Few people haven’t heard of faxing at this point. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t sent or received a fax in some capacity. This type of technology has long been a staple in the business world with companies in virtually every industry making use of it.
Some people are also aware that faxing has changed a great deal over the years. Even during the last few decades, the process of sending and receiving faxes has undergone major overhauls. Today, a range of faxing solutions is available that caters to the needs of global corporations and individuals alike. Having said that, the following facts may surprise even the most proficient faxers.
Based on historic accounts, faxing actually dates back as far as 1843, making it nearly 180 years old at this point. Scottish clockmaker and inventor, Alexander Bain invented the first faxing system in Scottland. It was simply an electric telegraph system that was capable of sending images rather than text alone.
Though it sounds a bit simple considering the technology we have today, the first fax system was actually quite complicated. Bain used his knowledge in clockworks, electricity, and other fields to create his machine. It was made up of parts from basic telegraph machines as well as clock components.
Using a stylus mounted on a pendulum, the initial fax machine essentially traced pictures on specially designed metal surfaces. It scanned the pictures line by line and transferred them onto a metal cylinder. From there, it transmitted those pictures across standard fax lines. Keep in mind, in the 1800s, this was a development so advanced it rendered people speechless.
Many people assume the fax machine came about after the telephone. That’s not exactly the case. In fact, Alexander Graham Bell didn’t introduce his telephone until 1876, 33 years after fax machines came into play.
You might say all those who were left speechless at the thought of sending images via wire didn’t miss out on much. Theoretically, they could’ve just sent pictures to convey their feelings. That would’ve been much more efficient since pictures are worth a thousand words, right?
Like fax machines, early telephone models operated based on a form of telegraphy, so the basic technology behind the two inventions was fairly similar. Businesses across the globe adopted both phones and fax machines fairly early on. Telephones were more prominent during those early years because they were more affordable and user-friendly than fax machines.
That’s why phones were initially more widespread than fax machines. It’s also the reason so many people are under the impression that phones came first.
Since fax machines reached the market before telephones, they naturally made their way into the world of business communications before their voice-relaying counterparts. Still, they weren’t really the most popular of the two technologies. As mentioned, the first fax machines were incredibly expensive and not nearly as advanced as today’s versions.
Because of that, only a few businesses could afford to implement them during the early years. Those that could certainly gained an advantage over their competitors, though. That’s especially true for those that took advantage of the technology before phone lines were available for installation.
We’ve all come to expect instant gratification these days whether we’re sending a fax or looking for a local plumber to fix the sink. For the most part, modern technology delivers on that demand. That wasn’t always the case, though.
At present, sending a fax generally takes less than two seconds from start to finish. In the beginning, the process took about six minutes whether the fax was going across the street or across the globe. By the 1970s, the time frame had been cut in half.
Even then, it left quite a few people drumming their fingers and tapping their feet while waiting for a fax to go through. If equipment failure or a power outage happened to take place in the midst of transmission, it was a virtual disaster. Today’s fast faxing leaves much less room for problems like that to happen or cause serious issues when sending a fax.
Signing documents electronically through digital fax has become the norm these days. This practice allows multiple people to sign contracts and other types of paperwork without having to convene in a single location or spend months sending the necessary documents from one party to another via snail mail. Contrary to popular belief, though, this isn’t a new development.
Back in 1888, electrical engineer and inventor, Elisha Gray created a version of the fax machine that could scan and transmit signatures. Known as the TelAutograph, it allowed people to sign documents and run those documents through the machine to transmit them to other parties.
Though this was extremely convenient, it didn’t come with all the security features of today’s e-signature solutions. Back then, people could easily change clauses in documents to make them work in their favor rather than that of the other parties involved. In all likelihood, no one would’ve noticed until long after it was too late to resolve the situation. That’s certainly not the case these days with encryption and all the other measures involved in the process.
Early fax machines were tools for sending text and images via telegraph wires. Scientists, business people, and other ingenious minds saw far-reaching potential in even those rudimentary models, though. In addition to being a revolution in communication, fax machines were considered for potentially reinventing the way electric clocks worked and regulating the generation and distribution of electrical currents among other possibilities.
No doubt, fax technology caused a ripple effect in multiple sectors and paved the way for a long list of the advancements we take for granted today. Business communications certainly wouldn’t be the least of those fields. Of course, it has branched out in ways early innovators probably couldn’t have seen coming.
Today’s fax machines offer extensive functionality. Many combine the options of scanning documents, printing, making copies of documents and pictures, and transforming physical documents into digital ones. Sending and receiving faxes haven’t been left out of the mix, either. These multi-functional units come in a variety of brands, shapes, sizes, and capabilities.
Many people believe that with all the technology now available, faxing has gone the way of the dodo bird. Few things could be further from the truth. Both businesses and individuals still routinely send faxes.
In all honesty, faxing is more prevalent today than it was in the past. Based on the latest reports, there are more than 18 million fax machines in use throughout the United States right now. To put this into perspective, there were only about 30,000 being used 50 years ago. Upwards of a billion are in use in other countries as well, including Japan, Russia, and Germany to name a few.
Reports vary on just when and where the first fax was sent and how far it went. Logic would dictate that Alexander Bain was the first person to send a fax since he had to test out his invention before launching it. He probably sent faxes short distances at first.
When looking at the bigger picture, faxing was an international concept from the time it came into existence. The first official fax line ran from New York to London. It went live in 1924 and was created by AT&T. From there, fax cables began to stretch across the world, increasingly connecting cities, towns, and countries no matter how far apart they were.
Certain write-ups indicate that Richard Ranger, one of the inventors who improved upon the original fax machine design, sent one of the first photographs via fax from New York to London in 1924. It was a photo of President Calvin Coolidge. In return, the London-based recipients of that picture sent Ranger a photo of British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin.
Cybersecurity has become a major concern for today’s businesses and consumers. After all, everyone uses computers and the internet at this point. This gives wrongdoers numerous opportunities for theft and fraud. Many people overlook the role of conventional fax machines in all this, though.
Fax machines that operate over standard phone lines can easily be tapped. At the same time, fax-capable printers can be hacked in much the same way as computers. In turn, cybercriminals can steal companies’ information as well as that of their customers and suppliers. Keep in mind, though, new advancements in fax technology have all but eliminated all those potential dangers.
Though word is spreading quickly about the latest innovations in faxing technology, many people have yet to realize they don’t necessarily need a conventional fax machine to send and receive faxes. Modern developments have given rise to entirely new technology. Today, all you need is a computer, an internet connection, and the right software.
Cloud-based fax solutions offer an array of benefits for users. They’re much simpler and more convenient than traditional fax machines. They’re also faster. Security is a factor to consider, too. With multiple tiers of encryption and other features, they’re virtually impossible to hack. Even if cybercriminals manage to intercept a cloud-based fax, they won’t be able to see the information it contains. Additionally, numerous measures are in place to prevent people from covertly altering faxes.
Faxing dates back more than 180 years at this point. From the beginning, this technology has revolutionized business communications in many ways. It has also evolved over the years. Along the way, faxing has become faster, more affordable, more convenient, and much more secure.
What once required bulky, complicated, and highly limited machines can now be carried out on a completely digital basis. It can also be done with none of the hurdles that once prevented people from reaping all the benefits fax machines had to offer. As such, there's no reason businesses and individuals across the globe can't make faxing part of their repertoire.