Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Why the Fax Machine Refuses To Die

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the pull-the-plug dept.

Communications 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.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

It's convenience and security. (4, Insightful)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323178)

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.

Re:It's convenience and security. (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323212)

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:It's convenience and security. (1)

Sylak (1611137) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323230)

and they're all flatbed scanners

Re:It's convenience and security. (3, Informative)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323284)

Sheet feed scanners, not a single sheet scanner. []

$189-$1000 []


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 said, your cheap all-in-one scanner/printer/copiers are all garbage, in 11 years of supporting them, I've never seen one last a calendar year before failing.

Re:It's convenience and security. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323378)

I've had my all in one going on 4 years now. Maybe they just don't call you unless something is broken?

Re:It's convenience and security. (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323496)

They are notorious for something breaking on them under heavy use. For home use they're okay as they only occasionally get called into service but for any serious work you need a professional solution and that will cost a lot more than $100. I don't doubt your word about the 4 year life cycle yours has enjoyed but that is the exception not the rule.

Re:It's convenience and security. (2)

rust627 (1072296) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323516)


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, remove the document, back to desk, attach file to email, add notes to email, write notes on document recording email details etc. send, staple, file.

Its one trip to the Printer/scanner/fax not 2, (one particular luddite will then print his email to create a physical file, 3 trips to the printer every time for him).

Re:It's convenience and security. (5, Informative)

CalSolt (999365) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's convenience and security. (2)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323410)

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 safer.

Re:It's convenience and security. (1, Insightful)

CalSolt (999365) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323482)

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.

Re:It's convenience and security. (0)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323514)

Phone lines difficult to break into? Where have you been? There is nothing at all secure about a phone line. It's child's play.

Re:It's convenience and security. (2)

CalSolt (999365) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323542)

The difference is that one you have to physically break into, the other you can break into over the internet through Tor or a botnet or a virus.

Re:It's convenience and security. (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323314)

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.

Re:It's convenience and security. (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323352)

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.

Re:It's convenience and security. (2)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323402)

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.

Re:It's convenience and security. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323520)

Not convenient when the fax machine pulls in 2 or 3 pages at once, and you have to start all over again, possibly incurring even more charges.

It's for signatures (4, Informative)

grimsnaggle (1320777) | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:It's for signatures (4, Funny)

xs650 (741277) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's for signatures (1)

guybrush3pwood (1579937) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323336)

You mean it... doesn't? Then how... what... I put the page and... what? It "magically" appears in the other end? Don't be silly.

Re:It's for signatures (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's for signatures (1)

Pi1grim (1956208) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323416)

How about email? Has been much more usefull and accessible than a fax and dates back to 1965.

Re:It's for signatures (1)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323526)

Don't confuse the issue with facts.

Re:It's for signatures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323536)

Serial ports? though i desperately want to kill them all. with gas.

Re:It's for signatures (4, Informative)

scottbomb (1290580) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323290)

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.

Re:It's for signatures (2)

Wizarth (785742) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323356)

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 on the other end was pretty much the same - the fax to the local city number would result in an emailed copy sent to the outsourced accounting department. I found this out one day when the timesheet was lost.

Re:It's for signatures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323502)

5-10 GB image

What is that, uncompressed TIFF at 12000 dpi? Or are you scanning a phonebook?

Re:It's for signatures (1)

sjames (1099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323546)

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 wouldn't be all that hard to scan a contract, photoshop a signature in and then send it to a fax machine.

If it means anything at all in court, it's just proof that the courts believe fervently in the most threadbare of superstitions.

It's even more silly when you realize that some small offices scan documents and take them on a USB drive to a kinkos where it is directly translated into a fax call, possibly to a digital fax machine that will then email the document in digital form (perhaps a tiff) where it can be optionally printed.

Perhaps we just need a magic black box consisting of a printer whose output feeds directly into a fax machine that's hard wired into another fax machine. Should a legal document need to be sanctified, just print it to the black box and out comes the magic joojoofax.

