Will You Ever Send Another Fax?
Just because when you mention “fax” to your kids they think you mean “facts”, it doesn't
mean that faxing is gone forever. The use of a fax or facsimile machine, while gone in
many companies today in America is not the case worldwide. And it’s not the case in some
specific industries in the US as well.
Why is the fax machine still hanging on, and why do people still use fax machines? Consider its creation. When it first came on
the scene, the fax machine was a revolution. There was a prototype of the fax machine
as early as the mid-19th century. And by the 1930s, the combination of wires, equipment
and fancy cameras allowed transmitting of events worldwide to show up in your local paper.
Faxing enabled sending messages over long distances. It worked better than carrier
pigeons and the telegraph and the pony express and everything before it. Newspapers
paid high prices for faxed photos because photos sold papers.
Faxes also had military applications because they could send charts and maps around
the world. But it would be a long time before the average person would have this
The popular growth of faxing in the commercial sector started in Japan where businesses
were quick to latch on to this new technology. The West would spend several more years
attached to their telegraph machines.
But like all new technology, there were issues. Incompatible machines made communication
between systems difficult. Eventually, in 1980, a standard was passed which all
competing systems adhered to. From this point on, until the Internet revolution,
faxing was the main source of moving anything that could be written on paper. Prices
on equipment dropped and you couldn’t be in business without having a fax machine.
Unfortunately, the fax machine was a bright light that faded rather quickly as most
technology will do. By the early 1990s, email was becoming more widespread and by the
end of that decade, many people had internet networks both at work and at home.
So, there it is, the rise and fall of the fax. Never to be seen or heard from again,
Who still uses fax? There are still many industries who rely on fax communications for their daily business
operations. Many people still do not trust email signature programs and the security of
email transfer. The only way to intercept a fax transmission is with another fax device.
For that reason, many companies consider this way to do business safer.
This is one area where security and compliance are of utmost importance. HIPAA regulations
and doctor-patient confidentiality necessitate that they keep all walls to access
information as tight as possible. For this reason, faxing is still the primary form
of document transmission for this industry.
This is a huge sector of the worldwide economy and workforce. Because of the exports
of goods and supplies and raw materials and the need for transmission of purchase
orders, receipts, product specifications and so many other documents, faxing is still
essential. Faxing allows ease of use in working with companies worldwide without regard
to time zone.
Finance has the same issues as healthcare. Client information must stay secure. The
Sarbanes-Oxley Act put forth a bunch of regulations on tax returns, accounting oversight
and other areas from small companies to the Fortune 500. Because of this, faxing remains
a fixture in business operations in the finance industry.
It might be easy to think that the government sector still uses fax machines because
its technology is behind the rest of the world and in some cases that might be true.
Education, both private and public as well as several areas of local, state and federal
government rely on fax machines for constant communication of information with the many
employees of the public sector.
What this obviously shows is that the fax machine is here to stay. Luckily, we have
moved past the curly shiny fax paper where the printing disappears after about a week.
Plain paper faxes allow us to send and receive faxes that are virtually the same as
getting something off of a printer. At least we have that going for us.
Also, in many cases, fax machines can be connected into a company’s network so that
documents received can come in as email attachments making receipt easier than remembering
to “go check the fax machine” like in the old days.
Next time you are at your local technology store, see if they still sell fax machines.
You might be surprised!