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Xerox's First Commercial Copy Machine Came with a Fire Extinguisher [Geek History]

Xerox’s first commercially successful copy machine was introduced in 1959 and came with a feature you won’t find on many modern pieces of office equipment: a fire extinguisher to put it out when it–frequently–lit on fire.

The Xerox 914 was ground breaking at the time it was introduced, could make 136 copies per hour, and remains one of Xerox’s most successful products to date.

At the time of it’s release it was a wonder of modern office wizardry. It only had one significant flaw; the 914 was prone to overheating and would not, as modern machines do, shut down when overheated but instead often catch fire. This was so common an occurrence that the unit actually shipped with a companion fire extinguisher, which Xerox–with an impossible straight face, we can only imagine–called a “scorch eliminator”. You can’t make this stuff up.

Xerox 914 [Wikipedia via BoingBoing]

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 04/21/11

Comments (11)

  1. trinity343

    i’m going to guess you read DVICE since they had an article on this exact same thing earlier today

  2. mstill416

    And it was needed! I had 35 sheets of paper disappear into nowhere and it took the repair man, 30 minutes to find them.

    Since the machine would also make transparencies which were very flammable and were subjected to heat, we were also instructed that if we smelled smoke we were under no circumstances to open the machine.

  3. NWLB

    Cue Mad Men theme.

  4. NWLB

    ….better still, cue the amusing context based ads for “find copier repair” and MFPs now showing up on the page! ;)

  5. kevalin

    Ah, Adsense.

  6. lTymes

    As a computer operator at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, Livermore, in 1963, I frequently operated the Xerox 5000, an awesome machine that printed from magnetic tape at 5000 lines per minute on continuous fan fold paper. It had a toner fusing oven with a bank of quartz tubes. Several times a day there was a paper jam and the paper in the fusing oven was incinerated in about a second.

  7. ExTexan

    You guys are idiots. The copier didn’t catch on fire, it was a jammed sheet of paper when under the fuser. I worked on these copiers in the 60’s and 70’s and NEVER saw a fire extinguisher with the copier. The worst thing that happened was the rubber feed belts would scorch but not catch on fire.

  8. Ed Frederick

    I agree with ExTexan. I served both the 914 and desktop 813. There was never a need for a fire ext.

  9. Paul

    I work on copiers today and I would like to set fire to a few of them

  10. Snert

    I agree with Paul.
    BUT…giving the recalcitrent POS a sledgehammer massage won’t get the damned thing working, but it would make me feel better

  11. Jim

    I went to work for Xerox in 1966 and the 914 was our main product. I still have one of those fire extinguishers. I used to demonstrate the unit by making a copy on a paper bag or paper towel. It sold itself. We didn’t sell them but leased them with a 15 day cancellation notice required.

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