If they're going to insist onm that crap, I say the judges should be dressed in more appropriate garb. Sticking a bone through their noses should do it nicely.

Re:It's for signatures (1)

damian2k (2358426) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323324)

Anything important such as a land title transfer or some such has to be done on the original ... but remember signatures can also be forged or copied ... but the fax makes it relatively easy to sign something and then send it back to where it came from ... unlike the scanning/emailing method which is just a pain in the ass, and no more secure.

Re:It's for signatures (1)

Pi1grim (1956208) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323420)

You can get a copy of the document to sign, but sending signed document back will only provide a copy for the recepient, which has very limited use.

Re:It's for signatures (2)

littlewink (996298) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323438)

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

Better article (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323198)

...From a more reputable news outlet which doesn't split their articles up into two page,21256/

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

Re:Better article (2, Interesting)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323210)

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. :)

Re:Better article (2)

drunkennewfiemidget (712572) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323214)

More people need to call websites on this. This stupid multi-page article thing is idiotic. This is the Internet, WE CAN SCROLL!

Re:Better article (1)

emurphy42 (631808) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323278)

But how will they run up their ad numbers?

Re:Better article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323452)

Not by me not seeing any ads at all, it won't.

Re:Better article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323300)

can you provide multiple hits per page?

Re:Better article (1)

cloudmaster (10662) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323350)

When you suggest scrolling, always specify *vertical*. 'Cause you just know there's some asshole calling himself a "web developer" who's just itching to find a way to make articles scroll entirely horizontally because it's new and/or edgy. :)

old technology (1)

fezick (722155) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323200)

I don't have anything to contribute to this. I still use single blade disposable razors instead of laser hair removal.

Re:old technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323494)

That's nothing... I still use a cut-throat [] razor.

Except Apple won't let you view a Fax on your iPad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323204)

Unless you buy

Re:Except Apple won't let you view a Fax on your i (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323534)

Won't LET you? There are over 100 fax enabled apps, nimrod, and a bunch are free.

Real Estate (1)

zieroh (307208) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323206)

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...)

Re:Real Estate (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323252)

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.

Re:Real Estate (1)

Squiggle (8721) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323322)

What I don't understand is how they managed to learn to use a fax machine in the first place. :)

I nearly went insane when I went through this recently with a number of professionals who routinely handle confidential documents: electronic doc -> print -> sign -> scan (to lossy jpg no less) -> email -> print -> sign -> scan (to lossy jpg) -> repeat until all is illegible. :|

Whatever cultural demon has prevented strong encrypted emails, etc must be purged for great justice.

Fucking apple (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323218)

Every fucking year I have to renew the damn developer agreement with them I have to fucking fax them multiple pages. Could someone forward this to steve jobs? Maybe he'll change that next year...

no wait... he'll be to busy deading it up.

Re:Fucking apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323506)

I think you're doing something wrong, you can sign up for the various Apple developer programs online and pay there as... Oh wait, I'm replying to a troll who can't even be bothered to stay in the realm of reality...

It's a scanner people can use (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's a scanner people can use (2)

imjustmatthew (1164609) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323362)

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.

Re:It's a scanner people can use (2)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323458)

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 busy moving on to the unsupported assumption that old things are necessarily bad. I look forward to his future articles on the evils of pencils, the alphabet, and whiskey.

Re:It's a scanner people can use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323518)

Really? I'd say ten years ago both were crap, now just the fax machines are crap.

They are slow to start sending, so I have to wait to make sure a connection goes through (about a 70% success rate since the turn of the century).
They are slow to send and often don't have much of a memory buffer, so it can easily take 30 seconds per page.
I have to baby-sit fax machines because they use the cheapest parts, often eating the documents.
Better use plain white paper and black ink. Don't go anywhere near the color wheel or it will be illegible on the other end.

