Discard Pile: The Fax Machine

As we evolve, so do our needs. The field of technology has always been one to not only meet those needs, but anticipate them. They innovate on the cusp on creativity in hopes of being first to discover and create new gadgets that we just can’t live without.
But what happens to the gadget when we evolve beyond that innovation? When the tech outlives its usefulness? It becomes relegated to the dumpster, or basement if it’s lucky, discarded as the next new shiny contraption seizes our focus and our interest.
This Throwback Thursday series will take a closer look at those gadgets, gizmos, and whatchamacallits that we, at one time, could not do without. We’ll explore the history of the device, expound on its effect on our lives, and see where technology is taking us now, thus replacing it with a newer, hotter model. The first device we will throw on the discard pile is the one that inspired this series: the fax machine.
A fax (short for facsimile) machine is, at its core, a device that transmits images over wire. Much like a telephone sends and receives sound, the fax is a printed message sent from afar. And it has a surprisingly lengthy history.
While the fax did not reach its height of usefulness until the 80s and 90s, the original tech…original spark of inspiration predates the US Civil War. Imagine that, an article in the Gettysburg Times about this new fangled picture machine… Ok, so that’s a little outside the realm of reality. In actuality, these 19th century machines transmitted images in the crudest sense of the word. Check the timeline for information in the fax machine revolution.
Click for an interactive story!
Click for an interactive story!
Culturally, we’ve become dependent on the ability to instantly send documents to a specified recipient. Can you even imagine how your productivity and efficiency would take a killer nose dive if you were suddenly once again reliant on snail mail to send and receive? It makes me tremble with fear.
There was a time when Fax machines were considered ultra-chic. Remember that scene in Back to the Future Part 2 where there seemed to be a fax machine in every room of the house? We love to love our tech, and it’s not always easy to picture a world without it.
Luckily, this device isn’t quite ready for the scrap pile, yet. The ability to send hard copies, with signatures, directly to a recipient is still preferred in some fields where security is an issue. However, with the rise of email in the post-millennial world, and the popularity of sites like DropBox that allow for simple file storage and sharing, the death knell for the fax machine has been heard.
So, what do you think, dear readers? Is the fax long overdue for the discard pile? What else would you toss on the heap?
Sound effects courtesy of soundbible.com


E is a long time blogger about a great and many things people overlook. She likes to connect the dots, fit the pieces together, and showcase the overshadowed... oh, and she likes cookies.

  • jrohland

    Thanks for the little history lesson. The only places I see still very much using fax machines is law offices and courts, older doctors and mortgage lenders. These are all related in that they need signatures accepted by a court of law. Which a fax is.

    • E

      Indeed! But even then technology is catching up with the demand. More and more are accepting electronic signatures, or utilizing tech to input digital signatures on documents.

  • DickLewis13

    My HP printer has fax, very seldom use it anymore.
    Nice article!

    • E

      Thanks, Dick!