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Chapter 5 Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox
WHEN THE ORIGINAL mimeograph machine—the first mechanicalduplicator of written pages that was practical for office use—wasput on the market by the A. B. Dick Company, of Chicago, in1887, it did not take the country by storm. On the contrary,Mr. Dick—a former lumberman who had become bored withcopying his price lists by hand, had tried to invent a duplicatingmachine himself, and had finally obtained rights to produce themimeograph from its inventor, Thomas Alva Edison—foundhimself faced with a formidable marketing problem. “Peopledidn’t want to make lots of copies of office documents,” sayshis grandson C. Matthews Dick, Jr., currently a vice-presidentof the A. B. Dick Company, which now manufactures a wholeline of office copiers and duplicators, including mimeographmachines. “By and large, the first users of the thing werenon-business organizations like churches, schools, and BoyScout troops. To attract companies and professional men,Grandfather and his associates had to undertake an enormousmissionary effort. Office duplicating by machine was a new andunsettling idea that upset long-established office patterns. In1887, after all, the typewriter had been on the market only alittle over a decade and wasn’t yet in widespread use, andneither was carbon paper. If a businessman or a lawyerwanted five copies of a document, he’d have a clerk make fivecopies—by hand. People would say to Grandfather, ‘Why shouldI want to have a lot of copies of this and that lying around?
Nothing but clutter in the office, a temptation to prying eyes,and a waste of good paper.’”
On another level, the troubles that the elder Mr. Dickencountered were perhaps connected with the generally badrepute that the notion of making copies of graphic material hadbeen held in for a number of centuries—a bad repute reflectedin the various overtones of the English noun and verb “copy.”
The Oxford English Dictionary makes it clear that during thosecenturies there was an aura of deceit associated with the word;indeed, from the late sixteenth century until Victorian times“copy” and “counterfeit” were nearly synonymous. (By themiddle of the seventeenth century, the medieval use of thenoun “copy” in the robust sense of “plenty” or “abundance”
had faded out, leaving behind nothing but its adjective form,“copious.”) “The only good copies are those which exhibit thedefects of bad originals,” La Rochefoucauld wrote in his“Maxims” in 1665. “Never buy a copy of a picture,” Ruskinpronounced dogmatically in 1857, warning not against chicanerybut against debasement. And the copying of written documentswas often suspect, too. “Though the attested Copy of a Recordbe good proof, yet the Copy of a Copy never so well attested… will not be admitted as proof in Judicature,” John Lockewrote in 1690. At about the same time, the printing tradecontributed to the language the suggestive expression “foulcopy,” and it was a favorite Victorian habit to call one object,or person, a pale copy of another.
Practical necessity arising out of increasing industrialization wasdoubtless chiefly responsible for a twentieth-century reversal ofthese attitudes. In any case, office reproduction began to growvery rapidly. (It may seem paradoxical that this growthcoincided with the rise of the telephone, but perhaps it isn’t. Allthe evidence suggests that communication between people bywhatever means, far from simply accomplishing its purpose,invariably breeds the need for more.) The typewriter andcarbon paper came into common use after 1890, andmimeographing became a standard office procedure soon after1900. “No office is complete without an Edison Mimeograph,”
the Dick Company felt able to boast in 1903. By that time,there were already about a hundred and fifty thousand of thedevices in use; by 1910 there were probably over two hundredthousand, and by 1940 almost half a million. The offset printingpress—a mettlesome competitor capable of producing workmuch handsomer than mimeographed output—was successfullyadapted for office use in the nineteen-thirties and forties, and isnow standard equipment in most large offices. As with themimeograph machine, though, a special master page must beprepared before reproduction can start—a relatively expensiveand time-consuming process—so the offset press is economicallyuseful only when a substantial number of copies are wanted. Inoffice-equipment jargon, the offset press and the mimeographare “duplicators” rather than “copiers,” the dividing line betweenduplicating and copying being generally drawn somewherebetween ten and twenty copies. Where technology laggedlongest was in the development of efficient and economicalcopiers. Various photographic devices that did not require themaking of master pages—of which the most famous was (andstill is) the Photostat—began appearing around 1910, butbecause of their high cost, slowness, and difficulty of operation,their usefulness was largely limited to the copying ofarchitectural and engineering drawings and legal documents.
Until after 1950, the only practical machine for making a copyof a business letter or a page of typescript was a typewriterwith carbon paper in its platen.
The nineteen-fifties were the raw, pioneering years ofmechanized office copying. Within a short time, there suddenlyappeared on the market a whole batch of devices capable ofreproducing most office papers without the use of a masterpage, at a cost of only a few cents per copy, and within atime span of a minute or less per copy. Their technologyvaried—Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing’s Thermo-Fax,introduced in 1950, used heat-sensitive copying paper; AmericanPhotocopy’s Dial-A-Matic Autostat (1952) was based on arefinement of ordinary photography; Eastman Kodak’s Verifax(1953) used a method called dye transfer; and so on—butalmost all of them, unlike Mr. Dick’s mimeograph, immediatelyfound a ready market, partly because they filled a genuineneed and partly, it now seems clear, because they and theirfunction exercised a powerful psychological fascination on theirusers. In a society that sociologists are forever characterizing as“mass,” the notion of making one-of-a-kind things intomany-of-a-kind things showed signs of becoming a realcompulsion. However, all these pioneer copying machines hadserious and frustrating inherent defects; for example, Autostatand Verifax were hard to operate and turned out damp copiesthat had to be dried, while Thermo-Fax copies tended todarken when exposed to too much heat, and all three couldmake copies only on special treated paper supplied by themanufacturer. What was needed for the compulsion to flowerinto a mania was a technological breakthrough, and thebreakthrough came at the turn of the decade with the adventof a machine that worked on a new principle, known asxerography, and was able to make dry, good-quality, permanentcopies on ordinary paper with a minimum of trouble. The effectwas immediate. Largely as a result of xerography, the estimatednumber of copies (as opposed to duplicates) made annually inthe United States sprang from some twenty million in themid-fifties to nine and a half billion in 1964, and to fourteenbillion in 1966—not to mention billions more in Europe, Asia,and Latin America. More than that, the attitude of educatorstoward printed textbooks and of business people toward writtencommunication underwent a discernible change; avant-gardephilosophers took to hailing xerography as a revolutioncomparable in importance to the invention of the wheel; andcoin-operated copying machines began turning up in candystores and beauty parlors. The mania—not as immediatelydisrupting as the tulip mania in seventeenth-century Holland butprobably destined to be considerably farther-reaching—was infull swing.
