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Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die 835

Posted by Soulskill
from the pull-the-plug dept.
snydeq writes "Deep End's Paul Venezia waxes befuddled on the ongoing existence of the fax machine. 'Consider what a fax machine actually is: a little device with a sheet feeder, a terrible scanning element, and an ancient modem. Most faxes run at 14,400bps. That's just over 1KB per second — and people are still using faxes to send 52 poorly scanned pages of some contract to one another. Over analog phone lines. Sometimes while paying long-distance charges! The mind boggles,' Venezia writes. 'If something as appallingly stupid as the fax machine can live on, it makes you wonder how we make progress at all. Old habits die hard. It just goes to show you: Bad technology generally isn't the problem; it's the people who persist in using that technology rather than embracing far superior alternatives.'"
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Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die

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  • by MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) * <myfirstnameispaul@gmail.com> on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:16AM (#37323178) Homepage Journal

    Sheet-fed scanners are ridiculously expensive, plus you have to save the file, attach it to an email, then, hopefully, the file isn't too large for the sender or recipient's mailserver. With the fax machine, one just drops the stack in, verify the fax successfully transmitted, task complete.

    Also, many people feel that snooping of phone lines is much less likely to occur than snooping of email, when is sent in the clear.

    • by Dan East (318230)

      I don't see where you get that sheet-fed scanners are expensive. There are dozens of all-in-one scanners / printers / copiers for under $100.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029)

        Sheet feed scanners, not a single sheet scanner.

        http://www.newegg.com/Store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=634&name=Scanner-Document-Scanners [newegg.com]

        $189-$1000

        http://www.newegg.com/store/SubCategory.aspx?SubCategory=351&Tpk=fax%20machine [newegg.com]

        $49-$800

        So your 300% more Sheet Feed Scanner still requires you to deal with the inherent limits to email attachment size, if the document requires a signature, you still have to print it. Fax machines work better with legal and business documents than email attachments.

        That s

        • by rust627 (1072296)

          Funny

          Nearly all of the small businesses I know and deal with have an all in one machine, Printer, scanner (sheet fed), copier and Fax.

          To send a fax, they load the document, dial the number, wait, and get a printed report, telling them that the document was received, which they staple to the document and file for legal proof (if required).

          To email a document they load the document, back to their desk(in some cases on another floor of the building), activate scanning, scan into a file, go back to scanner, rem

    • by CalSolt (999365) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:31AM (#37323288)

      Exactly. Email is NOT secure. You don't know how many servers your email passes through or what they do with it, and you can't guarantee the receiver is protecting the information. Encrypted email is far harder to implement in your network of contacts than a fax machine. Even then, if public key vendors can be hacked/spoofed/compromised, then how can you say encrypted email on a private small business server won't be? Doctors pretty much are obligated to use fax or they will almost certainly end up violating HIPAA.

      The IT industry has not been able to provide a superior or even equal solution to fax yet.

      • by sjames (1099)

        The old fax machine in the corner where everyone's faxes go and anyone can look through them isn't terribly secure either.

        If someone is willing to go through enough trouble to intercept a company's email, they'll happily do the same for their fax line.

        As for how many servers it passes through, there are two possabilities. Either your company and the recipient's company are concerned about that and make sure it goes from your email server to theirs (possibly encrypted) or not. If not, the fax will be no safe

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by CalSolt (999365)

          The old fax machine in the corner where everyone's faxes go and anyone can look through them isn't terribly secure either.

          Everyone who works in a medical office is required to be educated about and sign a HIPAA compliance form. Every employee is liable.

          If someone is willing to go through enough trouble to intercept a company's email, they'll happily do the same for their fax line.

          Phone lines are more difficult to break into than a protocol that is passed over the public internet. At least for now.

          • by sjames (1099) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @02:08AM (#37323828) Homepage

            Given a choice of clipping on to an office phone line from outside or intercepting their internet connection, I'll take the phone line. It's simple, quick, and the necessary connection is outside (or worst case, in a phone closet in a hallway, the latch can probably be jimmied in 5 seconds or less). If you wear a jumpsuit, hardhat, and a butt set nobody will even look at you.

