Technology That Won’t Die

A moment for an odd rant today.  I had an experience recently with a business (a big company, not some small operation) where they had got some information incorrect on something they sent to me.  I contacted them to arrange for it to be updated.  It related to taxes so getting it right seemed pretty important.  First I should note, they were perfectly happy to fix the error.  The thing that amused me was that they asked me to amend their document, add a covering note and fax it to them.

I asked whether it was possible to scan it and email it across but no, they required it to be faxed.  I don’t have a fax machine, nor do I live in the 1990s any more.  However, it turns out our building does have a fax machine so I could use that to complete my time traveling experience.  This got me thinking.  Why do fax machines still exist.  They only produce a copy of something so there is no proof of something being genuine.  I can create an electronic document, print it and fax it.  It will be harder to check because the quality of fax is not brilliant.  Making a PDF of the document and emailing it seems far more effective and, you can always resend or forward the file further if required.  If anyone knows why fax still exists, please let me know in the comments.  I would love to understand.

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5 Responses to Technology That Won’t Die

  1. Jonathan Price says:

    I’ve had the same response from a company when wanting to send a signed document. I could fax it but not scan it. I asked why and their answer was because it was time stamped, had a phone number on it and because it was a ‘image and send’ device that it would be an accurate representation of the original document. Whereas a scanned and emailed document could be tampered with, signatures added or replaced in photoshop. I did ask why it wouldn’t occur to someone to print the tampered document and then fax it? Strangely the seemed ok with that!
    My theory is that in your case a lot of companies use the fax argument as a filter. If you can be bothered to put in the effort to find and use a fax then it is probably important. If you can’t then the problem has gone away!

    • Rob says:

      Their understanding is rather dopey. Given that you can have software to fax things directly from a computer and that could be edited in any software you want, where does the difference lie? I can’t see it and I can’t understand why they would force people to search out a fax machine. I still find it odd to see fax numbers on people’s business cards when no one uses one anymore.

  2. Hayman says:

    I too, share some of your thoughts on this seemingly archaic technology. I see it as more of a crutch for the “nonline” businesses. I had someone at work asking for help in searching out a fax machine, lucky for them that our spiffy new multifunction copiers retained a fax mode.

  3. Jonathan Price says:

    Have had a further thought about this issue. Yesterday I had to fax a document internally within my organisation because on the original, which I had submitted by post, I had left a couple of check boxes unticked. The organisation I work for has a large (countrywide) secure networked computer system and on all workstation all data input points (USB etc) are locked down for security / anti virus reasons. This means there is no way to attach scanners, USB stcks etc or anyway of loading images/ documents. (Stupidly the CDROM drive is active so that if I bring my laptop to work I can scan stuff to that and then burn it to disc to the load onto the desktop. I think of it as a ‘being able to upload viruses but not download them’ policy). So I think the reason that companies have this ‘fax is ok’ policy is because most have the same IT security protocols which prevent the upload / transfer of documents (except on CD) and because the only way (company policy) of transferring live (signed) documents internally (without posting them) is to fax. Having made this policy internally they then apply it to external customers.
    Basically it’s a legacy thing because these organisations (especially government ones) are such monstrous behemoths they can’t move with the times (or can’t afford to) and are therefore working with technology that is 10 years out of date. Hence why my organisation’s IT network still works with Win XP, IE 6 and faxes! We do have Office 2003. Whoopee!

    • Rob says:

      That actually sounds a lot more plausible than anything I had previously come up with. Since I am a person who is more willing to believe incompetence before malice, this should have been something that came to mind. I’m sure your employer will be glad to know how deeply you have thought about the ability to bring viruses to work. Then again, they have known you a long time so know what sort of risk you are!

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