Fax machines have been a major part of our lives for the better part of the 20th century, but then the Internet came along to steal its glory. With Google Drive and several other cloud services that allow us to digitize and store documents in a non-paper format, we’ve become spoiled by the ability to present anything we would like to through a screen on any device. In the present, the fax machine seems like a relic from a bygone era.
Despite all of this, the fax machine is still ever-present in many offices around the world, even in the most developed countries. Considering the presence of this newer technology, is the fax machine still worth keeping around? If not, then why is it still an omnipresent part of our lives, particularly in the business world?
Sending Papers Through a Phone Line
Faxes were a fascinating invention when they grew in popularity. It was almost inconceivable – you could send a paper document through the same wires that you used to speak on your telephone. Each side had a hard copy which made this technology attractive to companies that needed to sign contracts with people far away from their headquarters. In a world where the Internet has become the dominant medium for communication, many businesses have phased out the fax machine in favor of online applications for customer interaction. However, they still use fax machines for business-to-business collaboration.
Living Without The Web
For most of the people able to read this article from their browsers, the Web is an precious irreplaceable gem. To some, it may be impossible to imagine how life would be without it. However, there are still people living in remote places that do not have fiber optic or copper lines capable of delivering a reliable Internet connection. Since digitizing documents is rather impossible for them, the only remaining feasible solution for communicating through text is through fax. Despite the strong presence of the Internet in developed nations (and even some developing economies), there are still many places where a phone line is the only available way to connect to the world. Having the ability to fax documents may be the only way that these people can use services. This is even more true of countries where Internet connections are very rare or financially prohibitive.
Government Keeps Faxes Alive
For a government institution to remotely accept a document, it needs a hard copy. That’s just how government works in most parts of the world. If you want to submit a report, fax it. Applying for a job? “Please fax some of your papers to X number.” Influenced by the way the state operates internally, it may also impose this status quo on the private sector by establishing regulations in such a way that faxes are required for hard copies of documents. In a way, the state itself helps maintain faxing as a practice for sending documents “through the wire.”
All in all, without fax machines, there would still be a portion of the population that would be unable to function in 21st century society. For the time being, these dated machines still have their place and will maintain their hold on our communication as long as the Internet continues to be less ubiquitous than the traditional phone line.
What do you think? Should we phase out faxing altogether? If so, how do you plan to deal with the population that cannot access the Internet for various reasons?