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Bric-a-Brac: B is for...

Banda Duplicators

Manpower!Sure, with modern technology even the most technophobic teacher can knock up a perfectly attractive handout in moments, and print out hundreds of copies at the click of a mouse – but they don’t have the special charm of the hand-cranked copiers that allowed for a smelly, feely, felt-tipped copy to be distributed around the class. The most obvious use of the duplicator was creating worksheets to ensure the latest school trip wasn’t just going to be an opportunity to mess about, but instead a spirit-crushing dreary traipse in search of boring facts about each exhibit. Back when graduating from a pencil to a pen was a major watershed, the excitement of the duplicator from a pupil’s point of view was possibly the first experience for many of the ‘forbidden’ adult stationary product Tipp-Ex covering up a slip of the pen. Truly the duplicator inspired a generation of temps.



  1. Adrian

    August 11, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    What a bizarre machine it was, like a primitive cross between a printing press and a photocopier. The ones in my school always produced printouts which were purple text on a white background, for some reason. The smell of their printouts was very distinct, a very sweet smell which I have never encountered since..

  2. Adrian

    August 18, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    Actually, I think the generic term for these machines was Mimeographs, ‘Banda’ may have been a brand name..

  3. Paul

    October 5, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Oh yes – those purple sheets. Very very tasty!

  4. Richard Davies

    June 22, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    I remember the colour & smell of the ink as well.

    Most teachers who used them seem to have very hard to read handwriting, which made them an effort to read.

    I’ve heard of the machines being called spirit duplicators as well.

  5. Catherine

    April 19, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    It was always a great honour to be allowed to help “print” the banda sheets and/or hand out the results. Used particularly enthusiastically in Geography classes at my school, the chance to inhale deeply and get just a bit lightheaded was rarely missed.

  6. THX Kling Klang

    May 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    There’s a scene in 80s movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High when the class sniffs the worksheets they have been handed out, a rare example of an American high school movie being more relevant to Brits in their details than usual. Could this mild purple ink tripping even have been a worldwide experience?

  7. Graxxor Anadro Vidhelssen

    June 14, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    My mate’s mum was a teacher and she let us use her Banda machine she had at home. I remember printing off a run of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons character sheets on it. The smell was remarkably invigorating. Oh, if left out on the table by the window, the purple ink would sometimes completely fade and the paper turn brown before the campaign was even finished, leaving only the pencilled in information on crumbly parchment. We were disappointed, though ultimately saved from a painful death, no doubt, to find out she used boring, non-flammable solvent.

  8. Lynn Bradshaw

    August 31, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    When I first began teaching, the Banda Machine was state of the art technology along with videos. I used to love the smell of alcohol when the copies were newly printed.

  9. Andy Maddox

    March 4, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    My Dad used to work for the company Block and Anderson who manufactured those machines. He actually serviced and repaired them.

    He donated one to my old Junior School who used it for all sorts of things. He would repair the machine,replace the copying fluid and provide the paper for it.

  10. Tom Ronson

    November 13, 2022 at 3:39 am

    People who were lucky enough to live in Northampton in the late eighties and early nineties will probably remember a dreadlocked ‘crusty’ who used to hang around the entrance to the Grosvenor Centre at weekends shouting ‘Anarchist mah-gah-zeeen!’ at the top of his lungs. Curiosity got the better of me and I coughed up fifty pence for his A5 publication, which was a Banda duplicator effort through and through. It was the usual guff you’d expect from such a source – Letraset headlines, long articles about the sexual politics of pornography typed on a Petite typewriter (then reduced from A4 to A5 meaning it was virtually unreadable), ironic photo-collages of Thatcher having sex with someone it’s intrinsically hilarious to imagine the Prime Minister having sex with, jokes about ‘the pigs’ AKA ‘the filth,’ would-be-subversive cartoons in which popular children’s television characters smoke loads of weed and so on. All printed in smudgy purple ink. Thoroughly depressing, though I imagine Rick from The Young Ones would have deemed it ‘pretty angry stuff, right?’

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