Fax Machine

With the advent of email and internet faxing services, fax machines are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past. But don’t discount these hardy business machines yet. Fax machines are still ubiquitous in most office settings, and sometimes faster and more efficient in sending digital documents that the alternative – scanning and emailing or e-faxing. One reason some businesses still rely on their fax machines include sending original signed documents (most people find it much easier to fax an original than to digitize it and then fax or email it.)

Fax machines send faxes, which are actually short for facsimile, the Latin term for “make similar” or “make a copy.” A fax machine is used to transfer facsimiles (shortened, with a slight spelling alternation, to “faxes”) over a telephone network. Fax machines themselves are electronic devices that hook into telecommunications systems, namely telephone lines, to transfer faxes between two points. Fax machines gained popularity in offices in the last couple of decades of the 20th century, where they were one of the first communication tools to herald the shift to a smaller, more wired world.

A fax machine can actually be broken down into three combined pieces – an image scanner for scanning documents to send, a printer for printing documents received, and a modem for sending and receiving the documents. Fax machines were originally popular in Japan, where their kanji character alphabet made faxing a better alternative to compete technologies such as teleprinting. As is often the case with technology, Japan introduced fax machines to the rest of the world, and by the mid-1980’s they were popular office machines.

As with many electronics, the first fax machines were of the analog variety. Those fax machines are obsolete now, replaced, as so many electronics now are, by superior quality digital technology. Digital faxes are faster, and can transmit information from one fax machine to another at near real-time speed. They also allow for higher quality images, which has long been one of the gripes of frequent fax senders. Another gripe was the prevalence of “junk faxes.” Falling into a category with junk mail and spam email, these faxes – usually offering vacations, investment opportunities, or financial products – this tactic came into wide use starting in the late 1980′s. Proponents of junk faxing, of course, prefer to call the term “Broadcast faxing” or “fax advertising” to avoid any negative connotations.

For offices who do not want to invest in a fax machine, or who do not want a telephone line dedicated to faxing, there are alternatives. E-faxing allows users to set up an account with an online service and then send digital documents via the internet. Faxes are then received in .tif or .pdf format. Many companies use e-faxing in order to comply with confidentiality rules, perhaps regarding human resources information (social security numbers, addresses, financial information, etc.) The medical community uses e-faxing extensively in order to comply with the U.S. government’s Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines. These guidelines specify that some sensitive information cannot be sent over the internet unencrypted. Another alternative to traditional fax machines is to install specialized faxing software that allows users to treat their own computer as a fax machine.

It is increasingly rare to find a stand-alone fax machine in offices or homes. Most faxes now come as one component of an all-in-one piece of office equipment. Combinations include fax printers, fax copiers, fax scanners, printer fax scan copiers, etc. The combinations are almost unlimited. For larger offices, many copier companies, such a Xerox, Sharp and others, now lease copiers that include a fax capability built in on board.

This Fax Machine Review is Written/Updated on Jun 29th, 2009 and filed under Consumer Electronics. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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