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Fax (short for facsimile - from Latin "fac simile", "make similar", i.e. "make a copy" - or telefacsimile) is a telecommunications technology used to transfer copies of documents, especially using affordable devices operating over the telephone network. The words telecopy and telefax are also used as synonyms.

Fax: Overview

A fax machine is essentially an image scanner, a modem, and a computer printer combined into a highly specialized package. The scanner converts the content of a physical document into a digital image, the modem sends the image data over a phone line, and the printer at the other end makes a duplicate of the original document.

A very high-quality fax machine with some additional electronics can connect to a computer, and can be used to scan documents into a computer, to print documents from the computer, and to make photocopies. Such high-end devices are called multifunction printers and cost more than fax machines.

Modern fax technology became feasible only in the mid-1970s as the sophistication and cost of the three underlying technologies improved to a reasonable level. Fax machines first became popular in Japan, where they had an clear advantage over competing technologies like the teleprinter; it is faster to write Japanese ideographs than to type them. Over time, they gradually became affordable and were very popular around the world by the mid-1980s.

However, although most businesses still maintain some kind of fax capability, the technology appears increasingly dated in the world of the Internet.

Fax: Alternatives

A modern alternative for sending a fax is sending an email with one or more image files as attachments. This allows color and is more versatile with respect to resolution.

At the receiving end, much research has occurred into how to more efficiently process incoming faxes, now that digital storage is much cheaper than it was in the 1970s, and junk faxes have become a common problem, and an enormous waste of paper.

This article is adapted from: wikiPedia.com.

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