Monday, December 10, 2018

The March of the Dinosaurs

I remember the day when it arrived. We had prepared a special place for it in the file room. A sales rep brought it in, unpacked it, plugged it in and we all gathered around to witness its majesty. I had bought my first fax machine.

Back then I was determined to stay on the bleeding edge of office technology for small law firms. One of the first 'boutique' firms in the province to computerize, not only for the support staff, lawyers too. The productivity gain was enormous. It was a wonderful time, I think.

Today, however, the fax machine is the clerical equivalent of the dodo bird, an endangered species seemingly destined for extinction. Blame the Brits if you must.
On Sunday, Matt Hancock, the British health and social care secretary, banned the purchase of facsimile machines by the National Health Service effective Jan. 1, 2019. He also ordered that faxes be phased out completely in hospitals and physicians’ offices by April, 2020. 
Oh, but how Canada – a country even more in the poisonous grip of the fax than Britain – could use this common sense initiative. 
“We don’t underestimate the enormity of the challenge to remove all our machines in such a short time, but we cannot afford to continue living in the dark ages,” Mr. Hancock said in the release.
In my day so much has come and gone - bias-ply tires, drum brakes, plugs and points, carburetors, incandescent light bulbs, betamax and VHS, floppy disks, mini-cams, the once ubiquitous Walkman, corded tools and appliances of all descriptions, on and on and on.

Now it's the humble fax machine's turn to be put down. Such is the fate of the days when men were made of oak and ships were made of iron. Gone, gone, gone.

It's been said that our children are the mirror of our own mortality. Tell me about it. I have a son-in-law who works for Microsoft helping to develop something called blended or mixed reality technology. Apparently it has something to do with layering artificial reality atop normal reality, whatever that is.


Anonymous said...

Emails are next.


The Mound of Sound said...

But I haven't read them yet and there must be thousands going back to - well, forever.

Anonymous said...

That mixed reality technology sounds like what politicians have been offering since the beginning of history. I guess people are nostalgic now that politicians have gone full alternative facts.


The Mound of Sound said...

Jesus, Cap, thanks for that bit of inspiration.

Troy said...

Emailing documents has become the method now. It's exactly like faxing a document, but without the fun guessing game of whether or not it went through. So it hasn't changed, just evolved. I think signing documents right off a tablet or phone screen is the next step, but my generation -- Millennials -- is a bit wary of too much digitization, due to how corporations are shady as fuck with licensing software.

The infrastructure of how internet addresses work precludes emails becoming obsolete anytime soon.

What's next are probably phone numbers. Why dedicate infrastructure to that when email addresses are readily available (and people can have as fancy an email address as they want), and people can speak online rather than over the old phone line system? Corporations are probably salivating at the fees of having people speak using data rather than the old analog phone system.

The Mound of Sound said...

Troy, enough. I'm already feeling ancient and you're not helping one damn bit.

Hugh said...

The new 5G technology will enable smart appliances, so your fridge will know when you are out of milk, and order it for you. It will be dropped on your house from a drone. It will be awesome.

Lorne said...

But on the other hand, Mound:

Anonymous said...

Oh fax machines are still used at old stock businesses all across America.

Polly Wolly

the salamander said...

.. i drink my filter coffee black with a bit of sugar 'enough to take the bitterness out' .. so said our milkman to my grandma, sitting in our kitchen. I slipped out with a carrot and slip of apple for Queenie, patiently awaiting me on Rose Park Drive - Mooore Park - Toronto. Blocks of ice kept milk with a layer of cream, well chilled. She was a small Clyde of mebbe 12 hands and I was soon shipped to the family farm Kaleida near Orton, Ontario, population 80.. She may be my earliest memory.. the whiskery lips loving the apple slice the best.. damn but she was a giant to a two or three year old.

We had a party line at the farm.. Fax machine ? The hell ya say ! We had grain prices at noon via the radio. The windup Victrola was taller than I would be for years. My sister in Toronto got a Beatle wig.. I got a baler hook. The world was a distant thing, the Black Angus cared not. We parked tractors so we could jump start them.. ie aimed downhill.

