So how how did faxing technology come to be?
Talented Scottish clockmaker, Alexander Bain invented the earliest known version of the fax machine in 1842. Bain was heavily influenced by another technology of the day — the telegraph, the first technology that allowed us to send information instantly to distant points via electrical wires.
The rise of the telegraph led Alexander Bain to speculate about sending not just signals but also images over the wires. The Bain system used a chemically-treated roll of paper whose colour would change to blue wherever electricity was passed through it. Timed by a pendulum, a stylus would move over an advancing roll of this paper, passing the telegraph’s electric signal through the paper as it went, thereby drawing out the dots and dashes of the signal.
Over the years, several other designs from various inventors improved and modified Bain’s original machine to something more recognisable as a fax machine today. Oddly enough, the fax machine didn’t receive widespread popularity until the 70s and 80’s which means the device’s invention pre-dated its popularity by almost 130 years!
The ongoing evolution of faxing has meant that modern digital faxing has in fact done away with the machine altogether! The premise remains the same however. We can now scan documents or send digital documents via what we call ‘digital‘ faxing. The sender simply places an original on an electronic scanning bed where an electric “eye” looks at the paper and records the image there, whether it be a complicated “picture” or simple text. The scanner then digitises the image, turning it into a series of 1s and 0s that it can transmit over phone lines or the Internet. On the receiving end, a computer processor re-assembles the image from the digital information and prints it out, either to paper or onto a computer screen.
Fax to email or digital faxing is still in popular use today. Industries such as banking, healthcare, government and law employ this method as a secure means of delivering important documentation.
We’re sure Alexander Bain would be proud of his little invention and how far it’s come.
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