Another set of panels has come off, revealing yet another had painted sign from the side of 50 Monroe NW.

It reveals what was the cutting edge technology when the building was wrapped  in 1984.

As a graphic arts degree holder, I enjoy seeing the hand painted signs which have slowly been revealed as the restoration of the buildings at 50 Monroe NW and 38 Ottawa NW progress downtown. (Full disclosure -- I work in the buildings)

The top part of the sign most recently revealed that Commercial Equipment Co. had the latest in copying technology for 1984 called 'Thermo Fax'.

Jojo Girard/TSM
Jojo Girard/TSM

Your thoughts instantly go to Fax machines, which were the hottest form of communication in the mid-80s because it was fairly novel back then to be able to send documents from business to business without having to use a courier or the US Mail.

However, the term 'Thermo Fax' actually refers to the tech of using infrared heat to chemically adhere the image to the page to make copies in the earliest copy machines (think of the thin copy paper used in early Xerox copiers).

This tech was later used to develop the early renditions of Fax machines, which used the process to transmit an image over a phone line.

The process and the paper, if you recall, was quite temperamental as described on its Wikipedia page:

The Thermofax process was temperamental. The coated paper tended to curl, and being heat-sensitive, copies were not archival.[5] The darkness setting is tricky to adjust, and drifts as the machine warms up. The darkness often varies, some portions of the text being too light and others being too dark.


Since the heat absorption of the ink does not necessarily correlate with its visible appearance, there were occasional idiosyncrasies; some inks that looked nearly black to the eye might not copy at all, and an exposure setting that worked well for some originals might require a change to make usable copies with another.

A pain in the butt to be sure, but we were jamming with it big time back in 1984!

Commercial Equipment Company, by the way, still operates in GR with locations at 2225 Oak Industrial Dr NE and 2859 Walkent Dr NW.



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