My last fax machine went to meet its maker in the late 1990s. I continued to use PC-based fax software for a while after that, but it ran on a Windows PC and I haven’t had one of those since about 2005, so it’s fair to estimate that I haven’t sent or received a fax for 15 years. Incredibly, I may be unusual. An international survey in 2017 found that a substantial majority of large firms had sent as many or more faxes than the previous year. One reason is probably that ‘it just works’, however creaky or environmentally unfriendly the technology; another is the bizarre continued acceptance of signed documents over fax, as if they couldn’t easily be forged by the sender. At least our own NHS banned the purchase of fax machines last year, and they should be phased out soon.
So if you’re in a situation where a fax needs to be sent or received, and you don’t have a fax machine, what are your options? There are a whole bunch of online services now that typically allow you to use your email service to send documents to – or receive them from – conventional fax machines, without needing to install software or connect to a phone line. A few are reviewed here.
In an age where the sales of CDs may soon fall below vinyl records, and even cassettes are making a novelty comeback, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that tens of millions of fax machines still exist worldwide. But at least we’re not forced to own one any longer, fortunately.