Rank Xerox

Rank Xerox, a division of the Rank Organisation PLC (UK), was jointly owned by the Xerox Corporation of America. At the end of the 1980s, the company comprised four holding companies. Principle activities included the manufacture, marketing and maintenance of electronic impact printers and typewriters, electrostatic printers, and facsimile machines.

Xerox should have beaten Exxon and Olivetti to the punch in developing the world’s first electronic daisy wheel typewriter following its 1972 acquisition of Diablo Systems, the pioneers of high-speed daisy wheel printing, but an obsession with office automation, saw the company miss its opportunity.

“Our aim is to capture the secretary’s work area with electronic typewriters and word processors, then the manager’s desk with our micro-computers and work stations, and after that, the entire office with our Ethernet network.”

RANK XEROX INTERNATIONAL REPORT 1984

True, the Xerox Corporation of America entered the word processing field early, on Monday the 7th of October 1974, when it introduced its Xerox 800 Electronic Typing System (ETS).

The Xerox 800 “typewriter” boasted an impressive operating speed of 350 words per minute, twice the speed of competitive systems already on the market (notably the IBM Mag Card II) and was the first writing system in the world to provide a selection of interchangeable print wheels with 17 different typefaces. But since the Xerox 800 typewriter was unavailable as a standalone machine, and could only be leased as part of a larger system, and relied on bulky magnetic tape or magnetic card for memory, it was neither affordable nor “totally” electronic.

Xerox and Rank Xerox (in Europe) went on to manufacture 600 and 6000 Series professional office electronic typewriters. The manufacture of a handful of compact electronic typewriters was outsourced to TA Triumph-Adler and Brother Industries.