            Compare that to entering a NOC and rooting the router without a valid keycard.

      • Fax is ludicrously insecure. It sends the data entirely unencrypted. If you're in a country with a modern telecoms infrastructure then you're sending the data over a packet-switched network with a potentially huge number of intermediaries (the MoD downgraded the security of telephones a few years ago when BT rolled out their IP backbone, because they can no longer guarantee that UK to UK phone calls won't be routed through another country - oddly, no one mentions this when talking about the NSA only wiret
      • Ever heard of PGP? I have put my PGP fingerprint on my business card, now every person that I meet is able to send me email, encrypted with my public key. That's as easy as it gets, and PGP is 100% safe and more than a decade old. No, you cannot have a man in the middle attack thanks to the fingerprint which you are supposed to manually check. If you add to this a web of trust and signed signatures, then it's a pretty good system.

        It's really trivial to listen to a fax and print it, since there is absolute
      • public key vendors

        You do not need to go to a vendor to obtain a public key. What certificate vendors sell are signatures that certify your public key belongs to who it says it does. If you're prepared to trust an unencrypted fax over a public telephone line, you're probably prepared to trust that the public key someone puts up on their website is authentic.

        If you really need the security though, it's much more secure to contact someone you know and trust at the target organization, and establish the fingerprint of their publ

    • by PPH (736903)

      Also, many people feel that snooping of phone lines is much less likely to occur than snooping of email, when is sent in the clear.

      But when you figure that a significant number of people are using e-mail to fax services, its false security. They might as well address their issues directly and secure their e-mail process.

    • Also, many people feel that snooping of phone lines is much less likely to occur than snooping of email, when is sent in the clear.

      How they can believe that is beyond me - at least in the U.S. The legal arguments made by successive attorneys general since 9/11/2001 make it pretty obvious the NSA, at least, is likely snooping pretty much every phone call made here.

      • Yes, but most businesses are not concerned with whether the NSA is snooping on them. If you're working for the NSA, you already have access to everyone's bank accounts, social security numbers, mother's maiden names, etc.
    • A two way fax is harder, but not impossible to spoof. Fax machines often include caller ID, the fax machine ID etc. If my pharmasist and doctor use fax to verify my refill, it would be extreemly difficult for me to spoof my doctor's reply by fax to the pharmasist. I don't know exactly the content of the exchange, or the confirmation information between machines.

      No mail spam filter will eat the fax for lunch because it used a couple of restricted words. Connection is real time two way connections unlike

    • by vtcodger (957785)

      'A slow sort of country!' said the (Red) Queen. 'Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!' Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

      If fax works -- and it does, why "upgrade" to something that really doesn't work any better? And may actually be harder to use? Change just because some geeks find fax technology to be antiquated? The point of a hammer is to insert nails, not to showcase t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061)

      You are missing the real problem.

      Why are we keeping documents in printed form at all?

      When was the last time you created a document outside of a computer?

      30 years ago:

      - People typed up a document in their typewritter
      - Used a copier machine to duplicate as necessary
      - Faxed it

      Now:

      - People type up a document in their computer, then print it
      - Use a copier machine to duplicate as necessary
      - Fax it

      When it should be:

      - People type up a document in their computer, share digitally as required.

      There is no need to ever

  • It's for signatures (Score:5, Informative)

    by grimsnaggle (1320777) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:18AM (#37323188)
    People seem to think that because a fax machine scans physical documents that it represents an authentic signature on a document. Solid reasoning? Not a chance, but when has that stopped anyone from reaching stupid conclusions?
    • by xs650 (741277) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:25AM (#37323242)
      That's nothing, some people think a fax machine sends the paper through the phone line when we all know it only sends the ink through the phone line.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:31AM (#37323286)

      Judges think that. Not because they want to, but because it has been accepted by the courts. It takes years to get a new technology accepted for the purpose, it's expensive, complicated, and very difficult. New technology can still be used even if it hasn't got blanket acceptance, you will just need to pay hundreds of dollars (possibly several thousand) to have an expert testify to how the technology works.

