The Vertex Angle - Winter 2005 - 2006

Do you know in what year the first patent was issued for facsimile transmission over wires (i.e. faxing) was issued?

•  1843

•  1887

•  1901

•  1945

•  1960

The correct answer is (a). The first patent for a faxing device was issued to Alexander Bain in 1843 by the British Patent office. A Scottish mechanic and amateur clock maker, Bain was awarded a patent for "improvements in producing and regulating electric currents and improvements in timepieces and in electric printing and signal telegraphs". Recall that Samuel Morse invented the telegraph just seven years before Bain's extension of the technology.

Bain's device, which employed parts adapted from clock mechanisms, was designed to scan a flat surface using a stylus mounted on a pendulum. The image thereby detected was transmitted via the telegraph lines to a decoding device on the receiving end which reproduced the original image on conductive paper. A patent for a similar device called a 'copying telegraph' was issued to F.C. Blakewell in 1850. Despite the early development of the ability to transmit facsimile images, fax machines did not achieve their popularity until the mid-1980s, more than a hundred years after their initial invention.


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