English inventor Alexander Bain patented the first facsimile
machine in 1843, about three decades before the telephone came into
existence. This machine could reproduce writing through signals sent
over a modified telegraph wire, but proved more unwieldy than merely
sending a message by telegraphy.
This did not stop a few hardy souls from trying to improve upon
it, however, and Dr. Arthur Korn of Germany built the first
photoelectric fax machine in 1902. Twenty-three years later, French
inventor Edouard Belin followed in his footsteps by constructing a
new kind of fax machine.
The Belinograph scanned pages with a powerful light source that
translated dark and light spaces into electrical signals of
Using a variant of Belin’s technology, the Associated Press began
transmitting photos over the "wire" in 1934.
Despite these advancements, however, fax machines still remained
expensive to buy and complex to operate. This changed in 1966, when
Xerox introduced the Magnafax Telecopier. At 37 pounds (17
kilograms), the Magnafax was lighter than its progenitors, and quite
a bit faster as well. Documents and images could be sent at a rate
of six minutes per page along an ordinary phone line.
These machines were not feasible in Alberta until 1979, when the
telephone companies put up new wires capable of handling the
increased data. Since then, fax machines have become more compact
and accessible to the point where nearly anybody can own one.
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Heritage Community Foundation and
Telephone Historical Centre All Rights Reserved