Fax Machine Information

By Michelle L. Cramer

Updated September 26, 2017

Fax machines are a great way to send documents, especially between businesses. They provide confidentiality that may be necessary for legal and medical documents, among other industries. Although Internet document transmission is equally as convenient, computers and the internet can be hacked, allowing those without permission to access private documents, while fax machines cannot.


Alexander Bain invented the first facsimile machine in 1843. Using the same general process as the telegraph, Bain found a way to transmit data images rather than sounds. The transmitter scanned a flat piece of metal using a pendulum mounted stylus. Over the next 100 years, inventors made various developments in the fax machine design. However, the fax didn’t really catch on with the general public until the 1980s as a means for businesses to distribute documents to each other directly and quickly. While technology has brought us an age of emails and Internet document transfer, many businesses still employ the use of a fax machine to better protect the confidentiality of the documents they send.


Modern facsimile machines typically have a paper feed function that automatically feeds the documents through the machine at appropriate intervals. As the documents feed through, a sensor inside the machine reads each page on a small scale, breaking the page down to approximately 1,145 horizontal lines. The sensor reads a line of the paper and doesn’t see text, but a grouping of black and white spots. It encodes these spots and sends them through the phone line to the recipient’s fax machine. The receiving fax machine decodes the information sent sensor, decompresses and reassembles the information, and then prints it on the paper provided.


Using a fax machine is a fairly simple process. Of course, you need to make sure the fax machine has power. You need to first obtain the phone number for the recipient’s fax machine, then gather the documents you want to send and put them in the correct order. Fax etiquette recommends sending a cover sheet to the recipient that includes your company logo, originating fax machine number from, the recipient, contact number and what the facsimile is regarding. Place the documents in the scan tray (facing up or down depends upon the particular machine), dial the recipient’s fax number and press send. Make sure you program your fax machine to print a confirmation page so that you have documentation proving when you sent the fax (date and time) and that the recipient’s fax machine received it.


The major difference in fax machines is how they print. Facsimilies print using thermal paper, thermal film, inkjet, on a laser printer or on a computer printer through a fax modem. Xerox is among the leading brand names in fax machines, offering machines that not only fax, but print, copy and scan as well. Xerox's FaxCentre machine is great for high volume facsimilies, at a rate of 18 to 21 pages per minute. Additional fax machine brands include Brother, HP, Lexmark, Samsung, Canon and IBM.


Businesses most frequently use the confirmation feature on a fax machine, which shows the date and time of fax and confirms the transmission was successful to the recipient's machine. Activity reports can be set to print as frequently as once a day or once a week. Most fax machines have redial and speed dial (autodial) features, as well as automatic document feeders. Batch processing features allow you to send multiple, separate faxes to the same recipient or one fax to several recipients.