Those of you who remember the Ditto handouts in the classroom will recognize the blue text in these compositions created from scanography loose collage pieces. Finally clearing out left overs from years of teaching, brings back a host of memories and emotions – time has turned to past tense reveries, technology changes and crucial Mass Media becomes artifacts of another century ( Mass Media consumes & transforms other Mass Media into content ). For those of you too young to have experienced the blue/purple of a Ditto, here is a bit of historical background.

A spirit duplicator (also referred to as a Ditto machine in North America, Banda machine in the UK or Roneo in France and Australia) was a printing method invented in 1923 by Wilhelm Ritzerfeld and commonly used for much of the rest of the 20th century. The term “spirit duplicator” refers to the alcohols which were a major component of the solvents used as “inks” in these machines. The device coexisted alongside the mimeograph.

Spirit duplicators were used mainly by schools, churches, clubs, and other small organizations, such as in the production of fanzines, because of the limited number of copies one could make from an original, along with the low cost and correspondingly low quality of copying. ( See:  History of the Spirit Duplicator )

As secondary school teachers, my wife & I always had  a stack of ditto sheets ready to go at home to prepare handouts ( the eventual arrival of a photocopy machine made life considerably easier) . One day we came home to discover our dog and cat waiting for us. Dog sat happily wagging his tail with his very blue/purple tongue.  The cat was sitting daintily on the table top with her now lovely indigo paws. Shredded ditto sheets littered the floor. The dog was happy to see us, while the cat had an expression that seemed to say he did, I tried to keep those papers from sliding off the table, but alas it could not be helped. 

Torn strips, blue letters

fallen to memory’s floor –

Time stains finger tips.



Ethel Walters sings “Am I Blue” recorded 1929. I can recall/hear my mother singing this one and she & my father dancing to the tune.  More tangential stains left by Time.


10 thoughts on “H BtAM

  1. I can still vividly remember the smell and the special feel of them when the teacher handed them out when they were still wet…..
    And my father used to always sing that line from that song whenever we played Trivial Pursuit and someone landed on Blue.

    Tangential memory stains, indeed.
    That was quite a trip.

    • Most welcome and may thanks for sharing. It is remarkable how pieces of our past become interwoven – the Gestalt of our Self.

  2. How far we have come. In 1988 I made a pastel portrait of my Dad, and wanted to copy it for each of my siblings. That meant going into a stationer’s and using their photocopier. I still have my copy, and Mum has the original.

    • Yes those of us with a bit more mileage have seen wonders and transformations, advancements and some unfortunate missteps . Each day presents itself with the possibility of a pushmi-pullyu. Never seen anything like it. 😀

  3. Great story! We had Roneo machines at school they were always black prints but smelled strongly of the ink when handed out. don’t think we ever saw the spirit duplicators.

  4. Ah, Banda machines. Gone the way of all old tech: Xerox, carbon paper, tracing paper, Letraset, Roneo, potato prints …

    Can we predict when 3D printers will become old hat?

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