From Synchronised Pendulums to Fax Online: A Short History of Fax PART 1

This week, for something completely different, we’re going to have a fun look at the history of fax – which dates back further than you’d expect! From its conception in 1843 to today’s online fax service, the story of the fax is both interesting and surprising…

  • The first fax machine was invented in 1843 by Scottish inventor Alexander Bain. The machine used synchronised pendulums which allowed the sender and the recipient to use electric probes to copy messages line by line. Specially-treated paper was used to reproduce the message. Not surprisingly, the effectiveness and accuracy of this machine were hit-and-miss, especially over long distances.
  • The first fax machine design was improved upon by Englishman Frederick Bakewell in 1851, and the pendulums were replaced with rotating cylinders. Synchronisation was still an issue with this machine.
  • During the 1860s, Grand Duke of Tuscany Leopold II, Napoleon III, and Giovanni Caselli collaborated to improve on Bain’s original model and an internal clock was added to regulate and sync the sending and receiving devices. Called a pantelegraph, it was initially used in transmitting messages between Paris, Lyon, and Marseille for banking transaction signature verification.
  • The next step in fax evolution was the telediagraph. Invented by Minnesota watchmaker Ernest Hummel between 1895-1899, the machine was used to send images over telegraph lines and the first commercial model was installed in the office of the New York Herald newspaper in 1908.
  • In 1906, Arthur Korn, a German physicist, improved upon Caselli’s pantelegraph and invented the phototelautograph. It used light-sensitive selenium cells to reproduce images. It was incredibly useful very quickly, and in 1908 led to the capture of a known criminal when German officials sent his likeness and fingerprints to London police via the device. The phototelautograph sent the first image fax across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The next development in fax was the invention of the Belinograph by Edouard Belin in 1914 – it converted light to electrical transmissions using photoelectric cells. This tool was the first to be able to encrypt messages and it was the first to be used to send photographs.

Short history of fax part 1 infographic

Download a PDF version of infographic here: History Of Fax Part 1

Next week we’ll continue with the development of fax to the modern day and fax online

Fax remains one of the world’s most utilised tools for communication, and today we are almost unlimited in how we can benefit from email to fax, and fax to email services. Contact ClickSend today to know more about how we can help you implement the most up-to-date and appropriate ways to send fax online for your business or other organisation. We look forward to hearing from you.