Talk:Spirit duplicator

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The Ditto and its likes bring nostalgic memories in all of us, but this article really deserves some images! Photos of ditto machines are surprisingly hard to find online, and once I've found a few, I really stumbled on the wiki copyright procedures. (This was my first time trying to post a photo, and after an hour of reading wiki-legalese I was as stumped as before. Are snapshots of products creative works? Are published advertisements in the public domain? Well, that discussion doesn't belong here..)
So here's what I found:

  • Most useful ones are from the Early Office Museum, which claims copyright for all work but does acknowledge fair use. Scroll down Copy Machines, for a photo of a Bell & Howell Ditto E-41 circa 1950, and two ads (also here).
  • And here you can find a self-published R. Crumb comic, a great example of the renown purple look and of the machine's popularity and cultural value..

Hopefully someone that's better-versed in wiki image procedures can conclude their addition. Binba 22:10, 4 November 2007 (UTC)


We used these at my school in the early 1980s where we called them "purple perils" regardless of the colour. Ahh, the memories…how they still grate on the brain :-) --Phil | Talk 09:10, Feb 8, 2005 (UTC)

Ha, I can still hear the kachunkathoonk, kachunkathoonk, kachunkathoonk of the machine near my 5th grade classroom. Does the 2nd to last paragraph, comparing the mimeograph machine to the spirit duplicator, seem a bit POV to anyone else? To me, it totally reads like a mimeo fan dissing the ditto machine. FreplySpang 07:18, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
One thing I recall was that newly-printed pages on a ditto machine were cold to the touch, which sometimes prompted me to call them "Cold off the press!" *Dan T.* 14:11, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
And let us not forget the heady aroma of freshly printed dittos. 16:13, 8 August 2006 (UTC)
The spirit duplicator vs. mimeography material seems fairly balanced to me, as a sometime spirit duplicator owner who never owned a mimeo; but of course it's no longer the penultimate paragraph. --Orange Mike 16:45, 28 November 2006 (UTC)
I'm pretty sure my schools were using them in the early to mid 1990s. At least, we got a lot of blurry purple copies. I was surprised to learn they were supposed to be mostly out of use by then, but I imagine ours didn't get replaced until it pretty much broke. Persephone Kore 21:26, 14 September 2007 (UTC)
We used them in my school in the early '80s too. I think there was a xerox copier as well, and teachers might use one or the other, but they were in use. The "few were in use by 1985" statement had been tagged with citation needed since February, so I just removed it. It could probably be safely changed to "declined in use through the 1980s," but whatever is said should be factually verifiable, not just extrapolating from someone's personal recollection. -Agyle 12:08, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

These were called something else in australia, a name starting with 'S' or 'C' not unike 'mimeograph'.... anyone who can follow this up, it would be greatly appreciated...Lou777 (talk) 12:48, 21 April 2008 (UTC)

In some schools in Australia the Fordigraph machine was common, and the term Fordigraph more or less became a verb. I am not certain but I believe these were made by a British company, named Ford Industries (the company was called Fordigraph - owned by Frank R Ford) or similar. Walkingmelways (talk) 23:43, 26 April 2009 (UTC)
In the UK these were very often known as a Gestetner, and the wikipedia page discusses these. Are they different? The Gestetner was typically an ink duplicator (similar to a Roneo) and was typically not a spirit duplicator like the Fordigraph. They produced a black ink print on what could be called "fuzzy" paper - a paper with a slightly fluffy texture that was more absorbent to the ink used in the Gestetner process. The Fordigraph (as like other spirit duplicators tended to use what was called a highly calendared paper (i.e smooth). The Fordigraph paper was called Special Cream Wove as the paper was off-white (i.e. cream) and the non-printing side was slightly textured due to it being manufactured on a fine steel woven mesh. Many schools however useda very cheap paper that was less smooth and very low WEIGHT (low GSM). They certainly smelt the same and produced the same awful purple copies! If they're different there should be a cross-reference somewhere, if they're the same then it should be mentioned here surely? (talk) 00:42, 24 February 2013 (UTC)

