Death of the fax machine?

Fax rage – the bane of the office worker

The fax machine is dying? Bring it on. As Stephen Moss commented in the Guardian today, he was surprised fax machines even existed anymore. Sadly, my summer last year spent working as a receptionist proves the technological dinosaur is still alive and, maybe not well, but resolutely wheezing on.

From my experience, every fax machine seems to have its own different system, different buttons, different operations – it was never as simple as put the paper in, press the green button and away it goes, oh no. The order in which you fed the paper, selected the buttons and dialled the number was often imperative. I essentially had to relearn how to use each fax machine from scratch. And that doesn’t even take into account the number of paper jams you have with those things. From the number of times I’ve had to delve into the bowels of a fax machine to figure out what was causing the malfunction this time, I should have a city and guilds in IT or something.

But what linked fax machines together was never knowing for sure whether the fax had arrived at its destination, in tact, and that the right person had picked it up. The only way to check was to call the intended recipient every time you faxed things over, so all in all, not the most efficient use of time.

But what puzzles me is that we already have a ready alternative – the scanner. I don’t understand why we can’t just scan in documents and email them across – it produces a far better quality copy, in colour, and you know the right person will have got it because it’s sent directly to their email address. If you’ve got the address wrong or there’s a problem with the file, it will just bounce straight back. Easy.

There must be something I’m missing here about why faxes haven’t been replaced a good few years ago by the scan-and-email method… still thinking… nope, I’m coming up blank. But either way, it surely won’t be around for much longer. Office workers of the world, rejoice!

  1. Anonymous

    In my experience, it's largely because every office has a number of people too intellectually challenged to learn how to use a scanner usefully.

    I'm not kidding. In the office where I work, I set up a scanner that has pushbuttons to send to the user's email, or an option to scan directly onto the server, where it can be picked up as an attachment. Most people don't seem to get it.

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© Melanie Hall 2017