The fax machine – dead or alive?
If the fax machine could talk, it might quote Mark Twain when he said “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” While many of us have completely embraced the digital age and now scoff at the mere mention of using a fax machine, its death has been prematurely predicted for years. But is its actual death imminent, or is the humble fax machine still going to be around for a while to come? Let’s take a look.
When someone asks me if they can fax me a document, I tend to ask myself why people still use fax machines, while at the same time trying to find my fax-to-email number, which I keep in case of such emergencies. Although I haven’t used one in years, the fact that people still do, makes me think that the fax machine, while discarded from many homes and offices around the world, is still very much in use. While most of us have found favour with digital communication solutions, there are still many people who are reluctant to condemn their fax machine to join the millions of others on the technology scrapheap.
The truth is, people who have been using faxes since they became mainstream in the 80’s still use them on a daily basis. They know how to use them, they can rely on them, they often don’t trust technology, and they are in no hurry to give up something that still plays a useful part in their lives.
There are a number of reasons why faxes continue to sell at least a few million worldwide every year. Despite their demise being widely predicted, they will continue to be useful for some years to come.
It embraces handwriting
One reason why people still enjoy it is the fact that the fax embraces handwriting, in particular signatures, and is a more personal approach compared to email.
Used in certain industries
The fax machine is still widely used in industries like real estate, banking, legal and medical, where more often than not, a written signature is necessary. Some countries still require faxing in order for a document to be recognised as legal.
While many of us have given up security for convenience, this isn’t always the case. When it comes to confidentiality, faxes are hard to intercept and cannot be easily manipulated like digital documents.
Depends where you live
Americans barely use faxes anymore but the Japanese still use them regularly both for private and personal use. In 2011, the Japanese used them to spread critical information during the Fukushima nuclear incident.
Fax-to-email only really eliminates the fax on one side of the sender/receiver relationship. I don’t own a fax machine but I do retain the ability to receive a fax, which I only need once in a while but still allows for the occasional non-digital client to send me a fax if and when required.
Multifunction fax machines
Obviously fax machine sales are declining, but these days people are demanding their fax machines to be multifunctional. That is, they want a printer/copier/scanner/fax machine all in one. So the faxware industry is still alive and well, people just want more sophisticated fax machines.
In 2014 just over 1.2 million basic fax machines were sold in Japan. While in France just 40 000 fax machines were sold in 2013 and 350 00 in the USA in 2012.
The death of the fax machine might not be that far off, but it certainly isn’t dead yet. It still has its place and uses, and while fax machine sales continue to decline, so far it has outlasted predictions of its demise by 10 years, and it’s still alive, if not quite kicking.
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