The Twilight of the Fax Machine

I’m one of the very few private citizens who still own a fax machine. In fact, I’m not even sure how many businesses still own a fax machine, since the fax machine is large obsolete these days, when only a few outliers still use fax machines.

Unfortunately, one of those outliers is one of my translation customers. The gentleman is close to pensioning age and does not do computers. Until today, this has never been a problem. If the customer needs something translated, he pops it into his fax machine and sends it to me. And since this gentleman does not do computers at all, he sometimes sends business correspondence handwritten on draft paper. Doesn’t much bother me, I translate almost everything, even if it’s written in lipstick on toilet paper (though I charge more for source texts in hard copy or difficult to handle formats). I do draw the line at used toilet paper, though.

Of late, however, my fax machine hasn’t been functioning properly. I can still send faxes, but the paper feed has been whacked out of alignment, so I can no longer receive them. I already had the problem fixed once, but now it’s back again. Not that it matters much, because hardly anybody uses fax machines anymore. Except this one customer and I certainly don’t want to buy a new fax machine (if you can even buy them anymore) just for the sake of this one customer. Besides, he had started having other people send e-mail for him, so all appeared to be well. Until today, when said gentleman decided that he very urgently needed a translation (it’s always urgent with him) and found that he could not fax it.

“Could you maybe have your wife type or scan it and mail it to me?” No, the wife was away for several days and he had no idea how to operate a PC or send an e-mail. And asking a coworker was not possible either, because of course the guy needed his urgent translation on a weekend. Finally, I promised I’d check whether he could send his fax to anybody else, who could then forward it to me.

So I called the one neighbour who I thought might have a fax machine. The neighbour laughed at me, “Uh no, I don’t have one. Who still uses a fax machine these days?” Undaunted, I called another translation customer who’s a coworker of that guy. Again the answer was, “No. Who needs a fax machine?” The coworker also suggested that the gentleman with the very urgent translation simply use his smartphone (apparently he does own one) to take a picture of the paper and mail that to me. Only that he didn’t know how to do that either.

I finally called up the gentleman with the very urgent translation again to tell him that I would ask my Dad to take a look at the machine on Sunday (not that it will do a lot of good) and that I would then get back to him. I have still no idea how to handle that. I guess he’ll either have to wait until tomorrow to get a coworker to e-mail his text or bring it to me in person.

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7 Responses to The Twilight of the Fax Machine

    • Cora says:

      I never set up the fax option on my PC, because the one time I tried to do it, it messed up my printer settings. However, I’ve repeatedly changed printers and computers since then, so the conflict has probably long been resolved.

  1. Rosario says:

    There are services online you can sign up to where you get emailed the fax. Not sure which are available in Germany, but try efax, for instance.

  2. Laran says:

    I was about to suggest the same things! And I don’t think fax is obsolete, at least in university context it is used a lot e.g. when you register for conferences or in reply to invitations to lectures. I think we get one every day at least. On the other hand, wouldn’t be the first oldfashioned and totally unnecessary thing preserved at German universities…

    • Cora says:

      Oh, fax machines still have their uses, when you need to get a hard copy document somewhere quickly without firing up the scanner. And most companies still have a fax machine somewhere, universities as well. But the private home fax machine that was fairly common ten to fifteen years ago, has been almost completely replaced by e-mail.

  3. Still people are using old fax machines but now a days Free Efax has replaced old fax machines. Its easy to use and we can send your fax online without having an old fax machine. It provides you the flexibility to send and receive faxes directly through email.

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