      Since the fax machine does the job for legal purposes, even if it sucks somewhat, it doesn't suck enough to warrant the effort of getting a court to accept the new technology. That and the new technology (even though faxes have these problems, they can be ignored--remember, they are accepted already) easily has security holes unless you get pretty specialized (as far as lawyers are concerned). That means it isn't one size fits all. That means it's dead before it gets off the ground.

      Do you know how difficult it was (and may still be) just to get a court to accept a digital picture? Because they can be "faked" (not that "regular" photos can't be, especially since the printing process can often be digital anyways). Even REALLY low standard courts like traffic court, I've seen them reject digital photo evidence. Getting a court like that to accept, say, a GPG key? Not a chance.

      Hell, this even works to the government's detriment. For YEARS in Ontario you could fight a LIDAR (laser radar) speeding ticket because the technology wasn't accepted by the courts (it is now) and that meant the prosecution would need to hire, at several hundred, possibly thousand, dollars an expert from the company to prove the LIDAR gun was better than a chair at measuring speed. All that for a $150 speeding ticket? Not likely. Red light tickets got thrown out for years because they didn't meet evidence standards. Why? The date and time of the offence was not integrated into the photo itself, instead it was provided separately (possibly below the picture or on the back of it, or actually separately) and an officer would sign off that it is true. Not enough to pass court standards.

      So, hell no, fax machines, as crap as they are, they are plenty enough at this point. Find me a computer technology that is still 100% backwards compatible for 30 years that provides even the slightest amount of usefulness like a fax and we might be talking.

      • by pz (113803)

        On occasion, I've had to sign various reasonably important (at least to me) legal documents. When there has been time pressure, my lawyers have always accepted a faxed copy, but *only* when the hardcopy is to follow by mail.

        • by delinear (991444) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @06:42AM (#37324908)
          I sign my name so little these days that whenever I am called on to do so, it always looks like I'm trying to forge my signature (the guilty look as I try to remember how it goes, then the result is usually something that's close but never that close to the original). The sooner we come up (or should I say implement widely, since there are already solutions out there) with a reliable electronic method of signing documents instead of relying on what was always a dodgy premise (that nobody would be able to write something down the exact same way I wrote it down), the better!
    • by scottbomb (1290580) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:31AM (#37323290) Journal

      Your "stupid conclusion" seems to hold up just fine for the legal beagles in just about every company I've ever worked for. My current (and all previous) employer still uses fax machines for this very reason (although they have progressed to copy machines for sending and e-fax for receiving). My company processes hundreds, if not a few thousand, of them every week.

      Check with any pharmacy or doctor. They all still use fax too. For the same reasons.

      The first post on this thread (an actual first post that means something... I guess the kids are asleep) has a good point as well. When dealing with that much data, the cost per kB is a lot less over an old-fashioned phone line at 14k than a 5-10 GB image that's a PITA to create, send, and receive.

      • by Wizarth (785742)

        This is my experience too. I think there actually is legal precedent that specifically says a fax transmitted signature/document is equivalent. Until there's precedent saying the same thing for scanned&emailed documents, it's not going to change.

        A previous employer had me fax my time-sheets to them. The timesheet was supplied as a PDF form, the office "fax machine" was a network printer/scanner, which emailed toe document as an attached PDF to a server, which had a modem and would fax it out. The system

      • by sjames (1099)

        That doesn't make it less silly, it just makes it silly and legally entrenched.

        If we go back to basics, signatures themselves aren't actually worth much. You have a squiggle that you say was my signature agreeing to some contract, I say I never agreed and I didn't put that squiggle there. You say but that's your squiggle. I say it's a copy. Even an "expert" can't be 100% sure and the cost of such an analysis exceeds the value of most contracts by an order of magnitude or more.

