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Office equipment in popular culture: The definitive overview

In this article, we take a break from our groundbreaking instructional series, Business-to-Business Buying Basics 101, to present to you a brief history of the various roles that office equipment has played in popular culture. From movies to TV shows and everything in between, printers, copiers, scanners and now 3D printers have played leading and supporting roles in some of your favorite works of art. 

Let’s get this show on the road

Office equipment has perhaps never been featured as prominently as it is in the 1999 cult classic, Office Space. In this riotous comedy, some bored office workers (unlike yours truly) take a misbehaving printer out back and each of them takes his frustrations out on it.

Catch Me If You Can

In the early 2000s biopic Catch Me If You Can, a young Leonardo DiCaprio portrays the shady early life of one Frank Abagnale, the notorious con artist. Just like Abagnale did, DiCaprio’s character poses as an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer while leading a bumbling FBI agent (played by Tom Hanks) on a worldwide chase. Abagnale is finally caught in the midst of his misdeeds using a giant printing press somewhere in France.

He is then apprehended by French police and imprisoned, but gets to serve most of his prison sentence by working for the FBI’s bank fraud department. Don’t be like Abagnale; don’t use your office printer or other equipment for nefarious purposes.

The Office

If you thought you’d see The Office in this article, you weren’t wrong. After debuting in 2005, this NBC sitcom gained popular and critical acclaim for its witty, incisive, oftentimes hilarious take on American office culture. Its verisimilitude and memorable mockumentary-style of shooting propelled the careers of many a hitherto unknown actor, and propelled the show to success on streaming platforms long after the series finale aired in 2013. Unsurprisingly, the show featured at least one printer cameo.

In a 2010 episode, Dunder Mifflin Paper Company employee (and Cornell alum) Andy Bernard learns that a customer’s (fictional) Sabre printer went up in flames while printing. Thinking that he’s onto something, Andy has the idea to star in a sort of safety video about these printers. While shooting the video, a printer actually does go up in flames and explode, thus making Andy’s worst fears a reality.

More from The Office

And just for good measure, why not another office equipment scene from everyone’s favorite office-related TV show?

In the 2008 episode, “The Surplus,” Dunder Mifflin employees squabble over what to spend a surplus on. Although the office copier malfunctions, not all employees want to replace it. Pam Beesly wants a new chair and is determined to get it. Oscar Martinez and Jim Halpert take Michael out to lunch to wine and dine their way into a new copier. Jim wants to replace it to make copies himself to avoid having to ask Pam to make copies, to avoid any awkwardness associated with them being an item. 

Seven Pounds

Seven Pounds is a doozy of a drama; it’s a uniquely sad movie. Without spoiling it, let’s just say that it involves Will Smith playing a repentant man who lends special assistance to seven strangers.

He even goes so far as to fix a Heidelberg Windmill press belonging to a greeting card printer played by Rosario Dawson. In doing so, he perhaps wins her heart.

Maybe in another life, Smith (or his character) could’ve been an office equipment service technician.

The Book of Eli

This violent, post-apocalyptic film from 2010 stars Denzel Washington as the titular Eli. Eli is an adept lone survivalist who knows the entire New King James Version of the Bible by heart. This movie recalls the movable-type printing press that Johann Gutenberg invented to print the first book ever printed in 1455: the Bible. Without spoiling any more of the movie, let’s just say that a printing press plays a leading role at some point.

Now that we’ve covered more than our fair share of office equipment old and new in front of the camera, let’s briefly look at how it’s used behind the scenes in Hollywood.

3D printers

Just as Hollywood would appear to indulge in some sort of fetishized nostalgia for the old version of printers (such as the Heidelberg Windmill press) on camera, so, too, would it appear to fetishize the future of printers (3D printers) behind the camera.

As their name strongly suggests, 3D printers print three-dimensional objects. As this article explains:

A 3D printer can make pretty much anything from ceramic cups to plastic toys, metal machine parts, stoneware vases, fancy chocolate cakes or even (one day soon) human body parts. 

Interesting. But how does it work?:

You start by designing a 3D object on an ordinary home PC, connect it to a 3D printer, press ‘print’ and then sit back and watch. The process is a bit like making a loaf of sliced bread, but in reverse. Imagine baking each individual slice of bread and then gluing them together into a whole loaf (as opposed to making a whole loaf and then slicing it, like a baker does). That’s basically what a 3D printer does.

In a future article, we’ll cover some of the more famous movies that used 3D printers to craft some of the better-known props in your favorite movies.

Printing in pop culture

Well, there you have it. As you can tell, Hollywood actually does feature office equipment in its movies. It’s fond of the classic office printer, the retro printing press and modern multi-function copier. Anyway, to get any and every kind of document-based technology solution, check out ClearView. It’s the solutions provider for organizations such as Barbizon, whose modeling and acting programs have catapulted many celebrities to Hollywood and beyond.   

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