Canon 'Fax L-700' fax machine, 1997.
3 3 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 25cm

Canon 'Fax L-700' fax machine, 1997.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


A fax (or facsimile) machine reads an image from one piece of paper, then sends the image over a telephone line, where another fax machine receives it and prints out an exact copy. The Scottish clockmaker Alexander Bain (1810-1877) invented the earliest form of this machine in 1842. His invention 'for electric printing and signal telegraphs' evolved from the new telegraph technology. Then, in 1902, Dr Arthur Korn (1870-1945) invented the photo-electric system, which was the forerunner of the modern fax machine. For many years, facsimile machines were expensive, cumbersome and difficult to use. It was not until the 1970s, when Japanese companies entered the market, that smaller and more efficient fax machines entered the market.

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