Fax machines!
April 7, 2012 1:01 PM   Subscribe

The world's first fax machine was patented in 1843 by Alexander Bain. He came from a remote croft in Caithness in Scotland and, for his early experiments, used cattle jaw bones for hinges and heather for springs. His fax machine was based on an electric clock, which he had also invented. (Illustrated companion)

Here are some other old school accounts of how it worked,

Cook, Charles Emerson. “Pictures by Telegraph,” Pearson’s Magazine. April 1900. HTML transcription.

"Photo Sent In Less Than A Minute By Radio" Popular Science, September 1929

"Wire That Photo" Popular Mechanics, July 1937, pp 392-395
posted by Blasdelb (12 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Blasdelb at 1:02 PM on April 7, 2012

Wow, that's incredible. Now I feel a little bad for fervently hoping they go completely out of use in the immediate future.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:20 PM on April 7, 2012

Have you ... ever sent someone a fax -- from the beach? YOU WILL
posted by radwolf76 at 1:47 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yay secret life of machines. I love(d) that show.
posted by Popular Ethics at 1:51 PM on April 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

That was a lot of fun, thank you. I liked the ending a lot.
posted by dibblda at 1:52 PM on April 7, 2012

Also the show is clearly racist against the Scottish.
posted by dibblda at 1:53 PM on April 7, 2012

The brilliance of the original inventions is rivalled by the ingenuity of the documentarians in making this easy to understand. What a well-made show!
posted by bicyclefish at 2:05 PM on April 7, 2012

that was marvelous! Such creativity and dedication to explaining the workings and history of the fax machine! I recommend watching it through and through!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2012

Wow, I kept thinking I had seen enough and should get back to work setting up network security here--but couldn't help watching every last bit.
posted by TreeRooster at 2:28 PM on April 7, 2012

I thought it was a joke video because of the 1843 date. In fact I assumed faxes were invented in the 1970s as part of the digital revolution. It's fascinating faxes were so far ahead of the times that no one really needed them, business didn't move that fast. Then not until they became cheap and reliable did they catch on. A lesson in making new technology, good ideas can sit idle for centuries until someone figures out how to do it cheaply.
posted by stbalbach at 3:17 PM on April 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

My father was involved in early radio.... licensed as an amateur in 1912. He was in naval radio, NBD at Bar Harbor, Maine in 1921 where telefacsimile experiments were performed- I have a couple of pictures of the apparatus that he left me.
posted by drhydro at 9:39 PM on April 7, 2012

That's really neat! I never really knew how fax machines worked anyhow, so it was fascinating to see how it all started. It's crazy how people have come up with this sort of stuff.
posted by littlesq at 5:55 PM on April 8, 2012

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