Xerox machine making copies of lengthy NASA documents by photocopying them one page at a time. What fun, right?

You remember Xerox, right? Xerox is the brand that for decades dominated the photocopying hardware market. No respectable office didn’t have at least one Xerox machine and many businesses depended upon Xerox copiers to help them manage their enormous flow of documents. The name Xerox eventually became a synonym for photocopy. So ubiquitous were Xerox machines that the brand name became a verb, as in “Will you Xerox this for me?”

With today’s technologies, the need to make physical, paper copies of documents has almost disappeared. In those cases where a printed document is required, you just print off a paper version of an electronic document by sending it to your printer. And if you need multiple copies, you print as many as you need. So there is very little need these days for standalone copiers.

According to the New York Times, Xerox fell into something called a “competency trap.” It got so good at copy machines and printers that it eventually fell short on its efforts to do anything else.

“Xerox is the poster child for monopoly technology businesses that cannot make the transition to a new generation of technology,” Harvard Business School’s David B. Yoffie told the New York Times.

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Earlier this year, Xerox lost its identity as an independent company when it was essentially absorbed by Japan’s Fujifilm Holdings Corp.

I’ve been retired since the end of 2016, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a Xerox-branded copy machine in a business office. Can you?

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