Also known as a facsimile, a fax was first defined as being an image sent through a phone line. Since its creation the process has developed and improved its capability of sending image documents.
Although this technology gained more popularity during the 1980’s up until the early 2000’s, the first origins of sending an image through wire can be traced back to before the invention of the telephone. Similar technology was already being used in Europe around the same time the US Civil War was coming to an end.
Who Invented the Fax?
We can all thank Alexander Bain for creating the method to send an image over wire. He began to experiment with the idea of fax machine during 1843-46. During these years he worked on synchronizing two pendulums with a clock and have that motion scan a message, line by line.
This image was then cast onto a cylinder and although this was already an amazing accomplishment, the quality was very poor but nonetheless Bain patented his invention on May 27, 1843.
Later one a man named Frederick Bakewell improved Bain’s patented invention by creating a telegraphed image which is similar to the fax machine we use today.
Instead of using pendulums Bakewell synchronized rotating cylinders which produced a higher quality image. The image would then be transferred with a stylus to another cylinder that contained chemically saturated paper.
After all that work Bakewell’s improvements were still not deemed a success but it did spark the idea of using images of wire as a commercial service.
How Facsimile Became Commercialized
Giovanni Caselli took the credit for bringing the idea of a commercial fax use with his invention of the Pantelegraph.
As the name implies, the Pantelegraph resulted from combining the idea of a Pantograph, used to copy words and drawings, and a Telegraph, a system that transfers messages through wires.
Caselli’s invention used a clock to synchronize the machines sending and receiving capabilities but in doing so it created the obstacle of keeping two machines synchronized at the same time while being in different locations.
Luckily, Caselli received financing from none other than the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Leopold II. Later on he met Napoleon II and continued on to received help from a French inventor named Leon Focault.
After going through all these stages he succesfully presented a demonstration to Napolean in 1860. It was then that the Pantelegraph began to operate by sending faxes from Paris and Lyon and by 1867 to Marseille.
Fax Technology Emerges
All the way through the 1900s, many improvements where made to the technology Caselli had brought to the table.
Up next to the plate was Shelford Bidwell, who thought of connecting selenium cells to a phone in order to transmit an image onto a rotating cylinder. He called this the Tele-Photography. In addition he was able to calculate the circuitry and bandwidth required to transmit these images.
Later one the Belinographe was created by Edouard Belin, his invention made it possible to measure the magnitude of light and therefor being able to transfer an image onto photographic paper. This invention was similar to modern photocopy machines and was a big step in being able to send images to other locations through phone and telegraph wires at that time.
After all these improvements, the Telautograph was created to be able to send signatures to other destinations. This was important because signatures where a crucial part of verifying ownership and identification. It was ultimately acquired by Xerox in 1999.
Faxing Gets an Upgrade
Faxing got more attention during the 20th century which helped people begin to discover how useful this communication tool could be.
In 1923 Arthur Korn made it possible to send a fax of a picture of Pope Pius XI from Italy, Rome to Bar Harbor, Maine and later this technology was used by German authorities to send fingerprints around the country.
Then, in 1924 Richard H. Ranger created the first wireless by sending a fax with the picture of the current US President at that time, Calvin Coolidge, from New York to London with a machine he called the Photoradiogram.
Another invention was the Radiofax which was able to send a fax through radio signals. This method, also known as Weatherfax, is still used today to transmit maritime weather maps.
Later on the first color facsimile was invented by Herbert E. Ives. The next big step was the 3D fax which involves scanning and sending 3D data. This project is also known as the Michelangelo Project.
Xerox Steps Up the the Plate
The Xerox Corporation created the LDX in 1964 which became the first “commercial” fax machine. Later on in 1966 they also release the Magnafax Telecopier that buyers could connect to any telephone line and transmit documents in about 5 minutes.
Japan was at the top of the game in the faxing market, they went on to create many types of fax inventions that with time became smaller and faster fax machines.
Why True World Standard is Important
We see many technology inventions these days and many times these develop under their own standards which makes it difficult to integrate with other systems.
As an example, electricity emerged at 220v in some areas while in others at 110v. Cell phone technology also has differences among markets with some being CDMA and other GSM systems.
Faxing doesn’t have this problem because it evolved under the same standards, a true world standard, which makes it a true universal communication tool.
The Rise of Internet Faxing
Not so long ago, in 1985 GammaLink launched the GammaFax, which was the first fax board to be computer based. This was a big step because it was the first link between faxing and computers.
It was in 1985 that GammaLink introduced the first computer based fax board, the GammaFax.
Just like emails get spam, computer faxing also attracted lots of junk faxes. However, it also made broadcast fax possible, making it easier to send documents without a big hassle. Xerox also launched a fax machine with Ethernet during this time.
Old vs New
Throughout the years we’ve seen hundreds of past inventions improved and ultimately replaced with better versions. Take for example the phone, today few people have a home phone or use a pay phone because cell phones are the new technology.
Although fax machines still exists and are still an important communication tool, more and more business and individuals are discovering the benefits of using online fax.
Online faxing made it possible to transmit faxes through the internet and therefor making it accessible from your email, eliminating the need for a fax machine and reducing expenses.