        In particular on a fax, it woul

    • In most jurisdictions a signed faxed document is considered legal. That's why fax is so commonly used in contractual/legal agreements

  • Better article (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ...From a more reputable news outlet which doesn't split their articles up into two page
    http://www.theonion.com/articles/report-fax-machines-still-pretty-impressive-if-you,21256/

    I'm sure the 2-day difference in the article dates is completely coincidental. ;)

  • Sounds like (I didn't read TFM, natch) like Paul just went through the hell that is known as a Real Estate Transaction.

    (having just suffered through a similar endeavor, in which 14 trees were felled and 33 tonerbeasts were slaughtered so that the real estate agents could continue to do things the way they've done them for 30 years...)

    • by afidel (530433)
      Really? When I did my refi last year it was all done via email and encrypted PDF right up until I had to sign the actual closing papers and that was done on dead tree with a notary public, no fax machines involved. In fact I don't remember anything being done on paper other than the closing when I bought the house 7 years ago.
    • by Wansu (846)

      ... so that the real estate agents could continue to do things the way they've done them for 30 years ...

      lawyers too

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:24AM (#37323234)

    The thing about a fax is, that anyone can use it properly in its default configuration.

    Scanning for most people is fraught with troubles, from too large files they cannot email, to losing files saved who knows where, to simple connection problems between scanner and computer. Meanwhile the fax still just works, unless you are lucky enough to work at a place that has rigged up a well-run scanning infrastructure for you.

    • mod parent up

      This is exactly why people in offices use faxes. Most office workers can barely use e-mail, and can't install printers, much less scanners. Think about all the sales people you've ever talked to in restaurants, schools, supply warehouses, etc. These are the people that use fax everyday because 90% of the time it just works.

    • The amusing thing is that the author should realize this. He answers his own whine in his first paragraph:

      Printers are obviously the bane of IT. With all those drivers for every operating system version (usually about 150 times the size of the actual driver file itself), a predilection for jamming, and of course those ever-popular toner explosion scenarios, I'm still scarred by memories of printer disasters.

      He doesn't seem to realize the irony of his complaint against drivers, however, because he's too bus

      • by smellotron (1039250) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @01:12AM (#37323570)

        I look forward to his future articles on the evils of pencils, the alphabet, and whiskey.

        Dear Sir,

        I noticed that the bottle in your cabinet was over a decade old (!), so I took the liberty of discarding it in the refuse and replacing it with a fresh bottle. I didn't want you to get food poisoning. I trust you will appreciate this attentiveness.

        Rgrds,
        smellotron

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alan Evans (875505)
      This is exactly right. Try teaching a 55+ yr old accountant or bookkeeper when he/she should use black&white vs color, 150 vs 300 vs 600 dpi and the difference between JPEG, TIFF and PDF. Then teach them how to enter their email address on the network scanner printer using only the number keys then how to forward that email without sending it to 500 other people accidentally and without blowing up email quotas. - OR - you can teach them to put the original in the feeder, punch in a phone number, pres
    • by sjames (1099) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @01:48AM (#37323754) Homepage

      Don't be so sure. Even when the other person insists they must send the document as a fax, don't be surprised if it takes 4 or 5 rounds as they send you a cover sheet with no fax, 5 blank pages (must be set too light), 5 black pages (oops, set it too dark), 5 blank pages again (wrong side up in the fax all along), half of the document (ops, jammed), and several other imaginative fails. Finally, they send you one where the pages went in crooked but since you can guess at the missing bits you just tell them it came through fine so you can be done with it.

  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BenBoy (615230) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:24AM (#37323236)
    Fax machine. Plug it in. It just works. Something computers still just dream of.
    • by tragedy (27079)

      A fax machine is a computer.

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      All it does for me is getting junk faxes. At least spam email doesn't waste my toner/paper.

    • Agreed. Now only if we could have IP Fax machines. Not just a server collecting faxes via modem, but an actual stand-alone fax machine with an RJ45 jack communicating over TCP/IP. Instead of phone numbers, we could send via domain names or a public IP displayed on an LCD for the user to give out as the host address. Whatever. We just need to keep the machine but drop the analog support.

