The Ditto Machine

The faintly sweet aroma of pages fresh off the duplicator was a memorable feature of school life in the spirit duplicator era. A pop culture reference to this is to be found in the film Fast Times At Ridgemont High. At one point a teacher distributes a duplicated schedule of class quizzes, and every student immediately lifts it to his or her nose and inhales.

spirit duplicator (also referred to as a Ditto machine in the US, Banda machine in the UK or Roneo in France) was a printing method invented in 1923 by Wilhelm Ritzerfeld and commonly used for much of the rest of the 20th century. The term “spirit duplicator” refers to the alcohols which were a major component of the solvents used as “inks” in these machines. The device coexisted alongside the similar mimeograph.

Spirit duplicators were used mainly by schools, churches, clubs, and other small organizations, such as in the production of fanzines, because of the limited number of copies one could make from an original, along with the low cost and correspondingly low quality of copying.

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