The copy machine left the entire room smelling of alcohol and was once the king of the classroom. Know your history.

In the 70s and 80s, almost all schools had a mimeograph, a device to reproduce serial copies of texts at low cost. It looked like a printing machine, only very simple and homemade. The teacher wrote by hand or typed the exercises on a special sheet, the stencil, which had carbon. The text then appeared on the opposite side of the sheet, placed on the roll of the machine with the written side facing up. The crank was turned and copies started to come out. The process took a little time, but it worked.

Edison mimeograph ad, 1889  Wikimedia Commons

The stencil was actually a matrix, which only passed the text to another sheet because in the middle there was a felt moistened with alcohol. The amount of the liquid determined the clarity of the impression. The more alcohol, the stronger the text. The copies produced were unmistakable: they smelled like alcohol, and the letters came in a characteristic purplish blue.

The first model was the crank, but more advanced variations appeared, such as the electric mimeograph. Despite widespread use in the 20th century, the machine was invented a century earlier. The simplest prototype had its patent registered in 1887, by the American scientist and businessman Thomas Edison. Known as the Wizard of Menlo Park (reference to the city where his workshops were held), he registered 2,332 patents throughout his life, including the phonograph and the telephone.


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