  • Simplicity wins. (Score:5, Informative)

    by redemtionboy (890616) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:25AM (#37323244)

    I actually work for a certain fortune 500 company that produces laser printers, and while we are phasing a lot of our fax focus out, there just isn't the faith in email that there is in fax. With a fax, you have a physical copy ending up in an office that you know someone has received. There's no spam filter to worry about and you know that that fax is going to get to the right person a lot more than than email if you don't have that person's direct email. For something you have a physical copy of, fax is just a lot simpler. Until there are more printers out there that have email addresses built into them, we're going to be a ways off from replacing fax.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Not e-mail addresses built into printers--fax machines built into printers.

      Faxes get sent to a phone number. Nothing can ever replace the phone number. Thus, nothing will replace a fax machine, except for a better fax machine. It's like replacing voice calls with text messages or even e-mails. It's not going to happen.

      FYI, the current all-in-ones don't actually have a fax machine built into the printer. Instead, most have a fax machine tacked alongside a printer. When I can say, send the printer a job and h

  • In organizations that have access to large databases of sensitive information, the security risk makes secure faxes preferable. For instance, the Internal Revenue Service has access to nearly everyone's financial information, a security breach, however unlikely it might be, would be devastating.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:29AM (#37323266)

    Pharmacist here. They are still in heavy use between us and the md offices, for a few reasons. E-Rx ins't always 2-way, so a refill request often has to be faxed. Many times we need to contact the MD office and they can't take a call. A fax gives them all the info, in a simple readable format to take care of later. Sometimes a hospital needs a patient profile for the last 6 months and it would take 30mins to explain it all over the phone, so it gets faxed.

    Emailing HIPPA documents in not an option and I wouldn't use it even it was.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      MD chiming in. Faxes are reliable and verifiable. You get a confirmation that it connected and set. There are no spam filters, no worry about hacked email, no passwords. As long as your put in the correct number, it always lands at exactly the correct place.

      Computers can only dream of such simplicity.

      • by mikael_j (106439)

        MD chiming in. Faxes are reliable and verifiable. You get a confirmation that it connected and set. There are no spam filters, no worry about hacked email, no passwords. As long as your put in the correct number, it always lands at exactly the correct place. Computers can only dream of such simplicity.

        You're kidding, right? I can only assume you've never had to deal with a large byzantine corporate fax infrastructure. Putting in the right number had no "just" or "as long as" about it, when they have more than a dozen fax numbers and faxes to the wrong fax (even though most of them are in the same room) are ignored/shredded it gets really annoying.

        Compared to this "simplicity" sending an email is dead simple.

        Not to mention the "fun" of companies that receive faxes not to a physical fax machine that prints

        • by tibit (1762298)

          I run an open telephony server server and all the faxes are processed in software until they hit the paper. They are stored and available for viewing as PDFs from a simple webpage, too. The modem is a software modem running on the Intel serve. The modem "talks" over an ISDN PRI channel. Usually when talking to corporate fax systems that are similarly set up, the connection is 100% digital end-to-end and there's only a bunch of software modem stuff going on at both ends. -- still digital, though. The connect

      • by kenh (9056)

        Only one button more complex than a telephone, near-instant delivery, confirmation, and delivered (typically) as a paper document ready to be used at the receiving end. It also accommodates the desire of either the sender or receiver to send/receive the document as either a paper or electronic document.

        What's the shortfall again? Oh yeah, it doesn't make use of the complex computer (AKA virus host) everyone is so fond of...

        I have no problem accepting faxes from strangers, email attachments from strangers no

    • Emailing HIPPA documents in not an option

      Indeed, there seems to be this irrational idea in many regulatory environments that sending stuff unencrypted over the phone system is fine yet sending it unencrypted over the internet is not.

