The Risograph – a plain-looking, clunky machine first released in Japan in 1986 by the Riso Kagaku Corporation – was initially developed as an alternative to other widespread copying processes. Marketed to churches, offices and schools, the Risograph offered a high-quality, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly option ideal for large-volume printing.
1930: “The Comet,” believed to be the first science fiction fanzine, published.
1930-1960: Mimeograph duplicating machine available.
1944: Xerography invented.
1960s/1970s: Zines characterized by a synergy between outspoken political commentary, literary experimentation, heartfelt critiques of rock and roll music, influence of drugs on visual communication, and revolution in layout and design.
As an office standard the Risograph lost out to the photocopier, but the possibilities of riso-printing were adopted by a generation of artists and independent publishers who would give the machine new purpose. Working with the strengths and limitations of the technology, artists began creating posters, zines and artists’ books that embraced a lo-fi, pixelated aesthetic and allowed for endless experimentation with color, saturation and registration.
Mimeograph machines continue to be used in developing countries because it is a simple, cheap, and robust technology. Many mimeographs can be hand-cranked, requiring no electricity.
When spread over 20 or more copies, the cost per copy (2 to 4 cents) is close to photocopiers. But for every additional copy, the average cost decreases. At 100 prints, the master cost per copy was only 0.4–0.8 cents per copy, and the cost of the paper printed upon will start to dominate. A master is capable of making 4000–5000 prints, and then a new master easily be made if needed for further copies.
"Anybody can now become both author and publisher. Take any books on any subject and custom-make your own book by simply xeroxing a chapter from this one, a chapter from that one—instant steal!"" - McLuhan