It might seem that e-mail should have supplanted faxes long ago. But in reality this is not at all the case - facsimile communication is still successfully used to transfer magazine illustrations and private corporate documents.
A fax machine is a machine designed to transmit a scanned image over telephone communication channels. Modern telefaxes combine the functions of a telephone, scanner, modem and printer.
Faxing works by converting a scanned image (text or graphics) into a set of tones. The fax machine, which receives the transmitted image, interprets the tones and reproduces the image on the printer.
The history of telefax
The Scottish engineer Alexander Bane is considered to be the inventor of the fax. In 1846, he managed to design a device that could reproduce graphic signs using a complex mechanism and chemical reagents. Alexander called his brainchild an "electric printing telegraph". Telefaxes were widely used only at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1902, the German physicist Arthur Korn developed a device he called the Bildtelegraph. It was used to transmit photographs, newspaper articles and weather reports. In 1968, the International Telecommunication Union approved the first international standards for facsimile communications.
Fax or email?
In the 21st century, the Internet has become widespread, but telefax is still widely used for doing business. Firstly, it is a matter of an ingrained habit - in Japan, for example, faxes continue to be used to preserve cultural traditions. Secondly, using a fax, you can exchange data and not be afraid that third parties will gain access to them (as often happens on the Internet). In some countries, electronic signatures are not legally recognized. But the signed contracts and agreements, which are transmitted by fax, are legally binding.
In modern corporate networks, fax machines have been replaced by fax servers. They are able to receive documents and store them in memory electronically. Then these documents go to their addressee in the form of a paper copy or an e-mail. Such systems can help reduce printing costs and reduce the number of incoming analog telephone lines.
Nowadays, facsimile communication is widely used for the transmission of magazine and newspaper illustrations. With its help, meteorological stations exchange data on weather changes, and spacecraft transmit images of the planet's surface to Earth.