The company responsible for the great breakthrough and theone on whose machines the majority of these billions of copieswere made was, of course, the Xerox Corporation, ofRochester, New York. As a result, it became the mostspectacular big-business success of the nineteen-sixties. In 1959,the year the company—then called Haloid Xerox,Inc.—introduced its first automatic xerographic office copier, itssales were thirty-three million dollars. In 1961, they weresixty-six million, in 1963 a hundred and seventy-six million, andin 1966 over half a billion. As Joseph C. Wilson, the chiefexecutive of the firm, pointed out, this growth rate was suchthat if maintained for a couple of decades (which, perhapsfortunately for everyone, couldn’t possibly happen), Xerox saleswould be larger than the gross national product of the UnitedStates. Unplaced in Fortune’s ranking of the five hundredlargest American industrial companies in 1961, Xerox by 1964had attained two-hundred-and-twenty-seventh place, and by1967 it had climbed to hundred-and-twenty-sixth. Fortune’sranking is based on annual sales; according to certain othercriteria, Xerox placed much higher thanhundred-and-seventy-first. For example, early in 1966 it rankedabout sixty-third in the country in net profits, probably ninth inratio of profit to sales, and about fifteenth in terms of themarket value of its stock—and in this last respect the youngupstart was ahead of such long-established industrial giants asU.S. Steel, Chrysler, Procter & Gamble, and R.C.A. Indeed, theenthusiasm the investing public showed for Xerox made itsshares the stock market Golconda of the sixties. Anyone whobought its stock toward the end of 1959 and held on to ituntil early 1967 would have found his holding worth aboutsixty-six times its original price, and anyone who was reallyfore-sighted and bought Haloid in 1955 would have seen hisoriginal investment grow—one might almost say miraculously—ahundred and eighty times. Not surprisingly, a covey of “Xeroxmillionaires” sprang up—several hundred of them all told, mostof whom either lived in the Rochester area or had come fromthere.
The Haloid Company, started in Rochester in 1906, was thegrandfather of Xerox, just as one of its founders—Joseph C.
Wilson, a sometime pawnbroker and sometime mayor ofRochester—was the grandfather of his namesake, the1946–1968 boss of Xerox. Haloid manufactured photographicpapers, and, like all photographic companies—and especiallythose in Rochester—it lived in the giant shadow of its neighbor,Eastman Kodak. Even in this subdued light, though, it waseffective enough to weather the Depression in modestly goodshape. In the years immediately after the Second World War,however, both competition and labor costs increased, sendingHaloid on a search for new products. One of the possibilitiesits scientists hit upon was a copying process that was beingworked on at the Battelle Memorial Institute, a large non-profitindustrial-research organization in Columbus, Ohio. At this point,the story flashes back to 1938 and a second-floor kitchenabove a bar in Astoria, Queens, which was being used as amakeshift laboratory by an obscure thirty-two-year-old inventornamed Chester F. Carlson. The son of a barber of Swedishextraction, and a graduate in physics of the California Instituteof Technology, Carlson was employed in New York in thepatent department of P. R. Mallory & Co., an Indianapolismanufacturer of electrical and electronic components; in questof fame, fortune, and independence, he was devoting his sparetime to trying to invent an office copying machine, and to helphim in this endeavor he had hired Otto Kornei, a Germanrefugee physicist. The fruit of the two men’s experiments was aprocess by which, on October 22, 1938, after using a gooddeal of clumsy equipment and producing considerable smokeand stench, they were able to transfer from one piece of paperto another the unheroic message “10–22–38 Astoria.” Theprocess, which Carlson called electrophotography, had—andhas—five basic steps: sensitizing a photoconductive surface tolight by giving it an electrostatic charge (for example, byrubbing it with fur); exposing this surface to a written page toform an electrostatic image; developing the latent image bydusting the surface with a powder that will adhere only to thecharged areas; transferring the image to some sort of paper;and fixing the image by the application of heat. The steps, eachof them in itself familiar enough in connection with othertechnologies, were utterly new in combination—so new, in fact,that the kings and captains of commerce were markedly slowto recognize the potentialities of the process. Applying theknowledge he had picked up in his job downtown, Carlsonimmediately wove a complicated net of patents around theinvention (Kornei shortly left to take a job elsewhere, and thusvanished permanently from the electrophotographic scene) andset about trying to peddle it. Over the next five years, whilecontinuing to work for Mallory, he pursued his moonlighting ina new form, offering rights to the process to every importantoffice-equipment company in the country, only to be turneddown every time. Finally, in 1944, Carlson persuaded BattelleMemorial Institute to undertake further development work onhis process in exchange for three-quarters of any royalties thatmight accrue from its sale or license.
Here the flashback ends and xerography, as such, comes intobeing. By 1946, Battelle’s work on the Carlson process hadcome to the attention of various people at Haloid, among themthe younger Joseph C. Wilson, who was about to assume thepresidency of the company. Wilson communicated his interest toa new friend of his—Sol M. Linowitz, a bright and vigorouslypublic-spirited young lawyer, recently back from service in theNavy, who was then busy organizing a new Rochester radiostation that would air liberal views as a counterbalance to theconservative views of the Gannett newspapers. Although Haloidhad its own lawyers, Wilson, impressed with Linowitz, askedhim to look into the Battelle thing as a “one-shot” job for thecompany. “We went to Columbus to see a piece of metalrubbed with cat’s fur,” Linowitz has since said. Out of that tripand others came an agreement giving Haloid rights to theCarlson process in exchange for royalties to Carlson andBattelle, and committing it to share with Battelle in the workand the costs of development. Everything else, it seemed, flowedfrom that agreement. In 1948, in search of a new name forthe Carlson process, a Battelle man got together with aprofessor of classical languages at Ohio State University, and bycombining two words from classical Greek they came up with“xerography,” or “dry writing.” Meanwhile, small teams ofscientists at Battelle and Haloid, struggling to develop theprocess, were encountering baffling and unexpected technicalproblems one after another; at one point, indeed, the Haloidpeople became so discouraged that they considered selling mostof their xerography rights to International Business Machines.
But the deal was finally called off, and as the research went onand the bills for it mounted, Haloid’s commitment to theprocess gradually became a do-or-die affair. In 1955, a newagreement was drawn up, under which Haloid took over fulltitle to the Carlson patents and the full cost of the developmentproject, in payment for which it issued huge bundles of Haloidshares to Battelle, which, in turn, issued a bundle or two toCarlson. The cost was staggering. Between 1947 and 1960,Haloid spent about seventy-five million dollars on research inxerography, or about twice what it earned from its regularoperations during that period; the balance was raised throughborrowing and through the wholesale issuance of commonstock to anyone who was kind, reckless, or prescient enough totake it. The University of Rochester, partly out of interest in astruggling local industry, bought an enormous quantity for itsendowment fund at a price that subsequently, because of stocksplits, amounted to fifty cents a share. “Please don’t be mad atus if we find we have to sell our Haloid stock in a couple ofyears to cut our losses on it,” a university official nervouslywarned Wilson. Wilson promised not to be mad. Meanwhile, heand other executives of the company took most of their pay inthe form of stock, and some of them went as far as to put uptheir savings and the mortgages on their houses to help thecause along. (Prominent among the executives by this time wasLinowitz, whose association with Haloid had turned out to beanything but a one-shot thing; instead, he became Wilson’sright-hand man, taking charge of the company’s crucial patentarrangements, organizing and guiding its international affiliations,and eventually serving for a time as chairman of its board ofdirectors.) In 1958, after prayerful consideration, the company’sname was changed to Haloid Xerox, even though noxerographic product of major importance was yet on themarket. The trademark “XeroX” had been adopted by Haloidseveral years earlier—a shameless imitation of Eastman’s“Kodak,” as Wilson has admitted. The terminal “X” soon had tobe downgraded to lower case, because it was found thatnobody would bother to capitalize it, but the near-palindrome,at least as irresistible as Eastman’s, remained. XeroX or Xerox,the trademark, Wilson has said, was adopted and retainedagainst the vehement advice of many of the firm’s consultants,who feared that the public would find it unpronounceable, orwould think it denoted an anti-freeze, or would be put in mindof a word highly discouraging to financial ears—“zero.”
