Whoever said size doesn’t matter is a liar. There are countless numbers of things to which the phrase ‘the bigger the better’ applies. Bank balances for example. Or pizzas. And back in the day, printers definitely fell into this category.
Old school printers weren’t made to be compact or to be hidden away underneath a desk- they were made to be seen. They were brash, aggressive, and usually needed a pretty young lady to accompany them, or so their advertisements would have you believe.
Many sceptics have suggested that the printers weren’t purposefully that big, it was just that the technology wasn’t quite developed enough to allow for printing from smaller machines. However, anyone who knows anything about printing knows that this was not the case, and that enormous printers were no accident. They were a result of testosterone fuelled computer scientists producing big machines to cope with some very big technology!
So let us cast your mind back around 30 or year so, and enjoy some of the biggest, baddest printers that the world has ever seen.
Xerox 9700: The Xerox 9700 is largely recognised as the world’s first laser toner printer, ‘largely’ being the operative word. Looking more like a kitchen work top than a printer, it would perhaps be a little sexist to suggest that’s why the pretty lady seems right at home. It is hard to find another reason why she appears to be so happy: when it was released in 1977, the 9700 retailed at $500,000 and took up 5 meters x 4 metres of floor space and produced 120 pages every minute. A sparkling investment.
Computer Micro-Image Systems CMS-7000 Film Printer: 7 years prior to the 9700 came the CMS-7000, slightly less groundbreaking and even less practical. Resembling a badly designed wardrobe, the CMS-7000 was accompanied by a spectacular advertising campaign, furnished with large picture, poor tag line and three outstanding paragraphs of sales text, which, on close inspection, seem to have been written by a seven year old. ‘To design the best system requires the best people which provide the best service’. Couldn’t have put it better myself.
IBM Hypertape System: Now this one may be bending the rules a little as it is not actually a printer, but the IBM Hypertape advertising campaign is simply too good to be omitted. Such is the system’s complexity and size, it appears to need two people to operate it at any given time, although the man in this photograph seems to have his attention fixed elsewhere. And, after numerous hours of research, it has been officially confirmed that this 1961 ad was not being ironic when it said the Hypertape system was ‘compact’.
Anelex High Speed Printing Line: The Anelex High Speed Printing Line also hit the market in 1961 with an equally impressive ad campaign. Although it may not be a real photo, the ad appears to depict the High Speed Line as physically taking up all the floorspace of this office / warehouse / aircraft hangar, so much so that it has become too much for the cartoon lady to handle, forcing her to nervously smile and doing the YMCA dance at work.
Xerox 4000: If the Xerox 9700 resembles a small kitchen, then the 4000 is a kitchen appliance, looking particularly dishwasher-like in this photo. Xerox’s cutting edge marketing campaign shows the 4000 just having printed an article headlined ‘You have to heft it to tell which one is chrome plated plastic’, such riveting material is a sure fire way to send customers flocking in their hordes to get their hands on their very own 4000. Health and safety precautions had to be taken before operating the printer however, evident as this young lady protects herself with a crash helmet.
IBM 1403: Released in 1959, the IBM 1403 line printer was printing long before Xerox’s laser printer had ever been thought of. However, both printers had the same basic principle at its heart – the more square feet the printer takes up, the better it will print. What the tranquil looking printing room on the photo fails to convey however is the sheer noise of the 1403. Apparently, some people were able to use the timing of the printing hammers to create certain frequencies and as a result, were able to play music. Others just complained about the noise and got on with their work.