While cheap parts is true for printers too, at least they are still competing with other manufacturers and the things have to work decently. I never see contrast issues on any reasonable document with colors. And, if there were, I could see them up front and correct them with an application.

At home I have an all-in-one printer (free, but $20 ink cartridges). The feeder is excellent and scans quick and beautifully. That and Simple Scan (Linux application) make scanning letter/legal pages a breeze. I've had it for 3 years now.

I also just did a re-fi. They tried to do about half the documents through an eSignature web site. It didn't work correctly, so we ended up killing trees. But, they did accept the documents as email attachments.

Re:It's a scanner people can use (3, Insightful)

Alan Evans (875505) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323532)

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, press send.

The truth is even many fax machines have different photo/text settings, contrast settings, quality settings but no one other than us IT types ever considers those.

Bullshit (4, Insightful)

BenBoy (615230) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323236)

Fax machine. Plug it in. It just works. Something computers still just dream of.

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323280)

Plug it into where? Who still pays for an ancient landline phone plan?

Re:Bullshit (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323348)

Any Real Businesses

Re:Bullshit (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323400)

Plug it into where? Who still pays for an ancient landline phone plan?

How else do you get DSL? On your cell phone?

Re:Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323472)

DSL? I remember that legacy technology... I used it in 1998. I thought it died out with ISDN.

Re:Bullshit (1)

Rik Rohl (1399705) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323508)

Who still pays for an ancient landline phone plan?

People with Fax machines.

Re:Bullshit (1)

itguy01 (1341019) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323340)

Unless you are using a Mac.....then, "it just works"

Re:Bullshit (1)

tragedy (27079) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323380)

A fax machine is a computer.

Re:Bullshit (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323428)

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

Re:Bullshit (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323448)

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. (4, Informative)

redemtionboy (890616) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Simplicity wins. (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323404)

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 have it automatically be faxed, and likewise when the printer is able to send me the faxes it receives to me in a PDF, PS, or other document format, that's when the fax machine is built into the printer. It'd be a nice bonus if I could fax and print out the same document in one go, or if I could scan (to the computer) and fax the same document in one go, but I'd be satisfied even without these additional perks.

I'm actually wondering if some newer models of footprints have this capability (I know many models already have the ability to e-mail scanned documents to a computer, and receive and print e-mailed documents). But until the functionality makes it to the small business/home office machines, the fax machine is not going away anytime soon.

Slower Work, Less Risk (1)

Rotworm (649729) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323248)

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.

Re:Slower Work, Less Risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323312)

Email: heavy risk, but the priiize.

Re:Slower Work, Less Risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323424)

Baraq Herbert Hoover O'Bama and his Chicago/union goons already have access to the IRS and your financial information.

for security dumbass (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323258)

"it's the people who persist in using that technology rather than embracing far superior alternatives.'"

You go to be kidding me right? I don't use fax, but I do think it offers better security when you have something to send to someone that is confidential. Try to do that with email + attachment! I don't think so.

Re:for security dumbass (1)

Pi1grim (1956208) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323470)

Sence of false security and common misconception. Wiretapping the phone line is not harder, than sniffing email traffic. So secure the damn emails instead of hoping the perpetrator who has the time to infiltrate your network has enough time to set up sniffer, but doesn't have time to put two wires into the phone line.

Old habits die hard (0)

Spigot the Bear (2318678) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323260)

Reminds me of the people who insist that any sort of business conversation happen in person, no matter how far away they are. Need to have a 15 minute chat with some guy in California? Here's your plane ticket, see you in 3 days. VoIP? Never heard of him, here's your taxi to the airport.

Re:Old habits die hard (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323388)

For certain things it makes sense, maybe one day we will have true HD virtual presence where you can see a persons body language, and get a sense of their mood, but until then I for one like the idea of a face to face meeting before entering into a major business relationship, one where lots of money, or even the future of the company is at stake.