Gestetner duplicators were not spirit/wax dye, Gestetner made mimeographs that used stencils and greasy ink. Also, they made small offset printers. - In Finland, most common spirit duplicators in the market were made by Danish company Rex-Rotary. (talk) 22:57, 15 July 2013 (UTC)Arsi

These were still occaisionally used when I was at school in the mid or even late 1990s in England and I was intrigued by the antiquated process and smell. It would only be used when the budget for photocopying had been used up. I'll have a look sometime to see if I have anything printed on one to scan in. Booshank (talk) 13:31, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

When I was in grade school in the late seventies and early eighties, I recall them using a cheap duplicating process for some handouts. Although I do recall a strong smell to them, I don't remember the nature of the smell. What I mostly remember was that it used special paper. The paper was very thin, curled up extremely easily if you didn't put something on top of it on your desk, and was much more likely to cause paper cuts. There was also an odd, sticky texture to it, and scratching it gave off an odd vibration. Any ideas whether this was Ditto, mimeograph, or something else? (talk) 15:55, 10 August 2008 (UTC)


If someone has a scan or can scan one of these in, it would be interesting to see what a page from one looked like! Isoxyl 16:35, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

Ditto Newsletter 1978.jpg

Here's one... a school newspaper I published back in 1978. Note the use of multicolored masters in the logo section. The Ted Nelson mentioned there is the famous one who invented hypertext (his son was a classmate of mine), but the "Jimbo" on one of the sports results is not Mr. Wales! (And they ended up buying an Apple II computer instead of the Exidy Sorceror they were contemplating in the news item here.) (Gee, the Sorceror is a redlink! It was briefly considered a contender in the nascent home and hobby computer market.) *Dan T.* (talk) 01:25, 6 May 2009 (UTC)

This is super cute! I added the image to the article. Dreamyshade (talk) 08:50, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
{{R from alternative spelling}} on the Sorcerer, by the way. :) Chris Cunningham (not at work) - talk 09:10, 31 July 2009 (UTC)


The article explains about the Ditto corporation, which explains the name Ditto machine. What about Banda? Presumably this was a tradename too, at least in the UK. When I was at school in the UK, these were universally called Banda machines. Can anyone shed any light on the Banda company?? Mooncow 19:36, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

Yes, I remember them too. Banda was the trademark of a British company called Block & Anderson (see here and here). —MegaPedant 23:39, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

Highly toxic substances?[edit]

Methanol and isopropanol are toxic at some dose, as for any substance. I don't think they fit the technical definition of "highly toxic", though:

A chemical that falls within any of the following categories: a) has an LD50 of 50 milligrams or less per kilogram of body weight b) a chemical that has an LD50 ≤ 200 milligrams per kilogram of body weight when administered by continous contact with the skin for 24 hours c) a chemical that has an LC50 in air of 200ppm by volume or less of gas or vapor, when administered by continuous inhalation for one hour

so I deleted "highly" from the article.--Joel 00:05, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

Good call; thanks. --Orange Mike 01:22, 9 August 2007 (UTC)

I am terrified to learn that somebody used toxic methanol in spirit duplicators. Throughout the 1970s we had Rex-Rotary spirit duplicators in my school (in Finland), and for some years I used to print my own magazine with a similar duplicator (at the age of 10 to 12). We used only denaturated ethanol. It was denaturated so that no one would want to drink it. The denaturants were not very toxic, they just made the ethanol indigestible or had a very bad taste. - There was a time when I dreamed of finding yellow color for my spirit duplicator. It was nowhere to be found in my country. (talk) 23:13, 15 July 2013 (UTC)Arsi


The link to Aniline Purple says it is a dye. This article calls it a pigment. Which is it?

