Photocopiers are extremely useful machines that many people use regularly in the course of their working lives. Advantages include speed and cost, although there are hidden costs to the environment, according to at least one environmental organisation. Disadvantages include a lack of reliability, although this may be exaggerated, according to a pair of professors who have studied the issue scientifically.
The chief advantage of a photocopier is its ability to make copies of documents quickly and cheaply. You can reproduce a document as many times as you wish with ease. You can enable more people to participate in processes by providing them with appropriate paperwork. However, with some photocopiers, there are often differences in the quality of the original and copy, noticeable in the sharpness of the detail. Text and images may appear slightly blurred, making a copy more difficult to see and read.
Photocopiers are often the butt of jokes about their reliability. An archetypal, if cynical, view of a photocopier is of a machine that has broken down yet again, with a service engineer needing to be called out, at considerable expense, to fix it. The validity of this notion was tested by mathematics professors Michael Bulmer and John Eccleston, in their analysis of photocopier reliability, as part of a series of similar case studies. Bulmer and Eccleston used complex evolutionary algorithms to discover a correlation between photocopier failure and age.
Photocopiers appear to offer privacy to the user. When you copy a document, you turn it face down, and close a lid or flap over it. The copy is made instantly, and then you leave the machine taking both your copy and original document. Information security is advantageous, especially in an age when identity theft has become a serious problem. However, in 2010, CBS News discovered modern copy machines have secret hard drives that store digital files of all the documents copied on them. Documents discovered by CBS included police and court records and personal information. Where these machines are resold, they may pose a significant security risk.
Some photocopiers are fairly large objects, occupying a considerable amount of space in a typical office, although manufacturers also sell desktop copiers. Photocopier toner cartridges can be expensive and require regular changing. Many cartridges cannot be refilled and end up in landfill sites, although some companies reprocess and recycle them. A typical office uses a great deal of paper copying documents. Indeed, the whole photocopying process can be environmentally costly. However, there are ways of both enjoying the benefits of photocopiers and helping to protect the environment.