Japan's Copy Machine Market in the 1960s
Japan in the 1960s was different to the Western world in various aspects including document preparation practices and office environments, not to mention language and spelling systems. The gap was much larger than that between the US and Europe, along with huge differences in terms of market mechanisms and technological levels. Here, you can take a brief glimpse of the situation that developed in Japan's copy machine market in those days.
Diazo-Process Copy Machines
Around 1962 when Fuji Xerox was founded, fountain and ballpoint pens with bluish ink were mainly used to create documents in Japan. Even though Japanese character typewriters were in use, writers needed specialized skills to operate typewriters having a writing speed much slower than that of handwriting.
The Japanese at the time had already begun to make copies as well, as a matter of course. The diazo-process wet copy machines such as RICOPY comprised the vast majority back then. Although less than 1,000 diazo copy machines were produced annually during the latter half of the 1950s, production drastically increased to exceed 10,000 units in 1959 and continued expanding to reach nearly 100,000 units in 1963.
The background behind the spread of the diazo process can be attributed to two factors: the low price of related devices and low copying fees, and not needing much time to make a copy unless it entailed a large number of copies. Nevertheless, an original document had to be prepared on special thin paper in order to use the diazo process, and users could not copy bound documents or paper written on both sides because light needed to penetrate through it. And because alkaline developer made from ammonia and amine was used for this method, heating-induced odor and irritation to the human body arose as concerns in the workplace when using the developer for a prolonged time.
The robust growth of the diazo process was unique to Japan's copy machine market at an early date. In contrast, thermal copy machines were overwhelmingly dominant in the US. The second most popular process in both markets was the diffusion transfer process—a type of photographic process that originated in Germany, and which was utilized for copying literature and other documents due to its high-quality images.
Debut of Electrostatic Copy Machines
The xerographic process finally made its debut as an accomplished method in the market context stated above. Contrary to the previous copying processes that took advantage of chemical alteration, the xerographic process was based on electronic principles and called electrostatic photography. Therefore, it allowed users to copy on plain paper—the most distinctive feature of this method. Even though electrofax introduced by RCA Corporation around that time also adopted the same electro-photographic principles, the device could only copy on light-sensitive paper covered with zinc oxide. After all, we can say that the xerographic process was one step ahead of the others not only for practical application but also for actual utilization in view of its photographic sensitivity and intended purpose.
Even before Fuji Xerox was founded, a small number of xerographic copy machines such as Standard Xerox (Xerox 1385) were imported to Japan by trading companies and others, with about five sets being sold every month. However, its high price limited the sale destinations to big companies, banks, the printing divisions of government offices, and other large customers. Unlike modern copy machines that print a large amount of copies of the same document, the Xerox 1385 was utilized for producing printing plates and offset masters for light offset printing.