  • Pointless gripe (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:29AM (#37323268)
    That's a great article on why the fax machine refuses to die. Oh wait, there's no explanation. It's just some guy complaining. When I read an article which is just some douchbag complaining, ten times out of ten it was linked by slashdot. Maybe "Why won't the fax machine die!" can be the opposite of "Get off my lawn!"
  • Want a big reason? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cplusplus (782679) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:29AM (#37323272) Journal
    All fax machines are required to implement delivery confirmation and time stamps, and log a certain number of incoming and outgoing faxes. There is a rigid standard behind the faxing specs, and fax records can be (and have been) used in a court of law. It's hard to find another *cheap* and *widely adopted* digital sending standard that has the same legal robustness, with a proven track record. That alone is why fax technology will be slow to die.
    • by pstorry (47673) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @03:39AM (#37324196) Homepage

      As others have said, they offer this as an option, but nothing more.

      The clock can be set incorrectly, the sending number set incorrectly, and all sorts. (These we call a TSI - Transmitted Subscriber Identification.)

      I'm managing a fax system that handles around 100,000 faxes a week (I work for a large financial insitution). If the sender's number in the TSI was even remotely useable, we'd be able to route faxes on it - but is just isn't. Something like 50% of all faxes we receive - often from large household financial names that should know better - have a junk TSI.
      That's 50% of volume, by the way. When we break it down to senders, it's well over 75% incorrect.

      So whilst in theory we could route faxes via TSI, in practice we route faxes via the inbound number that the sender dialled. Nothing else is reliable or usable for routing faxes to their destination mailbox/application/printer.

  • 1. Sheet Fed Good Quality Scanner
    2. Simple interface to enter an email address
    3. Price competitively compared to fix machines .....
    4. PROFIT!

    I hate single use machines, but some times the simplicity of one alone justifies it's existence. Keep it simple and cost competitive and you'd have a winner.

    • 1. Sheet Fed Good Quality Scanner
      2. Simple interface to enter an email address
      3. Price competitively compared to fix machines .....
      4. PROFIT!

      I hate single use machines, but some times the simplicity of one alone justifies it's existence. Keep it simple and cost competitive and you'd have a winner.

      Fax isn't only about sending, it's equally much about atleast SOMEBODY receiving what you're sending: if the fax went through then you know there's a physical copy of whatever you just sent lying in the destination. But with e-mail you have no guarantee it won't just be dumped in junk e-mail. And then there's the whole receiving-thing itself: you just plug two cords in -- the phone-line and power -- and you're set to receive faxes, but with e-mail you need a printer, a separate or integrated scanner, a comp

  • by drnb (2434720) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:31AM (#37323292)
    A FAX has a legal advantage. A third party, the phone company, can verify the sender, receiver and date/time. There is also a bunch of case law regarding when a FAX can be or must be accepted as a valid legal document.
    • by optimism (2183618)

      Yup, it's all about that 3rd-party verification.

      Imagine that you execute a contract with another party, who later decides to back out and says they never signed it.

      If you executed that contract via email from your server to the other party's server, no one else has a record of it. They can claim you forged the email.

      If you executed that contract via snail mail, again no one has a record of it. At best you have a certified mail receipt or fedex bill to prove that a document was sent.

      When you execute via fax,

  • It ain't cheap for what you get.

  • by ElitistWhiner (79961) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:42AM (#37323360) Journal

    You don't appreciate technology until you understand the function it serves and problem solved. Fax orginated as battlefield deployment solution to get maps and text into the right hands.

    Today, nothing has changed. It is the weapon of choice to enlist support, disseminate and communicate on the battlefields. Only the location has changed. And the win-win with FAX is its ability to run unattended, bombproof reliability and that receipt verification is the gold standard guarantee of undeniable success in the chain of communication.

    Speed has nothing to do with the fact that its importance is Fax's ability to deliver guaranteed. The physical paper output assuredly enforces every fax must be ' handled' at the receiving end irregardless how much timeshift it pushes itself onto the receiver.

    That is one critical factor no amount of email, voicemail nor text message can compete against.

