Fax machines, when we hear of them, we often think of ancient bulky printing machines with telephones attached that give off squealing dot-matrix sounds at work. They are relics of the past, a bygone era of office setups that operate at a snail’s pace compared to the present. Or is it?
Nowadays, fax machines are still part of businesses, with newer models combining multiple functions into one piece of technology to form the complete package. Some have a continuous ink system while others have a photocopying feature. It makes other business owners wonder, “Are fax machines really obsolete?” If not, then what are the reasons why organizations still use them? How can it benefit your venture as well? And what’s new in the world in faxing that you can utilize to make your daily operations easier?
All of these questions will be answered below. But first, let’s take a trip down memory lane and discover how the fax machine evolved from a heavy and loud printing device to the silent and more compact ones we are familiar with today.
History of Fax Machines
The history of fax machines dates back to the 19th century when inventors like Alexander Bain and Giovanni Caselli developed early versions of facsimile devices. However, the modern fax machine as we know it began to take shape in the mid-20th century.
- Early Concepts (19th Century): The concept of fax-like transmission dates back to the 19th century. Alexander Bain, a Scottish inventor, is often credited with the earliest fax idea. In 1843, he developed an early facsimile machine capable of transmitting text in the form of images over telegraph wires.
- Pantelegraph and Caselli (1860s): In the 1860s, Italian inventor Giovanni Caselli developed the Pantelegraph, a device similar to Bain’s telefacsimile machine that could also transmit still images over telegraph lines. This marked a significant step toward practical fax technology.
- Wirephoto (1920s-1930s): During the 1920s and 1930s, advancements in fax technology continued with the introduction of wirephoto machines. These devices used the same telegraph or telephone lines as their predecessors to transmit photographs and other images.
- Xerox and the Birth of Modern Fax (1960s): It was not until the 1960s that the modern fax machine began to take shape. In 1964, Xerox introduced the Long Distance Xerography (LDX), capable of transmitting images over long distances. The Xerox Magnafax was the first commercial fax machine launched in 1966.
- Adoption and Commercialization (1970s-1980s): The 1970s and 1980s witnessed the widespread adoption of fax machines, especially in business environments. As technology improved, fax machines became more compact, affordable, and user-friendly.
- International Fax Standards (1980s): In the 1980s, international standards for fax transmission were established. The Group 3 fax standard, introduced in 1980 by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), played a crucial role in ensuring interoperability between different fax machines.
- Peak Usage and Decline (1990s-2000s): The 1990s marked the peak of fax machine usage, with millions of units in operation globally. However, the rise of digital communication technologies such as email and the internet contributed to a decline in fax machine usage in the 2000s and beyond.
Are Fax Machines Obsolete?
Fax machines have become largely obsolete in many industries due to the widespread adoption of digital communication technologies. Email, secure online document sharing, and other digital methods have largely replaced traditional faxing. The decline in fax machine usage is attributed to the convenience, speed, and efficiency offered by these modern alternatives.
However, it’s essential to note that the term “obsolete” can vary based on specific industry requirements, regional practices, and regulatory considerations, and some businesses or sectors may still use fax machines for certain reasons and purposes.
6 Reasons Why Businesses Still Use Fax Machines
Some reasons why businesses might still use fax machines include:
1. Regulatory requirements
In certain industries, there may be regulatory or legal requirements that mandate the use of fax for specific types of documentation or communication. This is particularly true in fields like healthcare and finance.
2. Security and compliance
Some businesses may perceive fax as a more secure means of communication for sensitive information compared to email or other digital channels. This is because fax transmissions are less susceptible to hacking or unauthorized access due to their analog nature.
3. Established workflows
In some cases, businesses may have established workflows and processes relying heavily on fax. Changing these processes can be time-consuming and costly, so they might continue using fax until a compelling reason arises to switch.
Thanks to “The Group 3 fax standard” of the 1980s, fax machines can communicate with each other regardless of the manufacturer, making them a universally accepted means of document transmission. Some businesses may find this interoperability beneficial, especially when dealing with partners, suppliers, or customers who still use fax.
Remember how annoying it is to edit an MS Word document because its format has changed when copied from the original creator? Or when files take too long to be received as the language its created with needs to be converted first? The interoperability of fax machines is the best solution for this problem.
5. Perceived readability
Some individuals and businesses might perceive fax as a more reliable form of communication compared to digital methods, particularly in regions with less reliable internet connectivity.
6. Technological inertia
Businesses may be slow to adopt new technologies due to inertia, resistance to change, or a lack of awareness of more modern alternatives.
It’s worth noting that the use of fax machines is generally on the decline, and many businesses are adopting more modern and efficient communication tools. However, the reasons listed above may still contribute to the persistence of fax machine use in certain contexts. For the most up-to-date information on this topic, you may want to check recent industry reports or news sources
Going back to the issue of interoperability, it can be frustrating on the receiving end to receive a file/document that has its perfect format messed up compared to the original creator, especially if there is an urgent need for the document to be signed or printed out. This is where online faxing becomes a more convenient solution, eliminating the need to make any correctional editing.
Online faxing, also known as Internet or digital faxing, is a modern method of sending and receiving faxes using the Internet and email instead of traditional fax machines and phone lines. It converts/translates the signals/language from analog to digital and vice versa. So, it doesn’t matter if the file was sent from a fax machine or a modern device to a different piece of technology, the file formatting remains as it was and will be sent at a faster speed.
With online fax services, users can send faxes through a web interface or email, and received faxes are typically delivered as email attachments or through an online portal. This eliminates the need for dedicated fax machines, paper, and phone lines, offering a more convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional faxing methods.
Online faxing services often provide additional features such as cloud storage, encryption, and mobile access, making them versatile and streamlined solutions for businesses and individuals. To know more about online faxing and how to avail of a service for your business, visit us today.
Fax machines or faxing in general is not obsolete. It provides a variety of solutions for persistent modern-day printing problems such as file editing caused by format messing from being accessed by different devices.
In terms of storage, transfer speed, security, and additional interoperability issues, we have online faxing as a fix. So say goodbye to waiting for minutes when receiving a file or confusion when reading a jumbled document on your phone/tablet sent from a computer, we at Ultatel have solved that problem for you!