Thursday, July 06, 2006

Farewell Old FAX

Are you supposed to feel this close to an appliance? No, I'm not talking about Bill O'Reilly here. My FAX machine from the early 90s - the FAX machine that cost around 300 bucks and launched me into a sparkling career in freelance comedy - has finally died. I remember my first week or two after starting to send in my jokes back in 1993. I would go to a business office down the street and FAX them from there for a couple of bucks. That became a hassle as there was often quite a wait to get through. I finally headed out to Mall 205 and spent what was then a serious sum for a long-shot career, and came away with my first capital investment in my new business. I would only turn it on to send something, which could explain why it lasted so long, but for many years 5-days-a-week, it pumped out the comedy to Jay Leno in Los Angeles. These days I get the royal treatment. I email them down and my contact there acknowledges them, usually with a "Thank you" but often with a little note. What was once a rather impersonal process slowly switched to a friendship, and that's great. Recently my contact had a few days off and suggested I FAX them rather than have someone else retrieve them from her computer. That's when I found out my trusty old appliance friend no longer worked. At the exact same time I mouthed off on this blog about sending a message to Congress which would be easy on a FAX machine, but has proven to be a tedious process by email. You have to fill out a form for nearly every Senator, etc...Some Representatives don't want to hear about it at all if you're not in their district. More hassle.
So today I went back to the store and asked for one, which is about as hip now as trying to buy a butter churn. The machines have also come way down to 70 bucks. Maybe it's just the sentimental nature of the passage of time, but I was a little emotional unplugging the old one, and taking it to my appliance Hall of Fame in storage. Together, me and that FAX machine sent out thousands of jokes, and quite a few of them bounced all around the world.


At 8:31 PM, Blogger LaurelhurstDad said...

Your nostalgia on FAX machines forced me to remember how pictures were transmitted to the Oregon Journal back in the 1960’s, when I was a wannabe journalist/photographer.

If you were in a faraway town, say Eugene, and had the shot of the winning touchdown, here is what you had to do:

1. Take the picture.
2. Find a place that would develop it right away. The Register Guard was not the place to go, as they had their own photographers to keep happy.
3. With printed photo in hand, go to your friend’s house to borrow their telephone. Unpack your magic machine from the very heavy bag you’ve been hauling around and set up. To do that, you wrapped the photo around a drum much like an old Edison phonograph. You dialed direct to the newsroom (hey, direct long distance dialing was still new then) and got the operator who got you through to the photo department who set you up with the ‘answering’ machine.
4. You started your end, which spun the drum and ‘read’ the picture with a light that crossed the spinning drum, sending the modulated pulse as sound to the receiver.
5. It usually worked.

Faxes killed this technology overnight, regardless of how expensive they were at the time. And it was so much easier after that.

At 9:42 PM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

It's cool seeing the old machines in movies like "Almost Famous". My brother also talks about the old suitcase satellite link equipment he used in Iraq before the Gulf War.
Then there's reporter Don Hamilton's story of how not having a cellphone yet, back in the Mt. St. Helens days, caused him to leave the mountain and saved his life.

At 3:07 AM, Blogger Jack Bog said...

I too used the spinning-drum-over-the-dial-telephone thing, and this was the early '70s. I believe we called it a "Magnifax," which was probably somebody's trade name. But we used it only for typed newspaper copy -- never photos.

At 9:26 AM, Blogger Nothstine said...

You can split the difference between email and fax by using online services that convert the email you send them into faxes they send on for you.

Features and degrees of "free-ness" vary, of course, but try Googling FREE ONLINE FAX and see what you get.


At 12:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you're using Windows, you should have Microsoft Fax on your computer. You can create a document in Word and fax it all in a couple of (fairly) easy steps. No need to buy a new fax machine.


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