Then, in 1960, the explosion came, and suddenly everythingwas reversed. Instead of worrying about whether its tradename would be successful, the company was worrying about itsbecoming too successful, for the new verb “to xerox” began toappear so frequently in conversation and in print that thecompany’s proprietary rights in the name were threatened, andit had to embark on an elaborate campaign against such usage.
(In 1961, the company went the whole hog and changed itsname to plain Xerox Corporation.) And instead of worryingabout the future of themselves and their families, the Xeroxexecutives were worrying about their reputation with the friendsand relatives whom they had prudently advised not to invest inthe stock at twenty cents a share. In a word, everybody whoheld Xerox stock in quantity had got rich or richer—theexecutives who had scrimped and sacrificed, the University ofRochester, Battelle Memorial Institute, and even, of all people,Chester F. Carlson, who had come out of the variousagreements with Xerox stock that at 1968 prices was worthmany million dollars, putting him (according to Fortune)among the sixty-six richest people in the country.
THUS baldly outlined, the story of Xerox has an old-fashioned,even a nineteenth-century, ring—the lonely inventor in his crudelaboratory, the small, family-oriented company, the initialsetbacks, the reliance on the patent system, the resort toclassical Greek for a trade name, the eventual triumphgloriously vindicating the free-enterprise system. But there isanother dimension to Xerox. In the matter of demonstrating asense of responsibility to society as a whole, rather than just toits stockholders, employees, and customers, it has shown itselfto be the reverse of most nineteenth-century companies—to be,indeed, in the advance guard of twentieth-century companies.
“To set high goals, to have almost unattainable aspirations, toimbue people with the belief that they can be achieved—theseare as important as the balance sheet, perhaps more so,”
Wilson said once, and other Xerox executives have often goneout of their way to emphasize that “the Xerox spirit” is not somuch a means to an end as a matter of emphasizing “humanvalues” for their own sake. Such platform rhetoric is far fromuncommon in big-business circles, of course, and when itcomes from Xerox executives it is just as apt to arouseskepticism—or even, considering the company’s huge profits,irritation. But there is evidence that Xerox means what it says.
In 1965, the company donated $1,632,548 to educational andcharitable institutions, and $2,246,000 in 1966; both years thebiggest recipients were the University of Rochester and theRochester Community Chest, and in each case the sumrepresented around one and a half per cent of the company’snet income before taxes. This is markedly higher than thepercentage that most large companies set aside for good works;to take a couple of examples from among those often cited fortheir liberality, R.C.A.’s contributions for 1965 amounted toabout seven-tenths of one per cent of pre-tax income, andAmerican Telephone & Telegraph’s to considerably less thanone per cent. That Xerox intended to persist in its high-mindedways was indicated by its commitment of itself in 1966 to the“one-per-cent program,” often called the Cleveland Plan—asystem inaugurated in that city under which local industriesagree to give one per cent of pre-tax income annually to localeducational institutions, apart from their other donations—so thatif Xerox income continues to soar, the University of Rochesterand its sister institutions in the area can face the future with acertain assurance.
In other matters, too, Xerox has taken risks for reasons thathave nothing to do with profit. In a 1964 speech, Wilson said,“The corporation cannot refuse to take a stand on public issuesof major concern”—a piece of business heresy if there ever wasone, since taking a stand on a public issue is the obvious wayof alienating customers and potential customers who take theopposite stand. The chief public stand that Xerox has taken isin favor of the United Nations—and, by implication, against itsdetractors. Early in 1964, the company decided to spend fourmillion dollars—a year’s advertising budget—on underwriting aseries of network-television programs dealing with the U.N., theprograms to be unaccompanied by commercials or any otheridentification of Xerox apart from a statement at the beginningand end of each that Xerox had paid for it. That July andAugust—some three months after the decision had beenannounced—Xerox suddenly received an avalanche of lettersopposing the project and urging the company to abandon it.
Numbering almost fifteen thousand, the letters ranged in tonefrom sweet reasonableness to strident and emotionaldenunciation. Many of them asserted that the U.N. was aninstrument for depriving Americans of their Constitutional rights,that its charter had been written in part by AmericanCommunists, and that it was constantly being used to furtherCommunist objectives, and a few letters, from companypresidents, bluntly threatened to remove the Xerox machinesfrom their offices unless the series was cancelled. Only ahandful of the letter writers mentioned the John Birch Society,and none identified themselves as members of it, butcircumstantial evidence suggested that the avalanche representeda carefully planned Birch campaign. For one thing, a recentBirch Society publication had urged that members write toXerox to protest the U.N. series, pointing out that a flood ofletters had succeeded in persuading a major airline to removethe U.N. insigne from its airplanes. Further evidence of asystematic campaign turned up when an analysis, made atXerox’s instigation, showed that the fifteen thousand letters hadbeen written by only about four thousand persons. In anyevent, the Xerox offices and directors declined to be persuadedor intimidated; the U.N. series appeared on the AmericanBroadcasting Company network in 1965, to plaudits all around.
Wilson later maintained that the series—and the decision toignore the protest against it—made Xerox many more friendsthan enemies. In all his public statements on the subject, heinsisted on characterizing what many observers considered arather rare stroke of business idealism, as simply soundbusiness judgment.
In the fall of 1966, Xerox began encountering a measure ofadversity for the first time since its introduction of xerography.
By that time, there were more than forty companies in theoffice copier business, many of them producing xerographicdevices under license from Xerox. (The only important part ofits technology for which Xerox had refused to grant a licensewas a selenium drum that enables its own machines to makecopies on ordinary paper. All competing products still requiredtreated paper.) The great advantage that Xerox had beenenjoying was the one that the first to enter a new field alwaysenjoys—the advantage of charging high prices. Now, asBarron’s pointed out in August, it appeared that “thisonce-fabulous invention may—as all technological advancesinevitably must—soon evolve into an accepted commonplace.”
Cut-rate latecomers were swarming into copying; one company,in a letter sent to its stockholders in May, foresaw a time whena copier selling for ten or twenty dollars could be marketed “asa toy” (one was actually marketed for about thirty dollars in1968) and there was even talk of the day when copiers wouldbe given away to promote sales of paper, the way razors havelong given away to promote razor blades. For some years,realizing that its cozy little monopoly would eventually pass intothe public domain, Xerox had been widening its intereststhrough mergers with companies in other fields, mainlypublishing and education; for example, in 1962 it had boughtUniversity Microfilms, a library on microfilm of unpublishedmanuscripts, out-of-print books, doctoral dissertations, periodicals,and newspapers, and in 1965 it had tacked on two othercompanies—American Education Publications, the country’slargest publisher of educational periodicals for primary- andsecondary-school students, and Basic Systems, a manufacturerof teaching machines. But these moves failed to reassure thatdogmatic critic the marketplace, and Xerox stock ran into aspell of heavy weather. Between late June, 1966, when it stoodat 267?, and early October, when it dipped to 131?, themarket value of the company was more than cut in half. Inthe single business week of October 3rd through October 7th,Xerox dropped 42? points, and on one particularly alarmingday—October 6th—trading in Xerox on the New York StockExchange had to be suspended for five hours because therewere about twenty-five million dollars’ worth of shares on salethat no one wanted to buy.
