What is a Fax Machine

Fax Machine bestefax

Fax, an abbreviation for facsimile, sometimes called telecopying or telefax (the latter short for telefacsimile), is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material (both text and images) generally to a phone number connected to a printer or other output equipment.

The original text is scanned with a fax machine, which treats the contents as a single fixed graphic representation, converts it into a bitmap, and transmits it through the telephone system from audio-frequency tones. The receiving fax machine interprets the styles and reconstructs the image, printing a paper copy.

Also check – Fax Plus: Next Nearest To Physical Fax Machine

Wire transmission

Scottish creator Alexander Bain served on chemical mechanical fax type devices. He received a British patent 9745 on May 27, 1843, for his “Electric Printing Telegraph”. In 1846, he was able to generate graphic signs in laboratory experiments. 

Frederick Bakewell made many improvements to Bain’s design and explained a telefax machine. Finally, the Pantelegraph was developed by the Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli. He founded the first commercial telefax service between Paris and Lyon in 1865, some 11 years before the invention of the telephone.

In 1880, English designer Shelford Bidwell created the scanning phototelegraphy that was the first telefax machine to scan any two-dimensional original without manual plotting or drawing. An account of Henry Sutton’s “telephone” was published in 1896. German inventor Rudolf Hell, an explorer in mechanical image scanning and transmission invented Hellschreiber, in 1929. Finally, the Western Union “Deskfax” fax machine, announced in 1948, was a compact machine that fit comfortably on a desktop, using special spark printer paper.

Wireless transmission

In 1924, as a designer for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), Richard H. Ranger invented the wireless photoradiogram, or transoceanic radio facsimile, the forerunner of today’s “fax” machines. Business use of Ranger’s product started two years later. An image of President Calvin Coolidge transmitted from New York to London on November 29, 1924, became the initial photo picture represented by transoceanic radio facsimile. Further, in 1924, Herbert E. Ives of AT&T transmitted and reconstructed the first colour facsimile, a natural-colour image of silent film star Rudolph Valentino in period costume, using red, green, and blue separations.

Sensing a unique and possibly golden opportunity, competitors soon joined the field. The Finch Facsimile system was employed to transmit a “radio newspaper” to private homes via business AM radio stations and ordinary radio receivers equipped with Finch’s printer, which utilized thermal paper in the late 1930s. Still, the printer and special paper were expensive luxuries, AM radio transmission was prolonged and vulnerable to static, and the newspaper was too small.

By the late 1940s, radio fax receivers were sufficiently miniaturized to be fitted beneath the dashboard of Western Union’s “Telecare” telegram delivery vehicles. Then, in the 1960s, the United States Army transmitted the first photograph via satellite facsimile to Puerto Rico from the Deal Test Site using the Courier satellite.

Telephone transmission

In 1964, Xerox Corporation launched and patented what many contemplate as the first commercialized version of the modern fax machine, under the name (LDX) or Long Distance Xerography. In 1966, a smaller, 46 lb (21 kg) facsimile machine, the Magnafax Telecopiers, was released by Xerox. This unit was far more comfortable to operate and could be connected to any conventional telephone line. In addition, the device was capable of transmitting a letter-sized document in about six minutes.

By the late 1970s, many companies worldwide (especially Japanese firms) had entered the fax market. A fresh wave of more condensed, faster and efficient fax machines kicked the market. Xerox proceeded to refine the fax machine for times following their ground-breaking first machine. It would be combined with copier equipment in later years to create the hybrid devices we have today: copy, scan, and fax. Some of the lesser-known capabilities of the Xerox fax technologies included their Ethernet enabled Fax Services on their 8000 workstations in the early 1980s.

Computer facsimile interface

Hank Magnuski, the founder of GammaLink, in 1985, created the first computer fax board, called GammaFax. The boards could provide voice telephony via Analog Expansion Bus.

Faxes are still used in Japan extensively as of September 2020 for cultural and graphemic reasons. Convenience-store fax devices commonly print the slightly re-sized content of the sent fax in the electronic confirmation slip, in A4 paper size.

In several corporate environments, freestanding fax machines have been reinstated by fax servers and other computerized systems able of receiving and storing incoming faxes electronically and then routing them to users on paper or via email.

The once universal fax machine has also started to disappear from the small office and home office settings. Remotely-hosted fax-server services are extensively available from VoIP and email providers allowing users to send and receive faxes using their existing email accounts without the need for any hardware or dedicated fax lines. In addition, personal computers have long been able to handle incoming and outgoing faxes using analogue modems or ISDN, eliminating the need for a stand-alone fax machine.

Generally, Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, viewed as digitally advanced in the NHS, was engaged in discharging its fax machines in early 2019.

Two-thirds of Canadian doctors in 2018 reported that they essentially used fax machines to communicate with other doctors. However, faxes are still seen as safer and more secure, and electronic systems are often inadequate to communicate with each other.


There are many indicators of fax capabilities: data transmission rate, group, class, and conformance with ITU-T (formerly CCITT) testimonials. Since the 1968 Carterphone decision, most fax devices have been created to connect to standard PSTN lines and telephone numbers.

Analog Fax

Group 1 and 2 faxes are transmitted in the same manner as a frame of analogue television, with each scanned line transmitted as a continuous analogue signal. Horizontal resolution depended upon the condition of the scanner, transmission line, and printer. Analog fax machines are antiquated and no longer made. Therefore, ITU-T Recommendations T.2 and T.3 were withdrawn as obsolete in July 1996.

Digital Fax

A significant breakthrough in the development of the modern facsimile system was the result of digital technology. The analogue signal from scanners was digitized and compressed, resulting in transmitting high data rates across conventional phone lines. The primary digital fax machine was the Dacom Rapidfax, first sold in the late 1960s, consolidating digital data compression technology produced by Lockheed to transmit satellite images. Group 3 and 4 faxes are digital formats and take hold of digital compression methods to reduce transmission times significantly.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *