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Could the Fax Machine Be the Next Retro 'Big Thing'?

July 15, 2014

 By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Is nostalgia set to bring back the fax machine?

A recent article on the culture web site “Vice” suggests the fax machine might start being an object of nostalgia, the same way that vinyl records and old Apple (News - Alert) II computers are still in use today.

“Culturally, the moment is right for fax nostalgia,” notes the Vice blog, Motherboard. “A generation raised on the Web is beginning to sniff out and claim the aesthetics of the early Internet; at the same time, malaise about our constant connectivity is growing increasingly manifest. We talk of unplugging, of going off the grid. But what if we stayed plugged in, only differently? What if we picked and chose, as from a buffet, selected varieties of connection?”

The blog asks its readers to imagine an “offline” network of friends and family connected by fax, a private club of sorts.

“It’d be a small club at first — fellow pioneers of the retro-future. But as conspiratorial notes, love letters, and doodles started emerging from the plastic jaws of consumer-grade fax machines in living rooms around the world, the network would grow,” suggested the blog.

This doesn’t represent a long-term growth for the fax; even if the fax does come back in a way of cultural nostalgia the way Polaroid cameras came back long after the technology had passed its prime, it won’t be a dramatic resurgence. But it is an intriguing idea, and there’s something decidedly strange about the idea of a hipster in Williamsburg making his own beer in his apartment while an antique fax machine sits in the corner and connects him to his friends.

Stranger things have happened, and it would be an odd resurgence for the fax machine.

Not that fax has disappeared. It still is used by businesses of all types, a necessary business tool in just about every hotel in the country and most law offices.

The fax still has better legal precedent than its e-signature counterparts, and it is easy to use. Many business workflows also still rely upon it, so the technology hangs on.

Faxing also has evolved, and newer fax-over-IP (FoIP) technology brings new reasons to use the fax, including automatic document routing, HTTPS security, mobile support, email-to-fax and other features like optical character recognition. Companies such as FaxSIPit make it easy for businesses to embrace the latest incarnation of the fax.

If the fax machine becomes a retro hit, a piece of nostalgia, it will be doing so while many people simultaneously are still using it for essential business. 

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