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Why do fax machines still exist?

fax machine

If someone asked you to send him a fax these days, you would most likely just shrug it off as a joke. A fax? We are not in the eighties anymore, right? But, as surprising as it sounds, the fax machine is still in use. The usage has certainly fallen from its peak in 1997, when there were more than 3,5 million fax machines sold in the US alone.


Despite all that, it could still be too early to discard the fax machines in its entirety, at least according to the technology historian from the Texas A&M University Jonathan Coopersmith. He is also the author of the book: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine, where he documented the journey of this fascinating piece of technology. He says that the evolution of the machine started in the 1840s. His opinion is, that due its proceeded use among doctors, legal advisors, and governments, who require legitimate signatures and safe data exchange, it will still be in use, for a considerable length of time to come.

The evolution of fax machines and How You Can Build a Fax Machine on Your Own?

Alexander Bain was a 19th-century inventor from Scotland who built up a machine that could send a scanned message, line by line.

For over 130 years, different innovators, including Thomas Edison, tinkered with their very own fax machine designs. “There’s a great deal of failure when trying to develop something new,” Coopersmith says of that first century of innovative work. “There were many individuals who say, ‘We can do this better. We’ll attempt once more.'”

By the mid-1900s, you could get an astounding fax machine—keeping pace with the sort of fax you’d get today—yet it cost a considerable amount of money. “Much of the time, you didn’t use it that much,” Coopersmith said of the expense. “For most companies, that is difficult to legitimize.” For some organizations, however, it seemed well and good. The Associated Press, for instance, propelled its Wirephoto network in 1935, which transmitted pictures in the range of 10,000 miles of rented phone wires.

At that point, just like nowadays, the fax machine depended on a straightforward light/dark binary. To transmit a file, the machine scans a page, line by line, and transmits one arrangement of electric pulses for the dark parts (like text) and another for the white parts (like the spaces between letters, words, and passages). The electric pulses travel through a phone wire. On the opposite end of the transmission, the receiving fax machine releases black ink as instructed, leaving out the rest. It takes a couple of minutes, yet early engineers believed the hybrid analog-digital device could become something special.

Their hopes finally realized in the 1980s. “At the point when that cost went down, more individuals started to use [fax],” Coopersmith says. The machines rapidly became universal in the work environment. It was an interesting time. Or at least it seemed to be in the movies of that time, many of which included a fax machine. (In 1989, Back to the Future 2 pointed out a dream of the future where everybody had a fax machine in every room of their home, for instance.) But it additionally exhibited another issue, as per Coopersmith. “One of the issues raised by the legal community [was], is a fax signature lawfully substantial?” It was this inquiry—and its definitive goals—that would decide the destiny of the fax, at least for the time being.

Signing copies

Before modern computerized advancements emerged, individuals needed to sign their legal paperwork by hand. You commonly went, face to face, to sign the papers, or you sent them forward and backward between relevant parties up to the point when everything was marked and crossed. Yet, the fax machine and different innovations implied that wasn’t necessary anymore.

For a period, legal advisors and others were worried about the legitimacy of these signatures. Would they hold up in court? Imagine a scenario in which the individual who signed a document later claimed it was forged. Be that as it may, courts routinely upheld fax signatures, treating them with indistinguishable weight from other legitimate signatures. Today, numerous organizations, including Popular Science’s parent organization, require substantial e-marks, similar to a faxed duplicate of a hand-marked record, or an e-signature from a cloud-based program like Adobe Sign. The program checks signatures in line with the rules determined by the ESIGN Act, passed by Congress in 2000.

The legal community isn’t the alone when it comes to depending on the fax machine. Healthcare is a noteworthy user of fax machines, as per the examination by eFax Corporate. Mentalities are changing as a new generation of technically knowledgeable doctors gain control over the country’s healthcare system, however, numerous specialists and the hospitals they work for still consider fax machines more secure than email for transmitting data protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, normally called HIPAA. The manufacturing business, where phone cables might be more dependable than the internet, and the government, which attempts to process touchy data for public release as a component of the Freedom of Information Act, are additionally standard users of fax machines. “Specialists, drug stores, [and] attorneys say, ‘How about we have that fax signature,'” Cooper Smith says. “It’s a certified system.”

A requirement for a fax machine can manifest in unforeseen ways, as well. After the Sony hack, where Hollywood elites’ messages were stolen and distributed on the web, numerous individuals allegedly began utilizing their dried up old fax machines out of dread. Fax, Coopersmith cautions, can be hacked like any other technology, however, it’s still hard to envision somebody using a fax interceptor in 2018.

In a few spots, fax hasn’t left style by any means. “Faxing, particularly, is a network technology – the more individuals who utilize it, the more important it becomes,” Coopersmith says. In Japan, where the majority of people still depend on faxing for different ways of communication, it’s exceptionally important. While it’s somewhat a matter of habit, the fax machine offers some truly engaging services, like an ability to communicate even when the web’s down. What’s more, faxes aren’t simply bound to the workplace, either. They’re used in homes, like a 2-in-1 machine, with both fax and a landline telephone.

Just like the Walkman, the fax machine will most likely never again peak as it did in the days of the 1980s. The innovation is gradually blurring as e-marks turn into the standard and electronic faxes (where physical papers are examined and messaged as PDFs) end up less demanding for another age of office specialists to utilize.

Yet, Coopersmith says, this battle is not yet over for this specific technology. The fax machine’s ascent to prominence, he says, was very long. “You have the first business service in 1863 in France, yet it took 50 years to become profitable, and afterward it took another 50 years to go worldwide,” he says. So similarly, the decline of the fax has been in progress for quite a long time, however, the genuine demise of it will likely happen way further in the future.

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