Telefacsimiles or Fax Machines are an everyday must for many businesses around the
The fax machine however, did not become widely used until the late 1980s. In fact,
between the years 1983 to 1989, the number fax machines in use went from 300,000 to
A fax means basically scanning a page to make an electronic representation of its text or
graphics, compresses the data to save transmission time, and transmits it to another
facsimile machine. The receiving machine decrypts the signal and uses a printer (usually
built in) to make a facsimile of the original page.
Several people took part in inventing the machine; they include Alexander Bain, Elisha
Gray, Arthur Korn, and Edouard Beeline. It took almost 140 years for the fax machine to
become an everyday appliance, but its roots have been around for quite a while.
The history of the fax machine begins in
1843 England with Alexander Bain. He devised an apparatus made up of two pens connected to
two pendulums. He joined the two together with a wire, and was able to reproduce writing
onto an electrically conducive surface.
Several years later, in 1862, Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli built a machine he called
a pantelegraph, which was based on Bains invention but also included a synchronizing
apparatus. It basically had the same effect as Bains invention. His pantelegraph was
used by the French Post & Telegraph agency between Paris and Marseilles from 1856 to
Elisha Gray, an American inventor, invented and patented many electrical devices,
including a facsimile transmission system. He almost patented the telephone, but Alexander
Graham Bell beat him to it by only a few hours. Gray organized a company that later became
known as the Western Electric Company.
Another man, In 1902, by the name of Arthur Korn, invented telephotography, a means for
manually breaking down and transmitting still photographs by means of electrical wires. In
1907, Korn sent the first inter-city fax when he transmitted a photograph from Munich to
Berlin. This was perhaps the greatest boost the fax machine had faced so far, and soon
many people would try to perfect the machine.
In France, Edouard Beeline constructed the Belinograph. His invention involved placing an
image on a cylinder and scanning it with a powerful light beam that had a photoelectric
cell, which could convert light, or the absence of light, into transmittable electrical
impulses. The Belinograph process used the basic principle upon which all subsequent
facsimile transmission machines would be based.
Todays fax machines owe their core design to the Belinograph although many fax
machines have changed over the years. Several companies would try to develop the fax
machine, and one such company was Xerox.
For several years, the fax machine was expensive and difficult to operate; perhaps
explaining why it was never used much by businesses prior to the 1980s. In 1966, the
Xerox Company introduced a smaller model that would be more accessible to users by sending
its transmissions over existing telephone lines. You could send a document from one fax
machine to another in about 6 minutes this way, this is slow for today, but back then it
represented a significant step toward greater technology.
The Japanese soon entered this market, and soon started to develop smaller, faster, easier
to use machines once they saw the great potential behind this technology. Today, many
companies including Hewlett Packard, Xerox, Panasonic, and a host of others make Fax
How it works
Fax machines are used to send printed material, photographs, or drawings. Facsimile
transmission can be sent by several means. The most common way to send a fax is through a
telephone line, however, todays technology is allowing us to send and receive faxes
through our emails, cell-phones, and of course our hand-held organizers. In addition,
radio, satellite, and cable are also means to send a fax transmission.
The essential parts of a fax
system are the transmitting devices that translate the graphic material into electrical
impulses according to a set pattern, and a synchronized receiving device that retranslates
these impulses and prints that. In a typical system the fax scanner consists of a rotating
cylinder, a source projecting a narrow beam of light, and a photoelectric cell. The copy
to be transmitted is wrapped around the cylinder and is scanned by the light beam, which
moves along the cylinder as it revolves.
The output of the photoelectric cell is amplified and transmitted to the receiving end,
where a similar cylinder, covered with specially impregnated paper, revolves in
synchronism with the transmitting cylinder. A light of varying intensity moves along the
rotation cylinder and darkens the paper by chemically reproducing the pattern of the
original. When the fax is done, it pops out as a blueprint of what the other person sent.
One must also consider the art of sending a good fax machine. If youre not careful
you can put too many papers in at once (jamming it), or accidentally write in the wrong
color, which will make it hard for the other person to read.
People who deal with fax machines every day grow accustomed to tiny imperfections.
However, the greater technology exists for us to use. In a world of technology that seems
endlessly abound with new chips, bytes, and blinking objects, its no wonder many of
us turn to fax transmissions to make our lives a bit easier.