Jp498 (talk) 02:06, 18 February 2008 (UTC)

Whether a colourant is a pigment or a dye depends on whether it is soluble in the vehicle. Pigments form a suspension in the vehicle while dyes form a solution. Since aniline purple is soluble in the alcohol mixture used in the spirit duplicator it is better described as a dye. —MegaPedant 23:48, 16 May 2010 (UTC)

I find it highly unlikely that the dye used was mauveine which was hardly made (if at all) after 1873. In addition it would fade quickly in sunlight. But I am finding it difficult to discover what the dye could have been, except one late reference to methyl violet which strikes me as much more likely. Sadaltager (talk) 15:45, 30 March 2014 (UTC)


"Ditto" is a trademark of the Ditto corporation, and should be capitalized and only used to refer to that brand of spirit duplicator -- and the first use should have a ®. (Or maybe not. I can't find any evidence that anybody still makes duplicators under the "Ditto" name, and once a trademark goes out of use, it passes into public domain AFAIK.) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bgoldnyxnet (talkcontribs) 19:48, 23 July 2008 (UTC)

We don't use R and TM marks in Wikipedia anyway. --Orange Mike | Talk 17:04, 31 July 2009 (UTC)
The generic use of the word "ditto" was not universal. In the UK, they were generally known as Banda machines. I think that the general use of the uncapitalised word "ditto" in the article should be replaced with the generic term "spirit duplicator". —MegaPedant 00:10, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
It would be interesting to know some more trade names for this process. From my schooldays in England in the 60's, I remember the smell, the cold feel of new copies, and the out-of-focus violet text. And there was a name for the process, which was neither "Ditto" nor "Banda". Maproom (talk) 09:05, 1 June 2012 (UTC)
They weren’t exclusively called Banda machines in the UK, they were also called Roneo machines here too - there was a terrible pun/ joke which hinged on the exchange, “Can you do it on your Roneo?”/ “No, I’ll need help…”, which played off the colloquial use of “on my/ your own-io” as doing something by yourself… Jock123 (talk) 11:55, 13 April 2015 (UTC)


Which substances caused the distinctive smell? --Abdull (talk) 10:19, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

I believe it was the volatile alchohols involved. --Orange Mike | Talk 13:02, 10 May 2012 (UTC)

As used in From Up on Poppy Hill[edit]

It looks like a similar but a more primitive techonology was used for printing a school newspaper in From Up on Poppy Hill by Gorou Miyazaki. Here are some screens: 1, 2, 3Hellerick (talk) 07:04, 16 July 2012 (UTC)

Bell & Howell Ditto E-41 Duplicator[edit]

We found this machine in the crawl space of an old Victorian we are renovating. Anybody have any ideas as to how much it might be worth? I can't find any information on them. Obviously, I have no idea how to place these images I uploaded into the body of this post and no time to sit and figure it out.

RonnaMe (talk) 16:05, 15 January 2014 (UTC)RonnaMe

Tattoo usage?[edit]

The claim about use by tattoo artists in the "History" section doesn't make much sense. It says that "the master copies these machines produce" are frequently used for tattooing, and so the machines have all been snapped up by tattoo artists. But Ditto machines don't "produce" masters at all; masters are a consumable resource used by the machines. If you want a Ditto master for some other purpose, then you don't need a machine, you can make it with paper and the right kind of ink, which is still available; so there's no reason for tattooing to result in a shortage of Ditto machines. My guess is that maybe someone heard a second-hand story about tattooists using Ditto masters and didn't entirely understand what they had heard. It is true that there used to be carbon-paper-like material available for making Ditto masters with an ordinary ballpoint pen, and it's probably difficult or impossible to find nowadays. Maybe that's what has really been used up by tattooists. But even if true, that would need a source. (talk) 15:06, 20 April 2016 (UTC)


The article doesn't mention that mimeograph was commonly used as the term for spirit duplicators or their product. I am not so sure why, though both involve ink, transfer, and a rotating drum. That is, similar to the way Xerox is commonly used to describe the machine, process, and product of such machines produced by others. Gah4 (talk) 01:41, 27 January 2020 (UTC)