Listening Topic: Technology – Talk at a technology museum

A. Listen to a guide telling the story of Chester Carlson and his invention. Then choose the best summary.

The story is about ____.

      a   a scientist who made a new discovery by accident

      b   an amateur who believed in his invention

      c   a wealthy man who was generous with his money

B. Read through the questions and answer the ones you can. Then listen to the interview again and complete your answers as you listen.

 Why as Carlson’s invention important?

 When was the process invented?

 What kind of childhood did Carlson have?

 Why did Carlson keep a notebook?

 Why did he become interested in the duplication process?

 What was the difficulty that he had at first?

 When did Haloid agree to develop the machines?

 When did they sell the first model?

 What happened when they introduced the first model?

10   What did Chester Carlson do after he became successful?





Answers will vary.

1   The photocopy machine was a very successful product and the technology is still used today.

2   1937

3   He was poor and had to support his father after his mother died.

4   It was to keep his ideas in. He wanted to be an inventor.

5   When studying law, he had to copy pages longhand from books.

6   Nobody would invest in his idea or give him money to develop his idea.

7   1947

8   1960

9   The machine was an instant success.

10   He lived simply, and gave away most of his money.


A = Guide, B = Visitor 1, C = Visitor 2, D = Visitor 3

A:   Good morning everybody! Welcome to the Museum of Technology! My name is Greg, and I’ll be your tour leader today. Now, if you’d like to step this way … we’re going to look at this machine over here …. Now, first of all, can anybody guess what this is?

B:   It looks like something for writing, or printing.

A:   Yes. This is actually the first photocopy machine.

All:   Aha! Oh yes!

A:   This was one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century. Fortune magazine called it “the most successful product ever marketed in America.” … And this technology is essentially the same technology that is used in laser printers today! … Just think for a moment how often you use a photocopy machine, or a laser printer.

And this is Chester Carlson, the inventor of the photocopy machine. He invented the process of xerography – that’s basically what happens in a photocopy machine – in 1937 …. First I’m going to tell you a little bit about him, and then we’ll look at how xerography works. OK?

All:   OK.

A:   Chester Carlson was born in Seattle, and he was the only child of a barber. His father was sick and couldn’t work, and the family was very poor. His mother died when he was a teenager, so he had to support his father. At one point the two of them lived in a chicken coop with a bare concrete floor!

But he was a good student, and … and he was very interested in science. He put himself through college, first junior college and then the California Institute of Technology. All the time he did odd jobs to support himself and his father. He always knew that he wanted to be an inventor, because he figured that if he invented something, it would be a way out of poverty. He kept notebooks … full of all kinds of ideas. One of his ideas was … a raincoat with like, gutters on it to keep water off your pant legs … Another idea that he had was … a toothbrush with bristles that you could replace. He was an inventive type of guy.

Anyway, when he graduated he got a job in New York, and got married, but he still wanted to invent something, so he went to law school to find out about the legal aspects of inventions. He wound up spending a lot of time in the New York Public Library, and he had to copy pages longhand from law books because he couldn’t afford to buy them. It’s hard for us to imagine that nowadays, but without photocopiers, you either had to copy everything by hand … or had to buy the book. There wasn’t any other option!

So Carlson started thinking about a machine that would duplicate documents. He came up with the idea for this machine, which basically uses photoconductivity. It’s a process whereby you use electricity and light to create an image. This machine was his prototype, and it was made in 1938. He used his own money to make it, because he couldn’t convince anyone that it would work. He knew he had a good idea, but nobody would invest in it. He was turned down by more than twenty companies! Finally, in 1944, he got some money from a research company … to do more research. And then in 1947 a small company in Rochester New York – it was called Haloid – agreed to develop the machines.

But the process was so complicated, that it took a long time … and a lot of money to get the process right. A lot of the scientists at the company wanted to drop it altogether. But Carlson kept pushing them, and finally in 1960 – that’s years later! – they sold the first automated copier. It weighed 650 pounds! … But as soon as it got into offices, you can imagine what happened.

C:   They liked it.

A:   They loved it. It sold like hot cakes. Think about how often the average office uses a photocopier today. Haloid changed its name, and I think you can guess the new name.

D:   Xerox?

A:   Yes. Haloid became The Xerox Corporation.

B:   What about Carlson?

A:   He became very rich! He earned about two hundred million dollars from his invention. And that was in the 1950s, so the money was worth a lot more than it is today. But he was very modest about it. He only ever had one car. People said, if you met him, you’d never know he was so rich. He actually gave away most of the money.

C:   Really?

A:   He gave millions of dollars to charity … paid for schools … libraries. And he never allowed his name to be mentioned. He donated a lot of money for a building at the university where he had studied, but he named the building after the teacher who had inspired him the most.

C:   That’s an incredible story.

A:   It is, isn’t it? Now, let’s look at the machine. Does anybody know how a photocopy is made?

D:   Is it some kind of photographic process?

A:   No, it’s not photographic. As I said, it uses electricity, and light, basically, to create an image.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This