Obsolete: Fax

Photo: Peter McIntosh
Photo: Peter McIntosh
Obsolete item: The facsimile machine.

Born: 1843, developed from 1960s.

Death: Still available on old copper lines but some fax services are incompatible with newer fibre networks.

Use: Sending text and images over a long distance.

Description: The funnest fax fun fact is that the facsimile machine was invented 11 years before the telephone. It took a while to be commercialised, which photocopying expert Xerox achieved in 1964 by getting the scanny bits of one copier to talk to the printy bits of another located elsewhere.

Japanese manufacturers refined the design, helped by a large domestic market with a complicated writing system in which the pen is mightier than the keyboard. To this day in that country faxes are still popular, often used to send sketch maps of addresses, as Japanese houses are often numbered in chronological order of construction, not consecutively along the length of a street (and streets are often unnamed).

Elsewhere, including in New Zealand, emails then smartphone messaging and social media discussions have all but wiped out the fax.

The Otago Daily Times editorial department receives two to three fax messages a month, on its dedicated line (03) 474-7422.

Comeback: About as likely to eventuate as the paperless office.


- Peter Dowden



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