The phone had a circular dial.. and a hook. It came in many colors, all of them black. We had a typewriter.. no batteries or electric plug and any dairy farmer had a radio in the milk parlor.. yes.. electricity ! Many farms had thrashers.. no fax. We were called from the fields by a bell, no text. The idea of a computer was something in an early Robert Heinlen sci fi novel. Spock had not been invented yet. Somehow we got er done.. Things revolved around internal combustion engines and light bulbs.. OK.. and Hoover vacuum cleaners

The fax machine.. hmm.. it stirs distant memory now.. back when The Maz - Bill Mazeroski smacked a series winning walkoff homer ? Lr did it come a bit later.. when Bower hoisted The Cup ?

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks, Sal, I needed that.

Trailblazer said...

When technology is forced upon society then the poor become poorer.
Those that live on the streets or within the local 'tent city' cannot afford a computer and few have cell phones.
It's almost impossible to live without these things.
Try getting a job without a phone number or a email account!
We see those pushing a shopping cart through the street with their lives belongings on board whilst the gent passing in his Merc who has trouble parking or backing up, switches to the self park mode .
How soon before we don't have to 'reverse' for our drivers test?


Anonymous said...

"In my day so much has come and gone - bias-ply tires, drum brakes, plugs and points, carburetors, incandescent light bulbs, ...."

If these came in your lifetime, you were born before 1890 - incandescent lightbulbs were on sale before then. I get the point you were trying to make, but you exaggerated it enough it made no sense to me as an engineer. The rest of the partial list I quote were all in production well before WW1.

Drum brakes still feature on some cheaper new cars at the rear and on all over the highway big rigs and buses, bias ply tires are on ATVs and tractors and a great many motorcycles, gasoline engines couldn't work without spark plugs - it's the points that were ditched. Carburetors are still on small engines like chainsaws and lawnmwers.

You seem bewildered enough by it all to not have examined actual reality. Fax machines were invented back in the 1850s and other things can indeed replace them in most ways - they're low-hanging fruit. But they have uses. It's a very simple technology, so like cash, we're abandoning it even though it works well for some things. It's not archival quality, but it allows, say, a pharmacy to ask the doc for a prescription change because of a mistake on the doc's part - works in about 15 minutes and provides a paper trail. Send 'em an email and it'd be this time next week before staff at the doc's office get around to sorting out real emails from spam and responding. I'm a firm believer in KISS.


Anonymous said...

In financial services we still use faxes. E-mails are NOT secure so confidential information is not sent via e-mail - unless it is internal to the company. So, the fax is still alive. Exchanging documents via secure portals on the cloud (ie. even more friggin' passwords!) may eventually lead to the final demise of the fax.


The Mound of Sound said...

Trailblazer - food for thought at this supposedly festive time of the year. The have nots do seem to be increasingly left behind, distanced from the rest. What happens when technology jumps the arc and becomes embedded - in us? How big a leap is that from people who already can't walk down the street without a smartphone in their hand held in front of their face? I have never understood that urge and, from talking to my kids and other young people, it seems I never will. There is this, to me, strange need to maintain some low-level, constant sense of connection.

I lost an old friend last year, an Australian, a true curmudgeon. Phil had a land line. That was it. No voicemail. No email. No cell phone. Just a number you could dial. If he wasn't home then you could call again another time. He felt no need to have a pre-recorded message pointing out the obvious. Phil's view was that he got every communication anyone truly needed to convey and weeded out everything that wasn't really all that important. He was always keen on visiting just not by phone.

The Mound of Sound said...

BM, there was no need to mention you were an engineer. That much is apparent from your churlish, nitpicking manner. Be that as it may, we all need a shot of it from time to time, which is my backhanded way of saying thank you.

The Mound of Sound said...

UU and Polly Wolly, it seems you will be the last guard, the final refuge of the fax machine. Perhaps some day that technology by its rarity will seem novel enough to be cool again. "Yes, kids, only people in financial services and those guys in the missile silos are allowed to have these." Yikes.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

From 78s to LPs and 45s and turntables, Victrolas to hi-fis and reel-to-reel to stereo components.
Then cassettes and (Ughhh!!!) 8-tracks (Not for me! stick to cassette) to Compact Discs to mp3s to iPhones and SmartPhones.

...but I still crave pop music from the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s.

And I still detest trendiness just for the sake of being "trendy". People are too concerned about being "the ones who are left out".