(Located at http://library.advanced.org/27887/gather/history/fax.shtml)
Telefacsimiles or Fax Machines are an everyday must for many businesses around the world.
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 4,000,000.
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 1870.
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 machines.
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.