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The Story of the Xerox 9700 Electronic Printing System
(the spark that ignited the laser printing industry)

The Xerox 9700 high speed laser printer, sparking a revolution
(from a publicity image in 1977) Click here for a super high resolution version
(thanks Peter Preksto and Harvey Huddleston of Xerox)
See Peter Preksto's description of the image and the 9700 here

The Xerox 9700 Electronic Printing System is a 300dpi duplex Xerographic (Laser) printer operating at 2 pages per second (120 cut sheets per minute in simplex mode) with raster font selection and forms capabilities. It as introduced in 1977 and for many years was the premier high volume page printer.

Your DigiBarn curator (thats me, Bruce Damer), has a personal history with the 9700. I worked for Elixir Technologies Corporation from 1987 through 1994 and while there wrote some of the first software to use a visual interface (GUI), mouse and high resolution displays on PCs to create resources (forms, fonts, graphics and jobs) for the 9700. More on this at the DigiBarn's pages on the Elixir Story.

We will now feature some original writing on the 9700 by people who helped make it the success it became, as well as excerpts from others involved in the birth of the 9700 and laser printing in general.

Guide to the DigiBarn's telling of the Xerox 9700 story:

The Xerox 9700 at work
(they were routined used to print over one million impressions per month!)

About to load the 9700's huge paper trays with more reams?
This and the following two images are from the photo collection of COPI - one of the worlds first 9700 outsource bureaus

9700 in more of a machine room setting

Happy sales reps? (the 9700 had a healthy commission structure)
This image is of a used Xerox printer sold at an early 1980s Xplor Dallas Conference by COPI, the world's first reseller of used Xerox printers. Skp Henk is pictured kneeling, he went on to become the president of the industry association Xplor.

A later Xerox printer derived from the 9700, the 4050, with its tape tower

Our thanks to COPI - Computer Output Print & Internet, a Houston-based service bureau and the world's first reseller of used Xerox printers including the 9700 for supporting this project to tell the 9700 story.

Know anything more about the Xerox 9700? Contact Us!

Other Commentary about the Xerox 9700 by Digibarn Virtual Visitors

From Bryn Mosher (May 2006)

You requested information on the Xerox 9700 series and 4050 printers. I worked as a mainframe operator with both a 9790 and a 4050 in the mid 90's at CalFarm Insurance. I only worked with the machines for a couple of years, but had a close relationship with the 9790 (the most reliable printer I've ever met since it was before the days of plastic parts). When we retired our 9790 for a 4635, I wrote an article for our company newsletter about the printer and it's history. The article is long gone, but I still have a text document with the research I found on the Xerox website back in the 90's. There's stuff on the 4050, 4635 and 9700 series here. I tried to submit the full text, but your for only accepts 5000 characters, so if you want the rest drop me an email. Here's the 9790 info for now. If I ever find the article or any pictures of our old computer room, I'll hand them over too. FYI: Our 9790 became parts for the remiaining 200 or so still in service worldwide as of 1997. I have no idea how many are still around today.

**Below taken from the Xerox website in 1997**

The Story of the 9700

Until the late 1970s, large host computers functioned almost exclusively as "number crunchers," turning out mountains of alphanumeric reports and little else. To print these rudimentary documents, impact line printers sufficed, since only one or a few type fonts were required.

But in 1977, the arrival of the high-speed Xerox 9700 laser printing system and subsequently the 8700 laser printing system, set the stage for a new genre of computer documents: illustrated manuals, catalogs, price lists, directories and other merged text-and-graphic publications. Today, these documents make up the fastest-growing area of computer printing applications.


In the early 1960s, Xerox quietly began to research the possibility of combining lasers with the "xerography" reproduction technique the company had pioneered in the previous decade.

As Xerox researchers began their laser experiments, mainframe vendors were laboring to bring the first affordable computers and impact line printers to an infant data processing market. Installed in corporate data processing centers, these systems generated page after page of accounting reports, produced on oversized continuos form paper with all upper case letters in a single font.

Eventually, as minicomputers and word processing applications gained popularity, the technology was developed to expand the character set on impact printers to include lower case letters and a few symbols.

By the end of the decade, lasers were gaining acceptance as a reliable technology. Then, in the
sprint of 1974, a Xerox product development team in Dallas was charged with integrating the laser and image generation research from the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center with the xerographic technology developed at the company's Rochester, New York, facilities. Three years later, the Xerox 9700 was demonstrated at the 1977 National Computer Conference (NCC) in Dallas.

The 9700 sparked a new era in printing, and users were quick to take advantage of the possibilities. The printer gave data processing centers the ability to produce a variety of fonts, graphics and logos on cut-sheet paper at speeds of up to 120 pages per minute.

From a technology that was little more than a scientific curiosity, laser printing has evolved to become the business standard for convenience and quality.

The Latest from Xerox

On June 23, 1997 Xerox Corporation celebrated the 20th anniversary of what started today's multi-billion dollar laser printing industry, a new era which began with the launch of its first xerographic laser printer nearly 20 years ago, the Xerox 9700 electronic printing system.

Today, Xerox has created a growing industry with products that range from the DocuPrint 4508 at 8 ppm to the DocuPrint 420 CFT at 420 ppm.