I find that companies are inclined to be at their mostinteresting when they are undergoing a little misfortune, andtherefore I chose the fall of 1966 as the time to have a look atXerox and its people—something I’d had in mind to do for ayear or so. I started out by getting acquainted with one of itsproducts. The Xerox line of copiers and related items was bythen a comprehensive one. There was, for instance, the 914, adesksize machine that makes black-and-white copies of almostany page—printed, handwritten, typed, or drawn, but notexceeding nine by fourteen inches in size—at a rate of aboutone copy every six seconds; the 813, a much smaller device,which can stand on top of a desk and is essentially aminiaturized version of the 914 (or, as Xerox technicians like tosay, “a 914 with the air left out”); the 2400, a high-speedreproduction machine that looks like a modern kitchen stoveand can cook up copies at a rate of forty a minute, ortwenty-four hundred an hour; the Copyflo, which is capable ofenlarging microfilmed pages into ordinary booksize pages andprinting them; the LDX, by which documents can betransmitted over telephone wires, microwave radio, or coaxialcable; and the Telecopier, a non-xerographic device, designedand manufactured by Magnavox but sold by Xerox, which is asort of junior version of the LDX and is especially interestingto a layman because it consists simply of a small box that,when attached to an ordinary telephone, permits the user torapidly transmit a small picture (with a good deal of squeakingand clicking, to be sure) to anyone equipped with a telephoneand a similar small box. Of all these, the 914, the firstautomatic xerographic product and the one that constituted thebig breakthrough, was still much the most important both toXerox and to its customers.
It has been suggested that the 914 is the most successfulcommercial product in history, but the statement cannot beauthoritatively confirmed or denied, if only because Xerox doesnot publish precise revenue figures on its individual products;the company does say, though, that in 1965 the 914 accountedfor about sixty-two per cent of its total operating revenues,which works out to something over $243,000,000. In 1966 itcould be bought for $27,500, or it could be rented fortwenty-five dollars monthly, plus at least forty-nine dollars’ worthof copies at four cents each. These charges were deliberatelyset up to make renting more attractive than buying, becauseXerox ultimately makes more money that way. The 914, whichis painted beige and weighs six hundred and fifty pounds, looksa good deal like a modern L-shaped metal desk; the thing tobe copied—a flat page, two pages of an open book, or even asmall three-dimensional object like a watch or a medal—isplaced face down on a glass window in the flat top surface, abutton is pushed, and nine seconds later the copy pops into atray where an “out” basket might be if the 914 actually were adesk. Technologically, the 914 is so complex (more complex,some Xerox salesmen insist, than an automobile) that it has anannoying tendency to go wrong, and consequently Xeroxmaintains a field staff of thousands of repairmen who arepresumably ready to answer a call on short notice. The mostcommon malfunction is a jamming of the supply of copy paper,which is rather picturesquely called a “mispuff,” because eachsheet of paper is raised into position to be inscribed by aninterior puff of air, and the malfunction occurs when the puffgoes wrong. A bad mispuff can occasionally put a piece of thepaper in contact with hot parts, igniting it and causing analarming cloud of white smoke to issue from the machine; insuch a case the operator is urged to do nothing, or, at most,to use a small fire extinguisher that is attached to it, since thefire burns itself out comparatively harmlessly if left alone,whereas a bucket of water thrown over a 914 may conveypotentially lethal voltages to its metal surface. Apart frommalfunctions, the machine requires a good deal of regularattention from its operator, who is almost invariably a woman.
(The girls who operated the earliest typewriters were themselvescalled “typewriters,” but fortunately nobody calls Xerox operators“xeroxes.”) Its supply of copying paper and black electrostaticpowder, called “toner,” must be replenished regularly, while itsmost crucial part, the selenium drum, must be cleaned regularlywith a special non-scratchy cotton, and waxed every so often. Ispent a couple of afternoons with one 914 and its operator,and observed what seemed to be the closest relationshipbetween a woman and a piece of office equipment that I hadever seen. A girl who uses a typewriter or switchboard has nointerest in the equipment, because it holds no mystery, whileone who operates a computer is bored with it, because it isutterly incomprehensible. But a 914 has distinct animal traits: ithas to be fed and curried; it is intimidating but can be tamed;it is subject to unpredictable bursts of misbehavior; and,generally speaking, it responds in kind to its treatment. “I wasfrightened of it at first,” the operator I watched told me. “TheXerox men say, ‘If you’re frightened of it, it won’t work,’ andthat’s pretty much right. It’s a good scout; I’m fond of it now.”
Xerox salesmen, I learned from talks with some of them, areforever trying to think of new uses for the company’s copiers,but they have found again and again that the public is wellahead of them. One rather odd use of xerography insures thatbrides get the wedding presents they want. The prospectivebride submits her list of preferred presents to a departmentstore; the store sends the list to its bridal-registry counter,which is equipped with a Xerox copier; each friend of thebride, having been tactfully briefed in advance, comes to thiscounter and is issued a copy of the list, whereupon he doeshis shopping and then returns the copy with the purchaseditems checked off, so that the master list may be revised andthus ready for the next donor. (“Hymen, i? Hymen, Hymen!”)Again, police departments in New Orleans and various otherplaces, instead of laboriously typing up a receipt for theproperty removed from people who spend the night in thelockup, now place the property itself—wallet, watch, keys, andsuch—on the scanning glass of a 914, and in a few secondshave a sort of pictographic receipt. Hospitals use xerography tocopy electrocardiograms and laboratory reports, and brokeragefirms to get hot tips to customers more quickly. In fact,anybody with any sort of idea that might be advanced bycopying can go to one of the many cigar or stationery storesthat have a coin-operated copier and indulge himself. (It isinteresting to note that Xerox took to producing coin-operated914s in two configurations—one that works for a dime and onethat works for a quarter; the buyer or leaser of the machinecould decide which he wanted to charge.)Copying has its abuses, too, and they are clearly serious. Themost obvious one is overcopying. A tendency formerly identifiedwith bureaucrats has been spreading—the urge to make two ormore copies when one would do, and to make one when nonewould do; the phrase “in triplicate,” once used to denotebureaucratic waste, has become a gross understatement. Thebutton waiting to be pushed, the whir of action, the neatreproduction dropping into the tray—all this adds up to aheady experience, and the neophyte operator of a copier feelsan impulse to copy all the papers in his pockets. And onceone has used a copier, one tends to be hooked. Perhaps thechief danger of this addiction is not so much the cluttering upof files and loss of important material through submersion as itis the insidious growth of a negative attitude toward originals—afeeling that nothing can be of importance unless it is copied, oris a copy itself.
