Why Fax is still used - GoTechTalk

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Friday, November 13, 2020

Why Fax is still used

As much as we all love them very few people know that fax machines have actually been around since the 19th century.  | Tweet to @SY_Offical | Posted on 13h Octo 2020
Why Fax is still used


 
 

This was truly a piece of technology that was way ahead of its time especially considering that the next widespread way to send scanned documents electronically "Email" wouldn't come along until nearly 100 years after the first device that could send 2d scans over phone lines which was invented in the 1880s. 

But how was the underlying technology for fax machines developed so long before the internet age?

Well, a big part of this is the fax machines inherent simplicity, although faxes generally do use a charge-coupled device or CCD to read patterns on a piece of paper like a modern scanner, typically fax operates in an even more straightforward manner. Fax machines actually see each piece of paper has a large grid of squares as they scan the document, they determine whether each square is black or white they do this one line at a time converting each line in two tones corresponding to black and white spots, then they send these down the phone line to a receiving fax machine which uses its integrated dot matrix inkjet or laser printer to spit out the images, so if all of this sounds a bit crude, well that's because it is.

Why do people even still use these things?

There is still some appeal to the one-step approach of putting a hard copy into a box and then having another hard copy get spit out of a box on the other end without having to download and rotate and resize and print attachments or whatever the case may be and this is especially true for organizations that often need to send and receive physical documents such as law firms or medical offices that also need to have physical copies on hand for legal reasons and since fax machines can completely bypass the internet they can be seen as a more secure alternative that's less prone to hacking. In fact some Hollywood businesses started using fax machines again after the infamous Sony hack back in 2014 but this simple approach does have some drawbacks for starters it's limited by how quickly data can be sent down the part of the phone wire that carries voice signals, so instead of modern multi-megabit speeds fax is limited to what you'd see with an old dial-up modem or even slower which might not seem like a huge issue if you're trying to send a few pages but even in that case the black and white scanning combined with low resolution means that fax machines are notoriously bad at transmitting detailed images, fax machines can't send shades of gray and typically have resolutions that max out at below 400 dots per inch which is way lower than what many modern flatbed scanners can do.

While these disadvantages may make fax feel like a relic today but it still has its place in the modern world plain old phone lines tend to be more reliable than internet connections, so fax machines are a pretty good backup if your internet is down and you really need to send something.

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