Faxing is something a lot of people consider old-school technology. To some, it’s an entirely obsolete piece of history, replaced now by things like email, text messages, or online sharing services. What’s truly amazing is that it’s still used over 150 years later by companies across the globe and is seen as one of the more secure ways of transmitting information.
The Telefax Machine Begins:
The first working attempts at what we now call fax machines started around 1846. Dubbed an “Electric Printing Telegraph” and created by Alexander Bain, it was able to reproduce graphic signs in laboratory conditions. Frederick Bakewell took the design and made several improvements, demonstrating a telefax machine.
Onwards and upwards the device went, with consistent improvements made every couple of decades. Contributions were made from scientists and engineers across much of Europe and the rest of the world. In 1865, the fax machine started to be produced commercially between Paris and Lyon. 1880 saw an English inventor construct the first scanning phototelegraph.
In 1888, Elisha Grey helped to further develop faxing technology by creating the autotelegraph. With his new device, Gray was able to send signatures over long distances, allowing verification of identity from across the country or the globe.
Modern Fax Machines Take Shape:
In 1924, a whole 80 years after the first inkling of faxes came about, AT&T helped to further improve the technology. Through a new process of transmitting colour pictures by electricity, they sent 15 photographs from Cleveland to New York. The photos ended up being of suitable quality for newspaper reproduction, a huge leap in technology.
Around that same time, Richard H. Ranger invented the wireless photoradiogram, a staple in today’s modern fax machines. This technology allowed us to send pictures from anywhere across the globe. Commercial use of the new technology was available within only two years. By the 1940s, the technology was advanced enough to be able to fit comfortably in telegram delivery vehicles.
The 1960s is where fax machines finally took off commercially, though. The Xerox Corporation released Magnafax Telecopiers to the public which was easy to operate compared to other fax machines and could be hooked into a telephone line. Within less than ten years, companies across the globe had entered the fax market.
Faxing Towards Today:
Xerox continued making fax machines, constantly improving their product to transmit documents faster and clearer. In later years, they even started creating hybrid fax machines which could fax, copy, or simply scan. What took over 100 years to become a commercially accepted product though, grew old fast.
Technology grew at an astounding rate and fax machines reached their peak in 1997, only about 7 years after the Internet started taking hold.
Whilst fax machines quickly became overshadowed, faxing is still very much alive. In fact, many companies from the United States to Japan find faxes to be among the most secure of transmissions. Sensitive information to and from government agencies, the healthcare industry, and others still rely on it today.
The internet may have helped lead to the death of fax machines themselves, but it also led to new ways of faxing. With today’s technology, we can scan documents with our phones and send or receive faxes through your email without ever using a fax machine at all! Faxing still maintains its spirit while evolving with our current technology, just as it always has.