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Technology marches on; fax left behind

I remember clearly the first day we got a fax machine at the office. I had seen these miracle machines at work elsewhere and could not wait to get my hands on one.

I don’t remember when this was but I do remember that all our legal notices, which come from all over, arrived by mail pre-fax. Lawyers, or their underlings, would call from Atlanta and promise a foreclosure was on the way and it needed to run for four weeks beginning with the next edition.

Often the mail did not arrive, the foreclosure did not run the designated four weeks, the sale at the courthouse did not go through, the lender did not get their money and we got cussed out.

Once legal ads arrived, they had to be typed and then proofed multiple times. This was a labor intensive process so we tried to maintain deadlines while still being as flexible as possible.

Someone suggested this new gadget known as a fax machine and we jumped on it. I remember standing over the machine as the first fax came in. Compared to today’s speeds it was glacial but I was mesmerized. I still am, in fact.

The fax machine is a blend of 1840s and 1960s technology. Alexander Baine perfected the electric printing telegraph in 1843. Many others improved on it. Xerox rolled out the first modern office fax machine in 1964.

Baine’s technology led to the development of news wires like those used by AP, UPI, Reuters and many others. To be in a newsroom when an AP flash came across the wire was an adrenaline rush.

I watched as the shooting of John Lennon flashed on the wire. The companion photo machine started spinning out file photos immediately after the familiar alert and the message reading: FLASH***(AP, New York) Former Beatle John Lennon shot dead. More to follow….

Though we never got anything like that over our fax, it did make a huge behind-the-scenes difference in the production of your newspaper.

For the past several years, our fax has delivered nothing but spam. So, we will take it offline soon. I am sure Baine is rolling over in his grave at that news.

Nobody likes spam unless, perhaps, it is on a fried spam sandwich.

But, that is a column for another day.

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