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Going the way of the dodo bird: the fax machine June 29, 2008

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings, Tools.

I bought a plain paper fax machine this weekend at a garage sale for $3. I had bought a thermal paper fax at  a garage sale when I moved back to the U.S. in 2001 for $20, so I definitely felt like I got a real bargain. But then I got to thinking about how many faxes I get a month and wondered if I could have spent the $3 on something useful — like a latte. However, my free eFax number is limited to receive 20 pages a month and an attorney had sent me 11 pages on Thursday, so it was on my mind. I hadn’t received a fax for several months before that.

I basically just used the thermal paper fax machine to occasionally send faxes that required my signature (to my bank, non-disclosure agreements to agencies, etc.). Since I receive so few faxes, paying for eFax service simply doesn’t make sense. I never used my fax machine to receive faxes, because the thermal paper fades so quickly and so thoroughly. Faxes from five or six years ago are completely illegible now (I just went through some old binders and ended up shredding/recycling a lot of old translations, paperwork, bank statements, correspondence, etc.).

We should always maintain the tools of the trade, but is a fax machine really necessary anymore? With scanners and eFax and PDFs, fax machines are slowly going the way of the dodo bird. I keep mine unplugged to save electricity and only plug it in when I need to send something (I find the process of scanning a document to be too slow sometimes). Any thoughts? Do you have tools that you use to send/receive faxes?



1. Corinne McKay - June 30, 2008

Believe it or not, we still use a fax modem (remember those, circa 1990?) to receive faxes, using the Hylafax faxing software and a custom ring phone number that the modem recognizes. If I need to fax someone an actual piece of paper (i.e. a document that I have to sign or write something on), I usually scan it and e-mail it, although Hylafax can also do outgoing faxes if necessary.

I agree that faxes are one of those former staples of the home office that are now going the way of the rotary phone and typewriter correction tape, but as you said they’re not 100% gone yet!

2. ShawnaB - June 30, 2008

The next time you need to send a fax, you might want to try MongoSCAN. It was developed for occasional faxers who want the conveniences of sending and receiving faxes to email, but don’t want a monthly commitment or anything complicated.

It basically turns your fax machine into a PDF scanner, and you don’t need to install anything or sign up for anything to have the capability. All the user needs to do is replace their existing fax cover sheet with a MongoSCAN cover page created online, and then fax it along with the documents and moments later they arrive to the recipients inbox as a PDF. The sender also receive a duplicate copy for their records.

There is a small cost associated to send them (.25 cent per page) but the good news is that it is charged on a per-use basis so if you only send the occasional fax, it is cost effective in that regard. There is no cost to receive them, basically anyone with an email address has the ability and it’s not confusing because it appears as an email from the sender (subject line and everything).

Anyway, didn’t mean to get too long-winded but it is a pretty neat service (and patented too). Hope you have the chance to give it a try!

3. RobinB - June 30, 2008

If you work a lot with media agencies and typesetters, as well as with lawyers, you still need a paper fax in a big way. For example, the final proofreading we do for annual reports and other publications is always on a printout, and changes (marked up using the DIN proofing marks) are faxed back to the typesetter. The last thing the typesetters want is some gumby translator messing up their DTP files, and the last thing we – as translators – want is to have to buy umpteen different DTP systems and versions that we’ll never learn to use anyway.

Using a fax saves time, too, as it often happens that we fax through corrections successively in batches of ten pages (sometimes fewer). This would be too time-consuming with scanning. And here in Germany, of course, it’s not as if it costs any more than a normal phone call, and the line rental is including in the standard ISDN package.

I guess we still fax about four or five thousand pages a year, and I don’t see this changing much over the next 5 to 10 years, certainly not in Germany.

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