The #@*!#*! office copier turns 50

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It may be the most iconic piece of office equipment of the past half-century.

It has saved workers countless hours, spit out forests worth of documents, been cursed by anyone who's faced a paper jam on deadline and been used by office pranksters to copy body parts.

It's been immortalized in pop culture by Rob Schneider's "Saturday Night Live" skits -- "Ran-dyyy! The Rand-man! Randatollah! Making copies!" -- and by the secretaries of "Mad Men," who greet the 1962 arrival of the exotic new machine like a curiosity from another planet.

It's that aging plow horse of the workplace -- the much-used, much-maligned office copier, and it's 50 years old.

In March of 1960, the first plain-paper office copier was shipped to a paying customer by Haloid Xerox, a little-known photographic-supply company in Rochester, New York. The contraption was the size of two washing machines, weighed 648 pounds and had to be turned on its side to fit through doorways. It also occasionally caught on fire.

But it revolutionized the workplace as we know it.

It was also a product that many loved to hate. The earliest models were so unreliable that Haloid Xerox's repair crews got emergency calls almost daily. In the cult hit movie "Office Space," three oppressed cubicle drones take a balky machine -- some say it's not a copier but a fax machine or a printer -- into a field and smash it to pieces.

In today's digital age, a machine that copies paper feels like a quaint mechanical relic. And in most offices, the traditional copier has been eclipsed by the Internet-connected, multipurpose printer.

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