What can your ink-jet do?

253958853_dea8d75cb0_m And here I thought Xerox was for copying body parts at the office Xmas party.  Turns out, printing technology is very flexible and researchers are trying to adapt it to various applications such as water purification machines and printing solar panels.

There’s also a bit of history on PARC (Palo Alto Research Center):

PARC is one of the older–and more productive–industrial incubators. Xerox founded it in 1970, and 30 companies have been spun out of it. Inventions from the lab include the mouse, Ethernet, the Alto (the archetype of the PC), the laser printer, and, ignominiously, the computer worm. It was also one of the first industrial organizations to employ anthropologists and ethnographers. Xerox wanted to know how people actually interacted with copiers (besides hitting them and swearing at them).

I didn’t know private industry did this, perhaps these centers operate in the background and we just don’t hear about them very often.

(via DailyTech) (image via Zixii)

5 thoughts on “What can your ink-jet do?”

  1. “I didn’t know private industry did this…”

    You might also want to look at the history of Bell Laboratories and / or Edison’s Menlo Park.

  2. A number of high-tech companies had internal research labs in the 80s and 90s. Hewlett Packard, for one, still does. But typically the companies made bad use, if any, of the work they did. PARC was responsible for creating several new industries and probably hundreds of billions of dollars of business, just not any for Xerox.

    In the late 80s, early 90s I worked at the equivalent lab at Tektronix, in Oregon. The group I was in was responsible for developing the framework for the longest-lived, most cost-effective instrumentation technology the company ever had. Just as we were working on the next generation of same, they closed that entire group down and laid 95% of us off, a management decision of truly Dilbertian proportions.

  3. Isn’t that always the case?

    The whole funding for research issue is incredibly difficult. Getting and justifying money, be it from private businesses or government, is incredibly difficult since there are many people waiting to make hay out of the slightest failure.

  4. Management cares more about their option payout for the year than any long term projects. They will kill any cost center to dress up the bottom-line so the stock price stays up.

    Apple’s Steve Jobs toured PARC and was fascinated by what the Star-station can do with mouse and window. So he ordered the Lisa project back in Apple. Later it became Macintosh. That threatened MSDos so Windows 1.0 was born. Interestingly, Apple sued Microsoft for copying Macintosh’s look-and-feel into Windows. Yet Xerox never sued Apple for copying Starstation. Maybe Starstation was never a consumer product for Xerox. Many university received donated machines to do man-machine interface research. But never was it used as a GUI for PCs by Xerox.

    Xerox made obscene amount of easy profit from its copiers. Competing in the PC OS market is probably too hard for the company culture then.

    That’s why these labs are out of fashion today. They never contribute much to company bottom-line.

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