It will be curious to know that many of the inventions and technologies which became common recently are actually older than we think; like the fax machine. A fax machine is a device used to transmit a printed material over a long distance. The full name of the device is the ‘Telefascimile’ machine. A fascimile is an ‘exact copy’. Despite the domination of internet-based technologies, the fax system is still popular in various parts of the world.
The transmission of images using the telephone lines only picked up steam in the 1980s, but the technology behind it dates back as far as to the first half of 18th century. The first model of fax machine took birth in 1843, as the result of experiments by Scottish mechanic Alexander Bain. The device consisted of two pens connected to two
pendulums. The pendulums were joined to a wire which could reproduce writing on an electrically conductive surface. Bain took a patent for his device in the name Electric Printing Telegraph.
The first successful fax message was sent almost two decades later. The man behind it was an Italian priest named Giovanni Caselli. Caselli was a man crazy about science and was in constant pursuit of science books and journals. He even converted his residence to a laboratory and bought all kind of scientific equipment, and people almost regarded him an eccentric. It was that time Samuel Morse’s Telegraph creating news. Caselli studied about the device and found many drawbacks for the device. Only messages could be sent through the telegraph and it was unable to transmit the documents in their original form. So he decided to build a device which could transmit documents in original form. He conducted experiments for a long time and it took seven years to fulfil his dream. He developed a device he named Pantelegraph. The word was a combination of Pantograph’ (a tool that copies drawing) and ‘telegraph’. His machine was based on Bain’s invention, and included an apparatus to help the two devices work
Caselli succeeded in sending a copy of a document or letter over long distances with his invention. The machine reproduced handwritten messages, documents and pictures. It could send many messages through one wire at a time while the telegraph was able to carry only a single message.
After a number of test transmissions, the French government decided to use the system in 1865 and they successfully sent messages from Paris to Lyon through a fax line. The machine transmitted 40 documents in an hour. It was the first commercial telefax service in history. Impressed with the success, the French government set up several fax lines in the country and later it went on to spread into all corners of the world.
The fax system saw several advancements in coming years. Elisha Grey’s Telautograph (1888), Ernest Hummel’s Telediagraph (1895), Arthur Korn’s Bildtelegraph (1900) and Rudolf Hel’s Hellschreiber (1929) are major landmarks in the history of Fax service. And it took a new leap in 1964, when Xerox Corporation introduced the first commercial model of the modern day fax machine, which was easier to handle.