Monday’s (26 March) newspaper shows photographs of leaked question papers for PU examination. The question papers were hand-written. The agents would have bulk photocopied and sold these papers.

In a photocopying shop in my neighbourhood, several eager students and some anxious parents get stacks of question papers photocopied regularly. They are old papers, and some model papers. Not leaked papers. The shop is crowded in the evenings with students getting friends’ notes, some chapters or a whole text-book getting photocopied. Nearer the exam, brisker the business. The shop offers a volume discount, which applies to most of his student-customers.

Once the notes or book-chapters are photocopied, the students feel safe – carrying the printed knowledge in their bags or stacking them up on their study tables. As the pages can be photo copied easily and cheaply, the old wisdom of summarising and making notes while reading books are outmoded ideas. I often wonder if they read the matters later. Is it possible to read the hundreds of pages duplicated just a few days before the examination? Is it mainly a feel-safe factor?

During happy hours of the day, people visit the shop to make copies of various documents and certificates. When we make copies, if the need is one, we tend to get one or two extra copies to save the bother in future. When a copy of the document is needed again, we forget that we already have copies or are unable to find the copies. Again we make a few more copies than needed. The cycle continues feeding the industry and wasting resources.

Many libraries have photocopying services. Though the copyright notices in books say something like “All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from …”

INDIAN COPYRIGHT ACT, 1957 states “copyright shall subsist in any literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work (other than a photograph) published within the lifetime of the author until 62[sixty] years from the beginning of the calendar year next following the year in which the author dies.” However, books from even law school libraries get photocopied in bulk.

My bank would deduct tax on my pension income unless I showed them that I have paid advance tax. As I paid the tax through the same bank,  they have the records in their system. However, I need to give them copies of challan with stamp from the same bank. For the investments qualifying tax deductions, I have to give another set of proofs. It is not enough that I show the records and they note in my file having verified them. They have to file papers without ever reading them in the first instance and not having a need to refer to them later.

In some offices, we have to repeatedly give address proof. I often offer original telephone bill as I do not store them. That won’t do – the office needs photocopy. Every month I get duplicates of PAN card, driving license, some pages of passport, telephone bill …

Government departments, and private/public organisations advertise in newspapers about  e-governance and paperless offices. In the days of manual typewriters, we used correction fluids to whiten errors and type over. When we evolved in to “word processing” to create documents, minor corrections lead to re-printing the document and filling the waste paper basket with older versions.

Nostalgic Tail Piece:

A Cyclostyling Machine

In bad old days, cyclostyling was the way to duplicate documents in offices. Question papers and house journals also were cyclostyled. Like today photocopying machines are often called Xerox machines, cyclostyling machines were called ‘Gestetner’, by the name of its inventor David Gestentner, and also a popular brand of the machine. Big offices had Gestetner operators, qualified to fill duplicator ink, fix the stencil cut by typewriter, feed paper, and  turn the handle of the machine. If a special operator was not appointed, the person who doubled as the operator would get a special allowance. The process of cyclostyling is messy, but operator was an important person.

This picture shows a two drum rotary stencil machine. A stencil, in poor condition, is still attached. The double-drum design inked the stencil with rollers, which picked up the ink from a tube. Here is a video of the original machine and its working.


About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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3 Responses to Xeroxed

  1. Barada says:

    I liked your observation on “photocopying extra copies and not able to find it when needed and photocopying again”. This has happened to me so many times that now a days I only photocopy the required numbers.


  2. pblak52 says:

    Dear Mr PG
    Your article on photocopying touched me a quite a bit…the xerox machine at display kindled my fond memories in early 70`s at the office..The operator was looking like a magician bringing out copies and we were simple onlookers…hope you also remember the hand operated adding and subtracting machine of those days..anyway that is not the subject matter…the issue of wastage and repetition is a matter of concern…wish something is done about it…wonder whether UID can help to a larger extent…


  3. Sally Chan says:

    On the full spectrum there are benefits and drawbacks on any given situation. We experience, learn and apply our knowledge everyday as human beings. That is the beauty here.

    Photocopiers today offer more than just a photocopy. Commonly known as a Multifunctional Device, an Office Photocopier can help transform the workflow to you and others. Photocopiers nowadays allow you to send a scanned document to be distributed from the device itself – saving not only paper and costs but also increasing up-time on the time to complete office duties.

    e-solutions – your workplace technology partner


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