A more immediate problem of xerography is the overwhelmingtemptation it offers to violate the copyright laws. Almost all largepublic and college libraries—and many high-school libraries aswell—are now equipped with copying machines, and teachersand students in need of a few copies of a group of poemsfrom a published book, a certain short story from ananthology, or a certain article from a scholarly journal havedeveloped the habit of simply plucking it from the library’sshelves, taking it to the library’s reproduction department, andhaving the required number of Xerox copies made. The effect,of course, is to deprive the author and the publisher of income.
There are no legal records of such infringements of copyright,since publishers and authors almost never sue educators, if onlybecause they don’t know that the infringements have occurred;furthermore, the educators themselves often have no idea thatthey have done anything illegal. The likelihood that manycopyrights have already been infringed unknowingly throughxerography became indirectly apparent a few years ago when acommittee of educators sent a circular to teachers from coastto coast informing them explicitly what rights to reproducecopyrighted material they did and did not have, and the almostinstant sequel was a marked rise in the number of requestsfrom educators to publishers for permissions. And there wasmore concrete evidence of the way things were going; forexample, in 1965 a staff member of the library school of theUniversity of New Mexico publicly advocated that libraries spendninety per cent of their budgets on staff, telephones, copying,telefacsimiles, and the like, and only ten per cent—a sort oftithe—on books and journals.
To a certain extent, libraries attempt to police copying on theirown. The photographic service of the New York Public Library’smain branch, which fills some fifteen hundred requests a weekfor copies of library matter, informs patrons that “copyrightedmaterial will not be reproduced beyond ‘fair use’”—that is, theamount and kind of reproduction, generally confined to briefexcerpts, that have been established by legal precedent as notconstituting infringement. The library goes on, “The applicantassumes all responsibility for any question that may arise in themaking of the copy and in the use made thereof.” In the firstpart of its statement the library seems to assume theresponsibility and in the second part to renounce it, and thisambivalence may reflect an uneasiness widely felt among usersof library copiers. Outside library walls, there often does notseem to be even this degree of scruple. Business people whoare otherwise meticulous in their observance of the law seem toregard copyright infringement about as seriously as they regardjaywalking. A writer I’ve heard about was invited to a seminarof high-level and high-minded industrial leaders and was startledto find that a chapter from his most recent book had beencopied and distributed to the participants, to serve as a basisfor discussion. When the writer protested, the businessmenwere taken aback, and even injured; they had thought thewriter would be pleased by their attention to his work, but theflattery, after all, was of the sort shown by a thief whocommends a lady’s jewelry by making off with it.
In the opinion of some commentators, what has happened sofar is only the first phase of a kind of revolution in graphics.
“Xerography is bringing a reign of terror into the world ofpublishing, because it means that every reader can becomeboth author and publisher,” the Canadian sage MarshallMcLuhan wrote in the spring, 1966, issue of the AmericanScholar. “Authorship and readership alike can becomeproduction-oriented under xerography.… Xerography is electricityinvading the world of typography, and it means a totalrevolution in this old sphere.” Even allowing for McLuhan’serratic ebullience (“I change my opinions daily,” he onceconfessed), he seems to have got his teeth into something here.
Various magazine articles have predicted nothing less than thedisappearance of the book as it now exists, and pictured thelibrary of the future as a sort of monster computer capable ofstoring and retrieving the contents of books electronically andxerographically. The “books” in such a library would be tinychips of computer film—“editions of one.” Everyone agrees thatsuch a library is still some time away. (But not so far away asto preclude a wary reaction from forehanded publishers.
Beginning late in 1966, the long-familiar “all rights reserved”
rigmarole on the copyright page of all books published byHarcourt, Brace & World was altered to read, a bit spookily,“All rights reserved. No part of this publication may bereproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or anyinformation storage and retrieval system …” Other publishersquickly followed the example.) One of the nearest approaches toit in the late sixties was the Xerox subsidiary UniversityMicrofilms, which could, and did, enlarge its microfilms ofout-of-print books and print them as attractive and highlylegible paperback volumes, at a cost to the customer of fourcents a page; in cases where the book was covered bycopyright, the firm paid a royalty to the author on each copyproduced. But the time when almost anyone can make his owncopy of a published book at lower than the market price is notsome years away; it is now. All that the amateur publisherneeds is access to a Xerox machine and a small offset printingpress. One of the lesser but still important attributes ofxerography is its ability to make master copies for use onoffset presses, and make them much more cheaply and quicklythan was previously possible. According to Irwin Karp, counselto the Authors League of America, an edition of fifty copies ofany printed book could in 1967 be handsomely “published”
(minus the binding) by this combination of technologies in amatter of minutes at a cost of about eight-tenths of a cent perpage, and less than that if the edition was larger. A teacherwishing to distribute to a class of fifty students the contents ofa sixty-four-page book of poetry selling for three dollars andseventy-five cents could do so, if he were disposed to ignorethe copyright laws, at a cost of slightly over fifty cents percopy.
The danger in the new technology, authors and publishershave contended, is that in doing away with the book it may doaway with them, and thus with writing itself. Herbert S. Bailey,Jr., director of Princeton University Press, wrote in theSaturday Review of a scholar friend of his who has cancelledall his subscriptions to scholarly journals; instead, he now scanstheir tables of contents at his public library and makes copiesof the articles that interest him. Bailey commented, “If allscholars followed [this] practice, there would be no scholarlyjournals.” Beginning in the middle sixties, Congress has beenconsidering a revision of the copyright laws—the first since1909. At the hearings, a committee representing the NationalEducation Association and a clutch of other education groupsargued firmly and persuasively that if education is to keep upwith our national growth, the present copyright law and thefair-use doctrine should be liberalized for scholastic purposes.
The authors and publishers, not surprisingly, opposed suchliberalization, insisting that any extension of existing rights wouldtend to deprive them of their livelihoods to some degree now,and to a far greater degree in the uncharted xerographicfuture. A bill that was approved in 1967 by the HouseJudiciary Committee seemed to represent a victory for them,since it explicitly set forth the fair-use doctrine and containedno educational-copying exemption. But the final outcome of thestruggle was still uncertain late in 1968. McLuhan, for one, wasconvinced that all efforts to preserve the old forms of authorprotection represent backward thinking and are doomed tofailure (or, anyway, he was convinced the day he wrote hisAmerican Scholar article). “There is no possible protection fromtechnology except by technology,” he wrote. “When you createa new environment with one phase of technology, you have tocreate an anti-environment with the next.” But authors areseldom good at technology, and probably do not flourish inanti-environments.
