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Old Fax

Tuesday, Nov 30, 2004

Back when I started Capitol Fax, in 1993, about a third of my new subscribers had to buy a fax machine just so they could read it. It wasn’t that long ago, but the world of technology has progressed amazingly fast since then. Still, the fax machine has been around a very long time. From Boing Boing (click on the photo for a larger image).

This fax-by-telegraph machine was in operation at the New York Herald in 1900. From a Pearson’s Magazine article published at the time:

“The equipment consists of two machines, almost identical in construction, the first being called the “transmitter,” the second the “receiver.” Each is provided with an eight-inch cylinder, which may be made to revolve by a delicate system of clockwork so finely regulated that both instruments work together to a nicety.

Above each cylinder rests a fine platinum needle, or stylus, not unlike the point in a telegraph key. A sheet of tin-foil, six inches by eight inches, ready to wrap round the transmitter’s cylinder, and a sheet of ordinary carbon manifold-copying paper of the same dimensions, which, when placed between two sheets of blank paper, is to be wrapped round the receiver’s cylinder–these complete the chief requirements.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        


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