Listen up son, we're going to put you where your kind always ends up; in a seven by seven foot grey-green metal cage on the fifteenth floor of some hundred year old penitentiary, with damp, stinking walls and a wooden plank for a bed. Sure, this city isn't perfect. We need a smut-free life for our citizens; cleaner streets, better schools and a good hockey team.

A joke? Oh, it's a real knee-slapper friend, if you consider California Penal Code section 4A, 4207A, 597 and 217, Theft, Kidnapping, Cruelty to Animals and Attempted Murder a laughing matter.

The story you're about to read is true; the names have not been changed to protect the innocent. I present to you, just the fax, ma'am.

I swear, I could listen to Joe Friday all week long. He had a great noir way of narrating his actions. And the way he spoke to the perpetrators......"Do the youngsters know what these goofballs are made of, son?" "No sir. It's no mistake. Marijuana." "This is the city: Los Angeles, California. I work here. I'm a cop."

Joe was a no nonsense, straight laced, typical 1950's detective. He was about as by the book as you get. And the best part was, he always solved his cases in 22 to 24 minutes. Chain smoking the whole time. And when his partner Bill Gannon wanted to go easy on some punk kid, Friday would refuse on the principal of the thing. No matter the circumstances.

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Yep, Friday was a dick.

But he's here today to tell you what today's post is about. So I'll let him take it from here:

"Just the Fax, Ma'am."

That's right. Today I'm going to tell you about the fax.

We all know what a fax is, right? It's where you scan a document and then it transmits over the phone lines to another fax machine which then prints it out and you get a hard copy of what the original person sent. Today most people email stuff, but some people are old school and prefer the fax.

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Personally, my hatred for the fax stems from the fact that part of my job requires that I fix them. Well, I used to fix them. They are pretty much gone now. And the ones that are still around are mostly disposable. Thank God for that. Remember the thermal fax machines? They had that special thermal paper? It was all shiny, and came in a roll. So when you got a page printed, it would always curl up on you, making it impossible to read unless you held it open. And the nk would smear and get all over your hands. (it should be noted I still have a couple of customers that use thermal fax machines because they are lame people who hate me)

And who can ever forget the mysterious black line that ran the length of the page? I don't know how many times people would call me to clean their fax only to find that the problem they were having was the line. The line is almost always caused by the senders unit. There will be a spot on the scanning glass, (usually whiteout), that the page runs over that causes the line. But no one ever believes me when I tell them that. Because I just fix them. That doesn't mean I know what I'm talking about, right? Well Mr. Smarty-Pants, if it's not the senders fax machine, how come only the faxes from that one sender have the line, huh? Don't you think that if it was your fax machine the line would be on everything? Huh? HUH? HUH?

*ahem* Sorry. Sometimes I hate people. (sometimes nothing, more like all the time....)

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But this is an oddity post, so what's so flipping odd about a fax machine? Well.....probably everything you don't know about them, that's what!

Let's see, where to start.....I know, how about the beginning? For most people, their experiences started in the 80's or 90's. Before then, fax machines weren't really all that common. They were around, of course, but they were expensive. And they weren't actually caled fax machines. They were called Telex machines. And most people didn't have any interaction with those, other than maybe watching the nightly news when someone from off-camera would hand a piece of paper to the anchor and they'd say, "This just in...".

But what you don't know is, the fax machine is much much older than you realize. In fact, if we do the chicken/egg thought experiment about faxes, the answer would surprise you.

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Fax machines pre-date the telephone by 20 years.

In 1843 a Scottish inventor named Alexander Bain came up with a method of chemically reproducing graphic designs via facsimile in his lab and was awarded a patent. This was the first fax machines. He called it the Electric Printing Telegraph. Frederick Bakewell made improvements to what he called a Telefax, and in 1865 an Italian named Giovanni Caselli used his Pantelegraph Machine to open the first commercial telefax service between Paris and Lyon.

Remember, the telephone didn't hit the scene until 1876, fully 11 years after the first telefax business was opened, and 23 year after the first fax was sent in a lab.

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Over the years improvement were made. By 1888 a scanner had been invented meaning an existing document could be sent instead of the machine having to recreate it before sending. And in 1924 AT&T sent the first photographs via fax. Also in 1924 the first wireless fax transmissions were made. And again, in 1924 the first photograph was transmitted across the ocean when a picture of President Coolidge was sent to England. And proving 1924 was a good year for the fax, it was also the year when the first color fax was made.

In 1966 Xerox produced what we would consider to be the first 'modern' fax machine. It would be one that most of us would recognize as a fax. It was a small machine weighing in at a paltry 46 pounds, and when connected to a standard phone line it could transmit a full page document in only six minutes.

It wasn't until the 80's when fax machines became small enough and cheap enough for them to start appearing in offices everywhere. And by the 90's, they were cheap enough for everyone to have them in their homes, if they were so inclined.

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So there you have it, the fax is much older than you thought. Next time you get that fax promising cheap vacations, or a guaranteed loan for $400,000, keep in mind that people in the Civil War got the same faxes.