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Fax as Art Part Deux: Past, Present and Future of Fax

Please Note: This blog article was originally written and published by Jacob Block.

Way back in 1843, a Scottish mechanic and inventor named Alexander Bainreceived a patent for a brand new form of telegraphy.
Officially, the patent wasawarded for “improvements in producing and regulating electric currents andimprovements in timepieces and in electric printing and signal telegraphs.” Bainused his knowledge as an amateur clockmaker to combine clock parts with atelegraph machine.

What he had created was the world’s first machine capable of transmittingfacsimiles (copies) of images to a remote surface using electric current. Thoughit has carried many names and incarnations since then (copying telegraph,Pantelegraph, Telediagraph,
Radiophoto) what he had created was essentially whatwe know today as a fax machine (“fax” began to replace “facsimile” as a noun in1948,
and was first recorded as a verb in 1979 – I bet you didn’t knowthat!).

Okay, the history lesson is almost over. After a huge surge of fax usagebeginning in the 1970s, fax machines began disappearing from offices, replacedby newer, faster, safer and cheaper fax technologies like multi-functionprinters and, more recently, fax over IP (FoIP) delivery.

But, it was not so long ago that faxing paper documents to and from traditional fax machines was the norm. The obnoxious squeal of modems communicating is familiar to anyone born before 1990. Despite the throngs oftechies calling for the end of fax machines altogether–the elderly devicesactually seem to command a bit of nostalgia for some people.

Portland-based artist Emily Counts is one of them. She is currently displaying her work at Garboushian Gallery in Beverly Hills, CA under the titlePast Present Future: Connect. The exhibit showcases an artfullyreimagined computer, an answering machine,
various push button and rotarytelephones, and yes, a faxmachine.
The artist seems to be fascinated with the history and evolution of communication. One piece even references fire and smoke signals (ancientcommunication), and others conjure up futuristic robots (possible futurecommunication).

Unfortunately, she did not include an MFP, a fax server or a SIP Trunk…..technologies that are currently the preferred forms of communication formillions of people around the world and will be in use well into the future. Whoknows what other technologies will emerge in voice-based communication?

Food for thought during this strange week of “Fax asArt.”

Past Present Future: Connect is on display until June 16.

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Lisa Grankowski

Lisa is in the OpenText Business Network Marketing team.

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