In dealing with this Pandora’s box that Xerox products haveopened, the company seems to have measured up tolerablywell to its lofty ideals as set forth by Wilson. Although it has acommercial interest in encouraging—or, at least, not discouraging—more and more copying of just about anything thatcan be read, it makes more than a token effort to inform theusers of its machines of their legal responsibilities; for example,each new machine that is shipped out is accompanied by acardboard poster giving a long list of things that may not becopied, among them paper money, government bonds, postagestamps, passports, and “copyrighted material of any manner orkind without permission of the copyright owner.” (How many ofthese posters end up in wastebaskets is another matter.)Moreover, caught in the middle between the contending factionsin the fight over revision of copyright law, it resisted thetemptation to stand piously aside while raking in the profits,and showed an exemplary sense of social responsibility—at leastfrom the point of view of the authors and publishers. Thecopying industry in general, by contrast, tended either toremain neutral or to lean to the educators’ side. At a 1963symposium on copyright revision, an industry spokesman wentas far as to argue that machine copying by a scholar is merelya convenient extension of hand copying, which has traditionallybeen accepted as legitimate. But not Xerox. Instead, inSeptember, 1965, Wilson wrote to the House JudiciaryCommittee flatly opposing any kind of special copying exemptionin any new law. Of course, in evaluating this seemingly quixoticstand one ought to remember that Xerox is a publishing firmas well as a copying-machine firm; indeed, what with AmericanEducation Publications and University Microfilms, it is one of thelargest publishing firms in the country. Conventional publishers,I gathered from my researches, sometimes find it a bitbewildering to be confronted by this futuristic giant not merelyas an alien threat to their familiar world but as an energeticcolleague and competitor within it.
HAVING had a look at some Xerox products and devoted somethought to the social implications of their use, I went toRochester to scrape up a first-hand acquaintance with thecompany and to get an idea how its people were reacting totheir problems, material and moral. At the time I went, thematerial problems certainly seemed to be to the fore, since theweek of the forty-two-and-a-half-point stock drop was not longpast. On the plane en route, I had before me a copy ofXerox’s most recent proxy statement, which listed the numberof Xerox shares held by each director as of February, 1966,and I amused myself by calculating some of the directors’
paper losses in that one bad October week, assuming that theyhad held on to their stock. Chairman Wilson, for example, hadheld 154,026 common shares in February, so his loss wouldhave been $6,546,105. Linowitz’s holding was 35,166 shares, fora loss of $1,494,555. Dr. John H. Dessauer, executivevice-president in charge of research, had held 73,845 sharesand was therefore presumably out $3,138,412.50. Such sumscould hardly be considered trivial even by Xerox executives.
Would I, then, find their premises pervaded by gloom, or atleast by signs of shock?
The Xerox executive offices were on the upper floors ofRochester’s Midtown Tower, the ground level of which isoccupied by Midtown Plaza, an indoor shopping mall. (Laterthat year, the company moved its headquarters across thestreet to Xerox Square, a complex that includes a thirty-storyoffice building, an auditorium for civic as well as company use,and a sunken ice rink.) Before going up to the Xerox offices, Itook a turn or two around the mall, and found it to beequipped with all kinds of shops, a café, kiosks, pools, trees,and benches that—in spite of an oppressively bland and affluentatmosphere, created mainly, I suspect, by bland piped-inmusic—were occupied in part by bums, just like the benches inoutdoor malls. The trees had a tendency to languish for lack oflight and air, but the bums looked O.K. Having ascended byelevator, I met a Xerox public-relations man with whom I hadan appointment, and immediately asked him how the companyhad reacted to the stock drop. “Oh, nobody takes it tooseriously,” he replied. “You hear a lot of lighthearted talk aboutit at the golf clubs. One fellow will say to another, ‘You buythe drinks—I dropped another eighty thousand dollars on Xeroxyesterday.’ Joe Wilson did find it a bit traumatic that day theyhad to suspend trading on the Stock Exchange, but otherwisehe took it in stride. In fact, at a party the other day when thestock was way down and a lot of people were clusteringaround him asking him what it all meant, I heard him say,‘Well, you know, it’s very rarely that opportunity knocks twice.’
As for the office, you scarcely hear the subject mentioned atall.” As a matter of fact, I scarcely did hear it mentioned againwhile I was at Xerox, and this sang-froid turned out to bejustified, because within a little more than a month the stockhad made up its entire loss, and within a few more months ithad moved up to an all-time high.
I spent the rest of that morning calling on three scientific andtechnical Xerox men and listening to nostalgic tales of the earlyyears of xerographic development. The first of these men wasDr. Dessauer, the previous week’s three-million-dollar loser,whom I nevertheless found looking tranquil—as I guess I shouldhave expected, in view of the fact that his Xerox stock was stillpresumably worth more than nine and a half million dollars. (Afew months later it was presumably worth not quite twentymillion.) Dr. Dessauer, a German-born veteran of the companywho had been in charge of its research and engineering eversince 1938 and was then also vice-chairman of its board, wasthe man who first brought Carlson’s invention to the attentionof Joseph Wilson, after he had read an article about it in atechnical journal in 1945. Stuck up on his office wall, I noticed,was a greeting card from members of his office staff in whichhe was hailed as the “Wizard,” and I found him to be asmiling, youthful-looking man with just enough of an accent topass muster for wizardry.
“You want to hear about the old days, eh?” Dr. Dessauersaid. “Well, it was exciting. It was wonderful. It was alsoterrible. Sometimes I was going out of my mind, more or lessliterally. Money was the main problem. The company wasfortunate in being modestly in the black, but not far enough.
The members of our team were all gambling on the project. Ieven mortgaged my house—all I had left was my life insurance.
My neck was way out. My feeling was that if it didn’t workWilson and I would be business failures but as far as I wasconcerned I’d also be a technical failure. Nobody would evergive me a job again. I’d have to give up science and sellinsurance or something.” Dr. Dessauer threw a retrospectivelydistracted glance at the ceiling and went on, “Hardly anybodywas very optimistic in the early years. Various members of ourown group would come in and tell me that the damn thingwould never work. The biggest risk was that electrostaticswould prove to be not feasible in high humidity. Almost all theexperts assumed that—they’d say, ‘You’ll never make copies inNew Orleans.’ And even if it did work, the marketing peoplethought we were dealing with a potential market of no morethan a few thousand machines. Some advisers told us that wewere absolutely crazy to go ahead with the project. Well, asyou know, everything worked out all right—the 914 worked,even in New Orleans, and there was a big market for it. Thencame the desk-top version, the 813. I stuck my neck way outagain on that, holding out for a design that some expertsconsidered too fragile.”
I asked Dr. Dessauer whether his neck was now out onanything in the way of new research, and, if so, whether it isas exciting as xerography was. He replied, “Yes to bothquestions, but beyond that the subject is privileged knowledge.”
Dr. Harold E. Clark, the next man I saw, had been in directcharge of the xerography-development program under Dr.
Dessauer’s supervision, and he gave me more details on howthe Carlson invention had been coaxed and nursed into acommercial product. “Chet Carlson was morphological,” beganDr. Clark, a short man with a professorial manner who was, infact, a professor of physics before he came to Haloid in 1949.
I probably looked blank, because Dr. Clark gave a little laughand went on, “I don’t really know whether ‘morphological’
means anything. I think it means putting one thing togetherwith another thing to get a new thing. Anyway, that’s whatChet was. Xerography had practically no foundation in previousscientific work. Chet put together a rather odd lot ofphenomena, each of which was obscure in itself and none ofwhich had previously been related in anyone’s thinking. Theresult was the biggest thing in imaging since the coming ofphotography itself. Furthermore, he did it entirely without thehelp of a favorable scientific climate. As you know, there aredozens of instances of simultaneous discovery down throughscientific history, but no one came anywhere near beingsimultaneous with Chet. I’m as amazed by his discovery now asI was when I first heard of it. As an invention, it wasmagnificent. The only trouble was that as a product it wasn’tany good.”
