TRIVIAL PURSUITS: When was the first fax machine invented?

Do you know when the first fax machine was invented?

According to several sources, Alexander Bain is credited with inventing the first fax machine patented in England in 1843. “Bains Telgraph” was two pens attached to pendulums connected by a telegraph wire. The pendulums passed over chemically treated paper and made stains when an electrical charge was sent down the telegraph wire.

Improvements on the Original 

Around 1860, Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli patented a machine he called a pantelegraph, which was based on Bain’s invention but also included a synchronizing apparatus. His pantelegraph reportedly was used by the French Post & Telegraph agency between Paris and Marseilles from 1856 to 1870.

Elisha Gray, organizer of the company that became the Western Electric Company, invented and patented many electrical devices, including a facsimile transmission system.

In 1902, in Germany, Arthur Korn invented telephotography, a method for manually breaking down and transmitting still photographs by means of electrical wires. In 1907, Korn sent the first inter-city fax when he transmitted a photograph from Munich to Berlin.

In 1925, in France, Edouard Belin constructed what he called the Belinograph. His invention involved placing an image on a cylinder and scanning it with a powerful light beam that had a photoelectric cell which could convert light, or the absence of light, into transmittable electrical impulses. The Belinograph process used the basic principle upon which all subsequent facsimile transmission machines would be based. In 1934, the Associated Press introduced the first system for routinely transmitting “wire photos,” and 30 years later, in 1964, the Xerox Corporation introduced Long Distance Xerography (LDX).

For many years, facsimile machines remained cumbersome, expensive and difficult to operate, but in 1966 Xerox introduced the Magnafax Telecopier, a smaller, 46-pound facsimile machine that was easier to use and could be connected to any telephone line. Using this machine, a letter-sized document took about six minutes to transmit.

Advances in technology have led to the more efficient machines we use today.