of the inventions concerned with telecommunications spent some time
languishing on the sidelines before society found a profitable use for
them. The fax machine was certainly no exception. The patent for the fax
machine was granted on 27 May 1843, 33 years before the patent was given
for the telephone.
inventor was a Scotsman called Alexander Bain. He was apprenticed to a
clockmaker in Wick where he also invented the first electric clock which
was powered by an electromagnet propelling a pendulum. He patented the
fax machine on his move to London. As usual, this innovation was slow to
take off. The first commercial fax service was opened between Paris and
Lyon in 1865 and they were called pantélégraphes. Faxes really came into
their own in 1906 when they found their first major use, to transmit
photos for newspapers.
way that a fax machine works is very simple. The page to be sent is
divided into strips. Each line is then broken up into black and white
segments which can then be sent like the dots and dashes of Morse Code
and put together at the other end. Digital fax machines have only
changed this principles slightly. Pages are now divided into tiny
squares called Pels, each of which can be either black or white.
The Petition of Alexander Bain (pdf)
An Account of
some remarkable applications of the Electric Fluid to the useful arts by
Mr Alexander Bain (pdf)