Fax stands for facsimile, which means “reproduction”. Therefore, it’s important to understand that a fax machine doesn’t “send” a document strictly speaking, but rather a reproduction of it. The basic principle was theorized in the mid-19th century, but the adoption in the 1970s of certain standards in transmission speed and printing quality made fax machines ubiquitous in offices and homes around the world.
Understanding how a fax transmission works is fairly straightforward: the sending machine digitizes the document, text or image, thanks to an optical scanner; the obtained electronic data is sent through a telephone line to a receiving unit, after the operator dials the recipient’s fax number; finally, the receiving fax machine interprets the data and prints it, thus creating a reproduction of the original document. The original is of course kept by the sender. All sorts of fax machines exist on the market, with different technologies, each with its own merits. In all cases, this way of sending faxes requires specific hardware, in this instance a fax machine, for the sender and the recipient.
However, in recent years a new way of sending or receiving faxes has become increasingly popular: it is called “online faxing”. Using a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) which allows phone calls to be placed over the internet, online faxing gives a new breath of life to this rather “old” technology. Faxes are sent and received on the web, instantly. Most internet providers offer VOIP facilities, for low prices.
As a matter of fact, the biggest advantage of online faxing is that it makes any internet-connected device, a smartphone or tablet for instance, able to send faxes, receive or even edit them. It’s not even necessary to print the received document which can instead be transferred directly to an email account or converted into a printable PDF file.
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