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Communications Technology Hardware

Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die 835

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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  • Re:Better article (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cloudmaster ( 10662 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @12:22AM (#37323210) Homepage Journal

    Oh good gosh. I post before finishing the sentence, forget to log in, and fail to add some <a> tags around the link []. Well, let's make up for that here. :)

  • 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 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 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.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday September 07, 2011 @05:07AM (#37324546) Journal

    What counts as binding for a contract is defined by common law as well as statute. It used to be that only a wax seal was valid for contracts. For a contract to be binding, both parties must have agreed to it. A signature does not make the contact binding, it presents evidence that both parties agreed. It's still possible that the signature was forged.

    My (US) publisher accepts a scan of my signature on a PDF. Weirdly, they don't accept a strong cryptographic signature (which is actually hard to forge). I recently did some work for an organisation that wouldn't accept the PDF, but would if I printed off a copy and posted it to them. It seems crazy that printing it on my printer makes it legally binding, but printing it on theirs doesn't, and a court would agree.

  • 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!

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -- F. Brooks, "The Mythical Man-Month"