Makin’ Copies

photocopying coverPhotocopying From Bound Volumes; A Study of Machines, Methods, and Materials

Submitter: Besides being outdated, it turns out we had not one, but three copies of it on the shelf. THREE! The vast majority of the machines used are no longer even produced, much less in service. And I never even knew that in the past, you had to set the dials for exposure time when photocopying! We are an Academic institution.

Holly: I didn’t know that about exposure time either. I’ve never seen or heard of the “Rolla-Copy” [pictured below] either. The thing in the first picture below looks like it would result in lots of torn pages. Mildly interesting, but more relevant to a museum or archive.

I can’t possibly pass up this opportunity to share the SNL copy machine skit. Enjoy!

pressure plates

exposure timing


woman making copies

list of machines tested



  1. I’ve worked in the same university office for more than 35 years, and when I first came on board in 1978, they still had a kind of copier where you had to use special paper coated with chemicals on one side, and a transfer roll, and the print on the copies came out looking brown and muddy. When we got our first toner copier and could at last use plain paper and make double-sided copies, it was a big deal. Now, we have a small desktop copier with the option of getting the article we want as a *.pdf and printing it out that way (or also using a scanner and then printing out the scan). The march of progress …

    1. That was the kind of copier we had at the PIttsburg, KS, Public Library when I was hired as the director in 1980. The copier was behind the circulation desk (boy, what a remodeling mish-mash that place was) so staff made copies for patrons. During my tenure we upgraded to a plain-paper coin-op out on the floor where patrons could use it.

      1. I just remembered something else: even after we got the toner copier, we still had packages of the special paper from the older transfer-roll copier, and my boss, who was VERY frugal, wanted to continue using the paper from the transfer-roll copier. Someone had to explain to him that it wouldn’t work and the chemicals from the paper might muck-up the new copier

    2. Yes! I was working in an adv ertising department in the 1970s and what a big step it was to get a copier, so that the copywriters didn’t have to make carbon copies anymore! The copy paper was fragile, though — it had to be protected from light, or the image would disappear.

  2. All right- I give up. I’ve looked up that Rolla-Copy thing and all I’ve found is copy shops in Rolla, Missouri. How the heck was it supposed to work?
    Also, it’s interesting to note that relatively recently, copiers were that difficult to operate. Although given how many people come up and ask how the copier works, an updated version of this book might not be out of place.
    …But mostly, how were you supposed to make copies with a light-up rolling pin? If anyone knows, please share!

  3. From what I can read of the text, it appears that you wrapped the page to be copied around the tube, then wrapped the light sensitive copier paper around that and then turned the light on.

    Odd way to do it.

    At first I thought it was like an old document scanner I had that was pulled across the page, it was hard to get any kind of decent scan because it’s hard to pull your hand across the page at a constant rate. I thought the Rolla copy might have done something similar where you rolled the drum across the page to copy it.

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