Dr. Clark gave another little laugh and went on to explainthat the turning point was reached at the Battelle MemorialInstitute, and in a manner fully consonant with the tradition ofscientific advances’ occurring more or less by mistake. Themain trouble was that Carlson’s photoconductive surface, whichwas coated with sulphur, lost its qualities after it had made afew copies and became useless. Acting on a hunchunsupported by scientific theory, the Battelle researchers triedadding to the sulphur a small quantity of selenium, anon-metallic element previously used chiefly in electrical resistorsand as a coloring material to redden glass. Theselenium-and-sulphur surface worked a little better than theall-sulphur one, so the Battelle men tried adding a little moreselenium. More improvement. They gradually kept increasing thepercentage until they had a surface consisting entirely ofselenium—no sulphur. That one worked best of all, and thus itwas found, backhandedly, that selenium and selenium alonecould make xerography practical.
“Think of it,” Dr. Clark said, looking thoughtful himself. “Asimple thing like selenium—one of the earth’s elements, of whichthere are hardly more than a hundred altogether, and acommon one at that. It turned out to be the key. Once itseffectiveness was discovered, we were around the corner,although we didn’t know it at the time. We still hold patentscovering the use of selenium in xerography—almost a patent onone of the elements. Not bad, eh? Nor do we understandexactly how selenium works, even now. We’re mystified, forexample, by the fact that it has no memory effects—no tracesof previous copies are left on the selenium-coated drum—andthat it seems to be theoretically capable of lasting indefinitely. Inthe lab, a selenium-coated drum will last through a millionprocesses, and we don’t understand why it wears out eventhen. So, you see, the development of xerography was largelyempirical. We were trained scientists, not Yankee tinkers, butwe struck a balance between Yankee tinkering and scientificinquiry.”
Next, I talked with Horace W. Becker, the Xerox engineerwho was principally responsible for bringing the 914 from theworking-model stage to the production line. A Brooklynite witha talent, appropriate to his assignment, for eloquent anguish, hetold me of the hair-raising obstacles and hazards thatsurrounded this progress. When he joined Haloid Xerox in1958, his laboratory was a loft above a Rochestergarden-seed–packaging establishment; something was wrongwith the roof, and on hot days drops of molten tar would oozethrough it and spatter the engineers and the machines. The914 finally came of age in another lab, on Orchard Street, earlyin 1960. “It was a beat-up old loft building, too, with a creakyelevator and a view of a railroad siding where cars full of pigskept going by,” Becker told me, “but we had the space weneeded, and it didn’t drip tar. It was at Orchard Street that wefinally caught fire. Don’t ask me how it happened. We decidedit was time to set up an assembly line, and we did. Everybodywas keyed up. The union people temporarily forgot theirgrievances, and the bosses forgot their performance ratings.
You couldn’t tell an engineer from an assembler in that place.
No one could stay away—you’d sneak in on a Sunday, whenthe assembly line was shut down, and there would besomebody adjusting something or just puttering around andadmiring our work. In other words, the 914 was on its way atlast.”
But once the machine was on its way out of the shop andon to showrooms and customers, Becker related, his troubleshad only begun, because he was now held responsible formalfunctions and design deficiencies, and when it came tohaving a spectacular collapse just at the moment when thepublic spotlight was full on it, the 914 turned out to be averitable Edsel. Intricate relays declined to work, springs broke,power supplies failed, inexperienced users dropped staples andpaper clips into it and fouled the works (necessitating theinstallation in every machine of a staple-catcher), and theexpected difficulties in humid climates developed, along withunanticipated ones at high altitudes. “All in all,” Becker said, “atthat time the machines had a bad habit, when you pressed thebutton, of doing nothing.” Or if the machines did do something,it was something wrong. At the 914’s first big showing inLondon, for instance, Wilson himself was on hand to put aceremonial forefinger to its button; he did so, and not only wasno copy made but a giant generator serving the line wasblown out. Thus was xerography introduced in Great Britain,and, considering the nature of its début, the fact that Britainlater become far and away the biggest overseas user of the914 appears to be a tribute to both Xerox resilience andBritish patience.
That afternoon, a Xerox guide drove me out to Webster, afarm town near the edge of Lake Ontario, a few miles fromRochester, to see the incongruous successor to Becker’s leakyand drafty lofts—a huge complex of modern industrial buildings,including one of roughly a million square feet where all Xeroxcopiers are assembled (except those made by the company’saffiliates in Britain and Japan), and another, somewhat smallerbut more svelte, where research and development are carriedout. As we walked down one of the humming production linesin the manufacturing building, my guide explained that the lineoperates sixteen hours a day on two shifts, that it and theother lines have been lagging behind demand continuously forseveral years, that there are now almost two thousandemployees working in the building, and that their union is alocal of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, thisanomaly being due chiefly to the fact that Rochester used to bea center of the clothing business and the Clothing Workers haslong been the strongest union in the area.
After my guide had delivered me back to Rochester, I set outon my own to collect some opinions on the community’sattitude toward Xerox and its success. I found them to beambivalent. “Xerox has been a good thing for Rochester,” saida local businessman. “Eastman Kodak, of course, was the city’sGreat White Father for years, and it is still far and away thebiggest local business, although Xerox is now second andcoming up fast. Facing that kind of challenge doesn’t do Kodakany harm—in fact, it does it a lot of good. Besides, a successfulnew local company means new money and new jobs. On theother hand, some people around here resent Xerox. Most ofthe local industries go back to the nineteenth century, and theirpeople aren’t always noted for receptiveness to newcomers.
When Xerox was going through its meteoric rise, some thoughtthe bubble would burst—no, they hoped it would burst. On topof that, there’s been a certain amount of feeling against theway Joe Wilson and Sol Linowitz are always talking abouthuman values while making money hand over fist. But, youknow—the price of success.”
I went out to the University of Rochester, high on the banksof the Genesee River, and had a talk with its president, W.
Allen Wallis. A tall man with red hair, trained as a statistician,Wallis served on the boards of several Rochester companies,including Eastman Kodak, which had always been theuniversity’s Santa Claus and remained its biggest annualbenefactor. As for Xerox, the university had several soundreasons for feeling kindly toward it. In the first place, theuniversity was a prize example of a Xerox multimillionaire,since its clear capital gain on the investment amounted toaround a hundred million dollars and it had taken out morethan ten million in profits. In the second place, Xerox annuallycomes through with annual cash gifts second only to Kodak’s,and had recently pledged nearly six million dollars to theuniversity’s capital-funds drive. In the third place, Wilson, aUniversity of Rochester graduate himself, had been on theuniversity’s board of trustees since 1949 and its chairman since1959. “Before I came here, in 1962, I’d never even heard ofcorporations’ giving universities such sums as Kodak and Xeroxgive us now,” President Wallis said. “And all they want inreturn is for us to provide top-quality education—not do theirresearch for them, or anything like that. Oh, there’s a gooddeal of informal technical consulting between our scientificpeople and the Xerox people—same thing with Kodak, Bausch& Lomb, and others—but that’s not why they’re supporting theuniversity. They want to make Rochester a place that will beattractive to the people they want here. The university hasnever invented anything for Xerox, and I guess it never will.”
