Vintage fax machines: When this new tech was poised to conquer the business world

Vintage fax machines

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Although fax machines were an amazingly helpful piece of office tech in the late ’80s and throughout the ’90s, they weren’t always perfect.

Remember the sound faxes made? Hear it again — and remember the frustration when the line didn’t pick up.

The fax of life: The fax machine revolution is conquering all in its path (1989)

Excerpted from an article by Sara Peterson, Hutchinson News (Kansas) March 26, 1989

Fax it! That phrase is becoming as much of a cliche in the ’80s as “We’ll do lunch.”

But faxing information from one place to another is becoming so popular that it’s quickly outgrowing fad status.

Wholesalers fax invoices. Reporters fax notes. Radio listeners fax requests. In California, children fax homework. And in New York, customers fax sandwich orders to delis.

It’s estimated that there are more than 1.7 million fax machines in the United States. (Continued below)

How fax technology works: The basics

For those who have missed the fax revolution, fax, or more formally facsimile machines, send exact paper copies by converting the light and dark elements of a photograph or printed page into electrical signals.

Original copies are fed into a fax machine which reads the drawings, photographs or text on the pages, and converts the information to electrical signals.

The machine then sends them through telephone lines to another fax machine that turns the signals back into printed pages.

Fax machine with document

Vintage fax machines: Printed words transmitted over the telephone lines

The process can take anywhere from six minutes a page on older machines, to as little as 20 seconds a page with the latest models.

Jim Richardson, technical sales manager for Communications Technology Associates, a telecommunications company with offices in Hutchinson and Wichita, said what makes fax machines so attractive is that, unlike telephone conversations, the communication is clear.

“It’s a page of the printed word,” Richardson said.

“Everyone can remember what was said because they have it in writing. You can send an awful lot of words by fax in 20 seconds. You can’t say that much over the phone in that time.”

It used to be, Richardson said, the only businesses that used fax machines were newspapers and attorneys. Newspapers used the machines to send photographs from place to place and attorneys used them to send contracts and briefs.

In the past few years though, Richardson said he has seen an increase in the number of smaller businesses which are using the machines to order merchandise and deal with wholesalers.

“Now we find mom and pop businesses are using them. They cut down by three to five days when the product will hit the shelves. It improves cash flow because they have the product three to five days earlier ready to sell.”

MORE: Remember vintage dot matrix printers like these from the 70s & 80s?

Vintage fax machine - Image by StockUnlimited

Fax machines can cost up to $4000

Fax machines are available in a wide range of prices from $600 to more than $4,000, depending the machine’s features.

There are a wide range of features offered with today’s fax machines, according to Gary Twineham, president of Gary’s Office Machines in Hutchinson. He said machines now have memory features which store fax messages and then sends them in programmed numbers after business hours when long distance phone rates are lower.

Machines also are available with relay broadcasting features which can receive fax from overseas then relay the message to other machines inside the country, saving money on overseas telephone calls. Other models importable and can he used on business trips.

“Fax is a 24-hour employee,” Twineham said. “It doesn’t come in at 8 and leave at 5.”

ALSO SEE: 50+ sexist vintage ads so bad, you almost won’t believe they were real

Old fax machine instruction manual – Panasonic KX-FP 250 (1998)

Old fax machine instruction manual - Panasonic KX-FP 250 (1)

Old fax machine instruction manual - Panasonic KX-FP 250 (2)

NOW SEE THIS: Vintage copy machines: See the kinds of old photocopiers that offices used to have

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. Who collects old fax machines:
    I’m looking for someone or an extablishment that has a manual or can tell me how to operate a Canon FAX-350. I bought this used fax machine years ago
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    they are willing to copy and send me. I am hoping this site will keep my email
    address and forward respones to me. I’m not a great computer user, but I can foward a photo of the operating area of the FAX-350 if I have an email or text to attach them to. Thank you to anyone who writes.
    I don’t know what to put in the below Website line?

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