  • While I can certainly see the point he's making, most businesses have had large copier/printer/scanners that can send pdfs to a CIFS share on the network, e-mail pdfs via SMTP, and send faxes for years and years. These copiers typically come with the upgrade after rentals, and there are lesser $50-$100 inkjet home versions for smaller offices as well. A lot of companies do what the author posted and don't have fax machines.

    But the main issues aren't signatures or other things mentioned at all: they're human

  • In the UK we've recently seen the close of the Football (Soccer to the US) Transfer Window. Nearly all of the business done between clubs and agents is done by fax. Deals have to be confirmed by a fixed time at FA Headquarters. Want to guarantee it gets sent, arrives, is printed and seen before the deadline? You fax it.

    For legal purposes, fax (or secure snail mail) is required. The sender and receiver and date and time of transfer can be verified and can't easily be tampered with and there's one copy at
  • Who gives a fucking hoot if it's outdatet or not?

    Nostalgia has it's charm especially if it works and some geeks get worked up about it!

  • When television became popular, many people proclaimed the end of radio broadcasting. But today, radio is more popular than ever. Why? Because TV doesn't replace radio. Sure, it's more capable, but you can't easily watch TV while driving down the freeway at 70 mph, or while jogging or biking.

    Likewise, e-mail doesn't replace fax. Sure, it's more capable in some ways. But fax delivery is automatically confirmed, e-mail delivery is just best-effort, no guarantees. E-mail isn't secure by any standards
  • by tragedy (27079) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @01:30AM (#37323686)

    The fax machine concept itself isn't outdated, it's just the technology in use in them that's outdated. All they need for an update is a higher quality scanner built in and to be updated to communicate over the Internet. The big problem with that is, of course, NAT (Network Address Translation). Thanks to the scarcity of IPV4 addresses, nearly every device "on the Internet" is not really on the Internet as it isn't directly addressable and has a non-routable IP address. So, to use something like a fax machine over the Internet, either everyone who wants to use one has to do some complicated (for the average person who just wants to plug it in and have it work) DMZ setup in their router/gateway, or all the fax machines need to communicate through servers using some sort of protocol like email. Maybe when we move to IPV6, as long as the ISPs don't screw it up and every device can get an IP address, fax devices could communicate directly and essentially be plug and play. There would need to be some method to ensure that the device is consistently given the same IP address however. Plus, IPV6 addresses are a little too long and complicated to hand out as easily as phone numbers... Plus, fax spamming would become an even more severe problem. It may turn out that some sort of intermediate server that provides permanent, easily human-readable, addresses along with some sort of authentication/real-life identification system might be best.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @04:46AM (#37324450)
    Nobody ever got their dick caught in an email
  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @08:19AM (#37325428)

    So you wanna start send documents.

    1) FAX machine : Tell the phone person to please provision a POTS analog phone line to a jack right there, and tell me the external number. Fax machines are cheap and can be bought on the office expense account (the one used to buy paperclips). For bonus points tell the receptionist your new departmental fax number. Unbox fax, plug in, you're running. You know if it works or not because every far end tells your near end in some manner that is "OK" or not. Support is, if it breaks, buy another. It just works.

    2) Scan and email : Fill out request form for IT dept for the hardware. They need to follow the capital expense forms and procedures to buy your $100 flatbed scanner, along with possible competitive bidding, assuming they even have the capital budget remaining for the year. Your bosses bosses boss may need to get permission from his boss to transfer $100 of his capital budget to IT, assuming he has the budget. Its quite trivial to spend thousands in labor on meetings and arguments about spending $100. It may or may not arrive in 3 months and may or may not meet your needs, but you're stuck with the hardware. Fill out a request form for IT to get the scanner software installed on your locked down PCs. Argue endlessly about who will support the system, and how much it will be supported. Eventually you get it working, and every time you send an email with a scan, you have to call or wait for an email response to prove their anti-virus didn't eat it. Its a nightmare.

    At home I would never use a fax. But I understand why they're the path of least resistance at businesses.

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