The next morning, in the Xerox executive offices, I met thethree nontechnical Xerox men of the highest magnitude, endingwith Wilson himself. The first of these was Linowitz, the lawyerwhom Wilson took on “temporarily” in 1946 and kept onpermanently as his least dispensable aide. (Since Xerox becamefamous, the general public tended to think of Linowitz as morethan that—as, in fact, the company’s chief executive. Xeroxofficials were aware of this popular misconception, and weremystified by it, since Wilson, whether he was called president,as he was until May of 1966, or chairman of the board, as hewas after that, had been the boss right along.) I caughtLinowitz almost literally on the run, since he had just beenappointed United States Ambassador to the Organization ofAmerican States and was about to leave Rochester and Xeroxfor Washington and his new duties. A vigorous man in hisfifties, he fairly exuded drive, intensity, and sincerity. Afterapologizing for the fact that he had only a few minutes tospend with me, he said, rapidly, that in his opinion the successof Xerox was proof that the old ideals of free enterprise stillheld true, and that the qualities that had made for thecompany’s success were idealism, tenacity, the courage to takerisks, and enthusiasm. With that, he waved goodbye and wasoff. I was left feeling a little like a whistle-stop voter who hasjust been briefly addressed by a candidate from the rearplatform of a campaign train, but, like many such voters, I wasimpressed. Linowitz had used those banal words not merely asif he meant them but as if he had invented them, and I hadthe feeling that Wilson and Xerox were going to miss him.
I found C. Peter McColough, who had been president of thecompany since Wilson had moved up to chairman, and whowas apparently destined eventually to succeed him as boss (ashe did in 1968), pacing his office like a caged animal, pausingfrom time to time at a standup desk, where he would scribblesomething or bark a few words into a dictating machine. Aliberal Democratic lawyer, like Linowitz, but a Canadian by birth,he is a cheerful extrovert who, being in his early forties, wasspoken of as representing a new Xerox generation, chargedwith determining the course that the company would take next.
“I face the problems of growth,” he told me after he hadabandoned his pacing for a restless perch on the edge of achair. Future growth on a large scale simply isn’t possible inxerography, he went on—there isn’t room enough left—and thedirection that Xerox is taking is toward educational techniques.
He mentioned computers and teaching machines, and when hesaid he could “dream of a system whereby you’d write stuff inConnecticut and within hours reprint it in classrooms all overthe country,” I got the feeling that some of Xerox’s educationaldreams could easily become nightmares. But then he added,“The danger in ingenious hardware is that it distracts attentionfrom education. What good is a wonderful machine if you don’tknow what to put on it?”
McColough said that since he came to Haloid, in 1954, he felthe’d been part of three entirely different companies—until 1959a small one engaged in a dangerous and exciting gamble; from1959 to 1964 a growing one enjoying the fruits of victory; andnow a huge one branching out in new directions. I asked himwhich one he liked best, and he thought a long time. “I don’tknow,” he said finally. “I used to feel greater freedom, and Iused to feel that everyone in the company shared attitudes onspecific matters like labor relations. I don’t feel that way somuch now. The pressures are greater, and the company ismore impersonal. I wouldn’t say that life has become easier, orthat it is likely to get easier in the future.”
Of all the surprising things about Joseph C. Wilson, not theleast, I thought when I was ushered into his presence, was thefact that his office walls were decorated with old-fashionedflowered wallpaper. A sentimental streak in the man at thehead of Xerox seemed the most unlikely of anomalies. But hehad a homey, unthreatening bearing to go with the wallpaper;a smallish man in his late fifties, he looked serious—almostgrave—during most of my visit, and spoke in a slow, ratherhesitant way. I asked him how he had happened to go into hisfamily’s business, and he replied that as a matter of fact henearly hadn’t. English literature had been his second major atthe university, and he had considered either taking up teachingor going into the financial and administrative end of universitywork. But after graduating he had gone on to the HarvardBusiness School, where he had been a top student, andsomehow or other … In any case, he had joined Haloid theyear he left Harvard, and there, he told me with a suddensmile, he was.
The subjects that Wilson seemed to be most keen ondiscussing were Xerox’s non-profit activities and his theories ofcorporate responsibility. “There are certain feelings ofresentment toward us on this,” he said. “I don’t mean justfrom stockholders complaining that we’re giving their moneyaway—that point of view is losing ground. I mean in thecommunity. You don’t actually hear it, but you sometimes get akind of intuitive feeling that people are saying, ‘Who do theseyoung upstarts think they are, anyhow?’”
I asked whether the letter-writing campaign against the U.N.
television series had caused any misgivings or downrightfaintheartedness within the company, and he said, “As anorganization, we never wavered. Almost without exception, thepeople here felt that the attacks only served to call attention tothe very point we were trying to make—that world co?perationis our business, because without it there might be no worldand therefore no business. We believe we followed soundbusiness policy in going ahead with the series. At the sametime, I won’t maintain that it was only sound business policy. Idoubt whether we would have done it if, let’s say, we had allbeen Birchers ourselves.”
Wilson went on slowly, “The whole matter of committing thecompany to taking stands on major public issues raisesquestions that make us examine ourselves all the time. It’s amatter of balance. You can’t just be bland, or you throw awayyour influence. But you can’t take a stand on every majorissue, either. We don’t think it’s a corporation’s job to takestands on national elections, for example—fortunately, perhaps,since Sol Linowitz is a Democrat and I’m a Republican. Issueslike university education, civil rights, and Negro employmentclearly are our business. I’d hope that we would have thecourage to stand up for a point of view that was unpopular ifwe thought it was appropriate to do so. So far, we haven’tfaced that situation—we haven’t found a conflict between whatwe consider our civic responsibility and good business. But thetime may come. We may have to stand on the firing line yet.
For example, we’ve tried, without much fanfare, to equip someNegro youths to take jobs beyond sweeping the floor and soon. The program required complete co?peration from ourunion, and we got it. But I’ve learned that, in subtle ways, thehoneymoon is over. There’s an undercurrent of opposition.
Here’s something started, then, that if it grows could confrontus with a real business problem. If it becomes a few hundredobjectors instead of a few dozen, things might even come to astrike, and in such a case I hope we and the union leadershipwould stand up and fight. But I don’t really know. You can’thonestly predict what you’d do in a case like that. I think Iknow what we’d do.”
Getting up and walking to a window, Wilson said that, as hesaw it, one of the company’s major efforts now, and evenmore in the future, must be to keep the personal and humanquality for which it has come to be known. “Already we seesigns of losing it,” he said. “We’re trying to indoctrinate newpeople, but twenty thousand employees around the WesternHemisphere isn’t like a thousand in Rochester.”
I joined Wilson at the window, preparatory to leaving. It wasa dank, dark morning, such as I’m told the city is famous formuch of the year, and I asked him whether, on a gloomy daylike this, he was ever assailed by doubts that the old qualitycould be preserved. He nodded briefly and said, “It’s aneverlasting battle, which we may or may not win.”


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