The Xerox printing systems business has revolutionized the high-speed, high-volume document processing market.

From Don Siler (May 2005)

Your image titled:
"About to load the 9700's huge paper trays with more reams?

This image is from the photo collection of COPI - one of the worlds first 9700 outsource bureaus"
does not appear to of a Xerox 9700. It looks like a Xerox 9400 high-speed duplicator. The 9700' that I maintained did not have the 50-bin sorter (shown on the left side in the photo), and did not have the raised operator panel section and face-up tray (shown in the center).

The 9700 has the two output stackers as shown in the photos captioned:
"9700 in more of a machine room setting" and "Happy sales reps? (the 9700 had a healthy commission structure)"

The printer input was from mainframe computer direct attachment (as with desktop laser printers to PCs) or using the computer tape towers, similar to the tall left-side portion of the 4050 tape tower shown in your image captioned

"A later Xerox printer derived from the 9700, the 4050, with its tape tower"

From Dan Stewart (May 2005)

Yes, the second picture on that page, under the text "The Xerox 9700 at work (they were routined used to print over one million impressions per month!)" is a 9500 copier.  Actually, you could print 2 million pages per month if you ran it 24/7, which we often did

I spent about 12 years running 9700s, 4050s and 4090s - and even the Burroughs 9270, which was just a 9700 with a different color paint job - in the 1980s and 90s.   I also used the Elixir software, and it's predecessor, the Intran system.

The thing that gives away the 9500 is the Control Panel at the top center, and the big collator bins just to the left of it.   You can even see the red and green Stop and Start buttons on the control panel.   See my attached copy of your picture, which I brightened a little to show the bins in the collator, and added some text.

9700s always had a CRT or PC attached to them for running jobs, not a control panel with a few buttons.   Other than that, the guts of the machines were essentially the same - same laser, same Xerographic Engine, etc.

The other pictures on that page are all 9700s, except of course the 4050 at the bottom.

Your site, pictures and stories brought back lots of good memories!


From Andy Plata of COPI (May 2005)

Photo 2 with the stackers is a 9500 or as we called it - an auxiliary 9700.

From Dana Cowe (May 2005)


Thanks for your reply. Yes, the small Xerox museum is at the Xerox ECC (Executive Communications Center) in El Segundo, CA.

Regarding the pics, if you want higher resolution versions, I think I still have them. Just let me know.

I checked out the 9700 story, at the link you provided. That's very good. I'm not sure what I can add at this point. However, I will tell you that you have one picture on the page that's not at 9700. It's the pic with the caption "About to load the 9700's huge paper trays with more reams". That pic is of a standalone high-volume 9400 copier/duplicator. Just thought you should be aware. I know that because I worked at Xerox for ten years (1980-1990), and became very familiar with the big Xerox devices.

Anyhow, thank you for the invitation. I'll definitely get in touch with you to take you up on that tour, if I find my self traveling in the Santa Cruz area.

BTW - If you're ever in the Los Angeles area, please look me up (I'm not far from Pasadena). It would be great to meet you. I could probably get you a speaking spot at one of the Xplor So Cal chapter meetings, if you're interested. The historical perspective would be a great topic that I'm sure many would appreciate. They hold meetings all over the Southern California area. Let me know if you're interested.

From Basit Hamid (CEO of Elixir Technologies, which built some of the first PC software to drive the 9700 - March 2005)

Hey JJ and Bruce

Thanks for the greetings - so good to hear from an old mentor friend. Yes the 9700 spawned an EXCITING industry and you bore the mantle - heady pioneering days !

A hundred years of metal technology was transformed by one single gizmo - a 9700 - a giant invention!
Then peter preksto - Hiro Yamaguchi and jerry koch (intran) built the first PERQ WYSIWYG head on the 9700 at XPLOR Chicago 1982

Intran's Metaform made the 9700 an intelligent and dynamic digital proto pre-press way back in 1982. More startling looking back is that the WYSIWYG UI was done years before Apple and Lisa and Macintosh or Windows - years before! And for me 24 years later - its still as exciting as 1980 - the document has turned alive on the Internet.

From JJ Keil (former Xerox VP marketing involved with the 9700 launch and building the financial services printing business based on the 9700 - March 2005)


I was scanning the copy on the 9700 and want to thank your for the kind words. What memories? Did we move mountains or did we?

See also these other 9700 Resources:

COPI - Computer Output Print & Internet, a Houston-based service bureau and the world's first reseller of used Xerox printers including the 9700.

Dr. Keith Davidson's Digital printing or digital printers, what’s the difference? Also see Xplor, the industry association built up by Keith Davidson around the phenomenon of the 9700.

2002 CRN Industry Hall of Fame story about Gary Starkweather

Intran (MetaForm system), the first company to drive a Xerox 9700 with a graphics workstation.

Elixir Technologies Corporation, one of the first companies to create software on a standard PC to design forms, fonts and graphics for the 9700. See our pages on the history of Elixir and one of its competitors, TyRego.

The Xerox 4045 printer
, little brother to the 9700.

The Digibarn's extensive collection of Xerox computers and other artifacts

Know anything more about the Xerox 9700? Contact Us!

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