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Though we normally look at technologies of the past in our Throwback Thursday posts, the fax machine certainly isn’t of the ‘past’ but it’s usage definitely declined in this digital age. 

A brief history

Alexander Bain is credited with inventing the first technology to send an image over a wire.

Working on an experimental fax machine between 1843 and 1846, he was able to synchronize the movement of two pendulums through a clock, and with that motion scan a message on a line by line basis.

The image was projected to an from a cylinder, and while it was able to transfer an image it was of quite poor quality.

Bain’s patent, dated May 27, 1843, was for “improvements in producing and regulating electric currents and improvements in timepieces, and in electric printing, and signal telegraphs”

Frederick Bakewell is credited with improving on Bain’s invention, creating an image telegraph that was very similar to today’s fax machine.

Bakewell replaced Bain’s pendulums with rotating cylinders that were synchronized, allowing for a clearer image through better synchronization. The image telegraph would pick up the image from the cylinder with a stylus, and place the image on the other cylinder through a similar stylus onto chemically impregnated paper.

Bakewell’s image telegraph was never considered a full “success” however it was a first important step towards a commercially viable way to send images over a wire.


Source: Fax Authority