Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the modern fax machine, a device that became as prominent in offices worldwide as the water cooler. But in the last few years its reputation has switched from a necessity to one of the most despised pieces of equipment in the work area.
Superseded by the combination of email, e-signature services, and scanners, fax machines should have dwindled years ago. And yet they’re still here.
Fax machines haven’t disappeared fully because they’ve transformed into something else. The great, clumping brute of the 80s is now a small, multifunctional (all-in-one) machine that, as well as sending and receiving faxes, is a printer, a photocopier and could probably make a great cup of tea.
Some professionals swear by the fax as an effective way to stand out in the digital crowd. An emailed sales pitch or press release can be easily deleted with a single keystroke, but faxes are conspicuous and require more effort to dispose of, they may actually receive a glance en route to the shredder.
Are They a Complete Write Off?
The experts say we shouldn’t write off fax machines yet. They are still used by police forces for sending fingerprints; by companies, especially legal firms, that need signatures on contracts; by health authorities and others who see them as more secure than email; and by the Ministry of Defence, last stronghold of the antiquated self contained fax.
There’s also a certain fraction that still use the fax machine because they actually like it. They will argue that, “If you can dial a phone and press one button, you can send a fax”. “It is far simpler than the diverse method of printing, signing, scanning, and then emailing a document to someone as an attachment”. “Your computer doesn’t have to be on to send or receive a fax, also, many places (at home and abroad) may not have reliable power or internet service, but you can almost always find a working phone line”.
If you feel the need to eradicate the actual equipment, you could employ an Internet Faxing Service, there are now companies offering a service to send and receive faxes via email, eliminating the need for a fax machine. Not only can you avoid the typical fax machine hassles like busy signals, paper jams and waiting for a confirmation, you could save the costs of line rental charges, and machine maintenance, as well as print cartridges and paper.
Yes, this is the technology that ruled our lives for quite a while, the means by which a well known footballer wooed his future wife with faxes during the 1998 World Cup. Certain pop stars used to fax each other steamy love letters, until one of their spouses found them, and, less romantically another celebrity dumped his wife by fax. I suspect modern relationships are terminated by a text message, but the fax has had a colourful history, and it needs to be applauded.
The UK Office Direct Blog, a history