[Thank you for the immense response we had on LinkedIn about fax machines! Whilst this article is a love letter to fax machines (we make no apologies) we will be taking a much more in depth look at the prevalence of fax machines in industry in a follow-up piece over the next month.]
We often hear that fax machines are on their way out, yet they’ve been on their way out for some time now and still not left the office.
For their resilience in the face of rampant progress alone, we salute you fax machines, even if we don’t know how to use one. But who does right? Quite a lot of people, as we found out.
Who still sends faxes?
The UK and US health services
A 2017 independent report labelled Britain’s NHS as “the world’s largest purchaser of fax machines”, quipping that the “digital revolution has largely bypassed the NHS”.
CNBC reported last month that US healthcare regulations specifically state that fax machines are acceptable methods to transmit medical records as long as “reasonable safeguards” on privacy are taken.
The fax machine’s strongest outpost is Japan where 1.7 million fax machines were bought in 2012 according to the New York Times. The fax machine’s popularity is attributed to various reasons including the complex nature of the Japanese language leading to a preference for hand-written correspondence being faxed to its destination rather than typed on a computer and emailed.
In a 2016 survey of 5,000 European workers by business communications provider Fuze, it was found that 30% of British workers deemed a fax machine “essential” to their jobs. In Germany this was at 39% and in France, 42%.
The wheeling and dealing between Premiership and Football League clubs around player transfers can still rely on fax machines. With the global nature of the transfer window, football clubs can find themselves needing to exchange documents such as foreign birth certificates, permits and previous visas, allowing fax machines to come into their own vs newer technology.
Famous faxes from history
The humble fax has a powerful past and played its part in many famous moments in history such as basketball legend Michael Jordan announcing his comeback in 1995 via a two-word fax: “I’m back.”
Check out the lovely infographic below about other famous faxes from history:
3 advantages of fax machines (maybe, probably not)
- Security: There is a perception that sending a fax over phone lines is more secure than sending an email. The argument for this being safer than an email is all very technical and Legal Geek is not about to put on rubber gloves and delve into it – but we’d love you to if this is your area (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will include more thoughts on this in a follow-up article).
- Reputation: Given the stubborn resistance of the fax machine across industries and jurisdictions, you just never know when your next client is going to ask for your fax number. Being able to play the fax game won’t make you look out of touch in their eyes, it will make you look prepared and professional.
- Receipt confirmation: Email read receipts are irritating and easy to decline but once a fax has been received, a confirmation receipt can be requested and received by the sender.
Fax machines in the movies
How to play a prank using a fax machine from the American Office:
Smashing up a fax machine from In The Loop: