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The fax of life from the past

A new, and very young, member of staff posed a question the other day after receiving an email from a customer.

“After their name and telephone number at the end, there’s another number with the letters F.A.X. next to it. What does that mean?” she asked.

The rest of us (who are somewhat older), waited for a few seconds for her to realise what she’d just asked, but the moment of clarity never arrived, because she was simply too young to have ever come across a fax machine.

Fax machine? What's that?
Fax machine? What's that?

We then spent the next five minutes trying to explain what one was (we don’t have one in our office any more and haven’t done for some time).

It’s not as easy as you might think. “It’s like sending a really grainy photo down a telephone line,” I said. “You put your piece of paper with words or a photo in at one end, dial a number and it comes out on a piece of paper on the machine you’ve sent it to. These days you’d send an email – it’s like that, but not very good quality.”

“Oh,” she said, not really understanding, but then it didn’t matter because she’ll probably never need to use one.

“Another thing,” I asked her. “If you’ve never used a fax, have you ever made a call from a public phone box?”

“Why would I?” she replied. “I’ve always used my mobile.”

Several of us shook our heads in disbelief and then started on a round of “do you remember when” which resulted in a list which included mobile phones the size of bricks, when a phone call cost 2p, phonecards, opening the daily post (the office mail bag always had to be shared out) and, inevitably, how Wagon Wheels were always so much bigger.

That list then lead to a walk down memory lane filled with deely boppers, puffball skirts, cassettes, bomber jackets and Top Gun.

Fashions change, and then come back again (never throw anything out is my motto, just pray you haven’t put too much weight on to get into it) but technology will never stop.

In 10 years, what we consider hi-tech will look retro and laughable. But it will give us plenty to look up on our 4D holographic communicators.


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