Laser Eraser

This laser eraser was made and used by physicist Art Schawlow of Bell Labs. If he made a mistake while typing, Schawlaw could simply press a button and vaporize the typewriter ink thus removing the incorrect characters. The wavelength of the laser was optimized for the absorption characteristics of the ink. Only the ink, not the paper, went up in smoke. Though the eraser was too expensive for commercial production, Schawlow received US Patent 3,553,421 for the invention and used the eraser on his office typewriter.
The object includes a power supply to convert alternating current of 120 volts to 900 volt direct current pulses, the laser emitter, a connecting cable and carrying case.
Currently not on view
Object Name
laser eraser
date made
Schawlow, Arthur L.
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (cords material)
glass (tube material)
case: 19.5 cm x 23.2 cm x 36.2 cm; 7 11/16 in x 9 1/8 in x 14 1/4 in
eraser: 4.3 cm x 5.7 cm x 25.7 cm; 1 11/16 in x 2 1/4 in x 10 1/8 in
power supply: 9 cm x 16 cm x 25.3 cm; 3 9/16 in x 6 5/16 in x 9 15/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Energy & Power
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Arthur L. Schawlow
Additional Media

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