Spam, spam filters, email policies. (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323264)

People who are talking about the ridiculousness of fax has never had to deal with an email not arriving in its proper destination with rational cause.

You track the situation, only to find out that, say, hotmail's own proprietary spam filter, which you will never be able to divine the logic of, has filtered the email. (nothing related to spf or similar).

or, you will find that some random spam blacklist has randomly listed your ip range, and some customer/client was using that blacklist.

or you will find that the customer set their spam filter ridiculously high, filtering a lot of legitimate email.

or, there was some problem with the receiving server, and its mail delivery queue got erased.

you can insert any kind of i.t. mishap that may happen in communication in between two points on the internet.


these are stuff that you cant take risks with when contracts, legal matters, actually any kind of critical information is in question. hence the continuance of fax.

Send/recieve well over 100 per day (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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:Send/recieve well over 100 per day (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323334)

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.

Pointless gripe (4, Interesting)

bigsexyjoe (581721) | more than 3 years ago | (#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!"

Re:Pointless gripe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323344)

Old Man: Hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!
Kids: Hey, old man, why don't you go fax something!

Because (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323270)

We still use scanners because no one wants to tackle good, ubiquitous, and easy to use, security in email.

Want a big reason? (4, Interesting)

cplusplus (782679) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323272)

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.

Re:Want a big reason? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323486)

De-facto some organizations use scanner+mgetty+modem as a fax machine. This combination fails the requirements mentioned above: no logs, no timestamps, and this can even be easily configured to send a fake header line. So why is this even accepted in a court of law?

Unreadable on an iPad unless you buy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323274)

Hassle factor (1)

Phibz (254992) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323282)

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

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.

Re:Hassle factor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323500)

You got it right -- multi-use == suck at each use.

We have a combined printer/fax/scanner at home, spent hours to get it to do simple prints and scans from 3 systems. Also have a plain printer and plain scanner, they work fine and no hassle at all.
At work, there's a $20k+ big multi-function printer that has a color touch screen and too many buttons. It can apparently scan a sheet and email it to multiple recipients, with an interface to a global address book built in (Exchange server), and other goodies. We (software dev department with many seasoned software engineers) have spent several man-hours trying to get the contraption to do this, and failed. (It does work fine as a dumb copier, though.)
This experience repeats over and over again; I won't even go into the nightmare of home theaters / entertainment centers.

My prediction: The future competition of faxes is not email, it is blurry photos sent by smartphone. Until then, a $20 fax machine off craigslist is your friend.

A FAX has a legal advantage (5, Informative)

drnb (2434720) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

What does a 'business' POTS line cost? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323294)

It ain't cheap for what you get.

Legal reason. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323308)

It can be used as a court document. That is the only reason why it is not dead yet.

Fax " The original PUSH technology" (4, Interesting)

ElitistWhiner (79961) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323360)

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.

Legal business environment (1)

EnempE (709151) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323364)

Unfortunately a lot of business practices and legalities are abased around paper documents and technology that has been around long enough to be trusted and have precedents. Furthermore there are a few 'features' that people perceive in a fax machine that they don't see in email etc.

1. A Fax is a peer to peer technology that is very similar to a telephone call, behaviorally not much change required there to use it or understand it.
2. If a fax to the right number sent then it is received. If an email is sent there is no guarantee that it is received.
3. A fax is paper at one end and paper at the other, no sneaky computers can edit that fax at either end; therefore
4. A signed fax is really a signed document.
5. John McClane thinks faxes are neat in Die hard 2, but computers are too hard in Die hard 4.

I went through the exercise of designing a transition to a paperless office a few years ago. There is a lot of gray area in terms of authenticating electronic documents for tax and legal purposes etc. that businesses would rather avoid. It doesn't matter if it is technically possible to alter a fax, the generally understanding is that it is an authentic copy of a physical document, and as such almost the same.

Depends on where you are too, and the legal / business environment. Eventually we will get rid of them, think of them as telegrams waiting to happen.

