Why Do We Still Fax Things?

Why do we still fax things? It’s a reasonable question. Why do we still send and receive faxes? What is the advantage? As far as I can see this is old technology which is now outmoded and unneeded.

I remember my first run in with a fax machine. I was working at WPEN in Philadelphia, hosting the morning show from 2212 Walnut Street. Somehow, because I work in the newsroom now, people think I was in news or weather then. Nope, I was the morning DJ&#185.

One of our sponsors was the Philadelphia Inquirer – an excellent morning newspaper. The Inky had a commercial we ran. It was what is called a ‘donut’ spot.

There was a catchy jingle (“Wake up Philadelphia. Wake up with the In-Quirer-Er”&#178) with an instrumental hole in the middle. I would read some copy over the music.

Since the Inky wanted fresh, topical copy every day, we were forced to set up a finicky, wet paper fax machine. Every morning the fax would start spinning and a few minutes later the paper would be full of words for me to read.

Email was out of the question. Back in 1977 there couldn’t have been more than a few hundred email addresses worldwide… if there were that many. I certainly had never heard of it or could have even conceived of it.

Today, faxes are everywhere, used when people want to send (mostly) images from paper back and forth. Things like contracts or proposals fly over phone lines as faxes.


There’s no difference in sending a fax or an email attachment. Here at home, I don’t even have the fax functionality of this computer hooked up. If someone wants a fax, I usually ask if it’s OK to send it via email. Then there’s silence. Why the disconnect?

A fax machine isn’t much more than a scanner and modem. I already have a scanner. Why not use email, which is so much more efficient and now carries imagery, like photos, all the time?

For the end user, a fax machine means a dedicated phone line or fax service bureau. That means money. And then there’s the fax equipment itself.

I’m sure the fax machine won’t disappear overnight – but it should. It could be gone tomorrow, replaced by email attachments and no one would know the difference. That’s a much better way to go.

&#185 – I find the term “DJ” to be distasteful. When forced to say it, I usually pronounce it ‘disk jerky,’ as in “I was a disk jerky.” Considering how much I enjoyed being one and that I made my living as one for 11 years, it’s a weird way to feel.

&#178 – I wonder if my friend Peter Mokover has a copy of this jingle? It was really great – an all time favorite. If anyone reading this has a copy, I’ll host a digital version here for all to hear.

2 thoughts on “Why Do We Still Fax Things?”

  1. I forced my father over time to throw-out his fax machine. It’s all about email now-a-days.

    If you do require a fax service though, you could always get “efax” which basically assigns you a fax number and converts fax to email. …Another party sends a fax to your email telephone number and it pops up in your inbox….

    Another option is BVRP phone tools. If you have a scanner and printer [or a multi-printer], you install the software and use your computer as a fax machine.

    Good luck with this dying technology.

    Do you remember the fax machines with rolls of heat-sensitive paper?


  2. I can think of some differences between a fax and e-mail attachment particularly as it relates to legal or other offical documents.

    1. It is not easy for the average person to edit or “doctor” a fax but it is easy for them to do that to a word processing document or spreadsheet sent as an attachment. If I want to make sure the other person makes no changes to the document after I send it, I’m going to use fax, not e-mail.

    2. It’s easy to include a signature in a faxed document but more difficult in an e-mailed attachment.

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