What Ever Became of…Fax Machines?


A couple of weeks ago our super duper all-in-one printer/copier/faxer/scanner/counter-space-taker-upper started displaying a print head error code and reverting to non-function mode. Some online troubleshooting and the fact that I am cheap led me to attempt to clean the print head and make it work again. And hooray, I was successful, eventually, and so feeling much satisfied, I headed out of town for work. Once I was far enough away to do nothing about it, my wife went to print and was promptly given the very same error code. It was fixed before I left, really!!

So off we went yesterday to the neighborhood Fry’s, to get a replacement. I did investigate buying a new print head, which may or may not be the issue with the old one, but at a cost about $10 less than the entire new printer, it didn’t see worth taking the chance. Plus, according to the repair manual for the model of printer, the life of the printer itself and the print head is, or was 5 years. And we are, let’s just say, past that. The oddest thing I noticed at the store? So many fax machines–not just all-in-ones, but office style printer/faxes with the phone on them. Do that many people still actually send faxes? I don’t even have a hard line phone with which to send a fax, and haven’t for years! What ever happened to the fax?

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[Note: One problem with semi-consistent posting for an extended period of time is that after about 2 months I stop being able to recall the things I have previously posted about. I have all sorts of memory aids, sometimes more effective–sometimes less–like saving topic ideas in my draft email and noting when I use it, which works if I remember to add the note, or if I can find said notes again, or doing a search for previous posts on said topic, which only works if I wasn’t to witty on my original post and I can figure out the appropriate search term/tag to find it. My point being, I really don’t remember if I did faxes already, but I couldn’t find it, so maybe here it is again! Or for the first time!]

  • Our main departmental office still has one which is connected to its own dedicated land line. It sees a lot of use, too, for all sorts of local, national, and international paperwork. We even do business with one supplier who, despite having a regularly maintained website, does not use email and does not accept electronic payment. Everything must be conducted in person (in another state), over the phone (exclusive of payments, of course), by mail, or by fax (also not helpful for payments). The quickest, most accurate, and most convenient way to submit a lengthy order is to fax it. Fortunately, although the university prefers to pay vendors electronically, it will still cut a check when necessary.

    For the benefit of anyone who has moved beyond this technology, I'll add that junk faxes still abound, too. We typically get two or three per day.

  • skitter

    They went away as soon as we had a way around with .pdfs and emails.
    Especially in light of 'please enter your account code to continue', as if minutes of my time didn't cost dozens or hundreds of times as much as a printed page.

  • OA5599

    I had to send a fax last month, with information related to an audit of a company that had contracted my services. I still have a fax machine, but haven't sent anything in years. That's when I remembered that when I switched the phone over to digital service, I never bothered to switch over the house wiring, and didn't own a phone cord long enough to reach the working analog jack. I ended up using an online fax service and a scanned PDF of my audit response.

  • After hurricane Sandy, I had to fax an estimate to my homeowners insurance company before they would pay my claim. I even explained to them that I had received the estimate as a pdf. They would not accept an email. I had to print it and fax it to them. It was 60 pages long.

  • sawer-massey

    I use fax machines (yes multiple) every time I go to work. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. When they don't finding another way to get hard copies of necessary paperwork is quite entertaining. The one fax machine that I use gets at least 5 junk faxes a day minimum. My favourite abuse of fax machines is faxing a black piece of construction paper to the offending party in multiples of 50.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    Apparently one purpose of fax machines is to prevent communication. According to a recent article on Ars Technica, the Pentagon only accepts FOIA requests via a single fax number and quelle suprise, this fax has been offline for months.

  • Ours is installed at an annoyingly wonky angle. It's pretty hopeless when an entire department can't get their fax straight.

  • chrystlubitshi

    I was filling out my profile for a employment placement firm recently, for each skill, there was a drop down box. I was able to enter 15 years experience with work email (that was the highest number on the menu) but the thing only went up to five years for fax machine. I was thoroughly confused.

  • We have three dedicated fax lines at work. You'd be surprised how many heavy equipment mechanics don't have access to the Internet from their repair bays…or maybe you wouldn't.

  • MrHowser

    I work in the telecom dept of a local hospital. Faxes are the bane of my existence, because people expect them to work like email. They don't, especially with older machines that are short on job memory.

    User: "I tried to send a fax to this department, but the line was busy."

    Me: "Were they receiving a fax at the time?"

    User: "Yeah, a big 50-page document. Why does that matter?"

    Me: facepalm

    • Ah, medical faxes. About fifteen years ago, back when faxes were much more common, a fax machine called my office phone. It did so repeatedly every few minutes, to the point where I finally asked someone how to transfer the call to our departmental fax machine just to appease it on its next attempt. Out popped someone's fairly sensitive medical information (name, test results, recommended treatment, and so forth) from a nearby clinic. I called the clinic, explained the situation, and suggested that they should find and use the right number for their intended recipient. The person at the clinic was quite chagrined and agreed, of course, but then, because the fax was confidential, asked me to please fax it back to them.

      Fax. It. Back. To. Them.