PS. Do you think telegrams were like twitter when they first came out, people just sending messages because they could ?

unusable on an ipad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323370)

unless you buy

Most print/scan/copy machines can do this, but... (2)

SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323372)

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 factors and cost factors.

There are two on the sending of faxes:

1. Large and bureaucratic companies still have procedures from the mid-1990s that explicitly list faxes as the method, and it's a mess to get anyone to fix it. No one will disobey these procedures, as it's often a punishable offense.
2. There is rarely any proper setup, much less the required training to end faxing and go paperless. Whether management, IT, or the copier company should do it is irrelevant. No one seems to wish to invest the necessary time for proper training, particularly if there are dozens of facilities and hundreds of office employees.

And two on the receiving of faxes:

3. People will balk on relying on e-mailed pdf's simply because there is a threat of it being lost to a spam filter. These spam filters often can't automatically choose well between a fax and an e-mailed, randomized PDF selling bootleg pills. One important fax lost and all trust is gone. Fax machines don't have this problem.
4. Fax machines often are still used simply to receive, but not always to send. If you are expecting a fax, only faxes will come out of a fax machine. It won't get confused with the dozens of other pages in the big printer/copier device, much less end up with piles of nameless pdfs in a CIFS share.

Fax Machines Still Pretty Impressive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323390),21256/

The User Interface just works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323408)

The fax machine does one thing and does it well.

What I think *should* happen is that fax machines get a protocol update, where they (optionally) go something like this:

Alice: "brrrring brrring"
Bob: "Hi I'm a fax"
Alice: " Good I'm a fax too. Hey, have you got an IP address?"
Bob: "Yep, here you go ... blah blah"
Alice: "You grok PGP?"
Bob: "Yep, here's my public key ... blah blah"
Alice: "'K thanks, here's mine ... blah blah. I've sent you an encrypted [image|pdf|text]."

You could wrap retries and all the rest of the delivery protocols around it too, and you end up with a thing that looks like a fax machine to the users, but runs on the up-to-date network layers.

BTW, I still use a handheld calculator while I'm writing Matlab code. It's all down to the efficiecy of the user interface.

well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323414)

Some companies use it to screw over each other.

When Square-enix contracted now defunct(because of them..) Grin, they demanded that they sent them game files including audio over FAX.

What Grin did send however was a screenshot of FF12 to see if they even gave a damn, and Squeenix said "this isn't Final Fantasy enough."

World Wide Web (1)

pjtp (533932) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323454)

I browse the Internet with a fax machine you insensitive clod!

Try getting every lawyer and solicitor to change? (2)

Rhodri Mawr (862554) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323474)

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 each end. There's no copy somewhere on the internet cloud that can be hacked, lost, stolen or compromised by an exploit or poor password choice. Telephone wire tapping is degrees of magnitude more difficult in this sense as catching a single document would be a one-chance time sensitive opportunity. (That's not to say it's not possible, just much less likely)

And finally it's cheaper and faster than implementing a truly secure online technology (which all solicitors would have to adopt - try getting the Law Society to push that through if you like nailing jelly to a tree) to communicate between solicitors.

IE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323478)

It's why I'm always amused at web developers cursing IE6. You can curse at it all you want, but it won't magically improve itself. It's the people using it that refuse to kill it.

It is simple and it works. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323490)

No blue screens nor Guru Meditations ( :-) ) Or reboots. Or updates. Plug and play. Don't fix it if it's not broken.

KISS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37323524)

A simple, efficient idea always lasts long. the telephone was invented in the late 1870s... the internal combustion engine in the 1880s.. unix in the late 1960s :)... i don't see anyone calling these ideas stupid...

We never throw anything away (1)

nonguru (1777998) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323528)

It's not unusual - we still persist with pencil and paper as tools of choice. Nothing ever gets totally discarded.

Outdated? (1)

no-body (127863) | more than 3 years ago | (#37323540)

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!

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?