Why do people still send faxes today?

Why do people still send faxes today?


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Going down the stairs of the Museum of Communication warehouse in Heusenstamm is like traveling back in time. What was once fashionable is kept here behind huge, heavy doors: televisions, television cameras, teleprinters and also fax machines. “It is one of the first faxes that existed in Germany. It is an Infotec 6002. These devices have existed since 1974,” explains the collection manager, Frank Gnegel.

He points to a device that reaches above his hip and is painted orange-gray. It only has a few white square buttons. It also has a green button to send a fax and a red button to stop sending. To dial the number to which the fax should be sent, there is an orange rotary telephone on top of the fax machine. “When someone answered, you hit send, the fax was sent, and then you could hang up,” Gnegel explains.

Simply connect and start faxing

Only four years later, i.e. in 1978, fax machines received official postal approval in Germany and in 1979 the fax service was officially introduced by the Deutsche Bundespost. However, it was necessary to wait until the 1980s for fax to be implemented in German offices: according to the Central Telecommunications Office, in 1981 there were only 4,367 fax connections, but in 1989 there were already 375,000 fax connections throughout the country. .

According to Gnegel, there was one main reason why fax machines became so popular: “Anyone could use the fax machine and it could be connected to the telephone line, which was very easy to use.”

There are still more than 700 fax machines in Frankfurt city ​​administration

And today the fax is still found in many German offices, for example in the Frankfurt municipal administration. “We estimate that of the original 2,500 fax machines, there are now around 700 in the city of Frankfurt,” says Eileen O’Sullivan, councilor for the digital department. However, the remaining number of faxes in the municipal administration cannot be determined precisely because the connections are managed decentrally in the various specialized offices.

But not only in the city of Frankfurt there are still hundreds of fax machines. According to the digital association Bitkom, 82 percent of companies in Germany used fax machines last year. “The main reason faxes are still sent is because they are essential when communicating with authorities,” explains Bitkom’s Daniil Heinze. In addition, fax has established itself as a means of communication in many companies and authorities, says Heinze. The hurdle to getting rid of devices is simply higher.

Fax machines as saviors in times of need

But the rest of the devices are not always used out of pure habit: fax is currently being used again at the University Hospital in Frankfurt, but due to a hacker attack. According to medical director Jürgen Graf, the entire hospital IT needs to be rebuilt; until then, it will be sent by fax. “It’s like the 1980s,” Graf told us. hessenschau.de.

Fax machines began their triumphal march in the 1980s. “But they did not really achieve success until the beginning of the 1990s: in 1993 there were almost two million fax machines in Germany,” reports collections manager Gnegel. Around this time, fax machines also became smaller, more manageable, and even portable in bags that could be plugged into a phone booth. Even back then you could find one almost everywhere.

Still extremely popular

In any case, little has changed in terms of popularity, explains Bitkom spokesperson Heinze: “Although emails can be encrypted, some organizations, such as authorities, still consider faxing as a secure method of transmitting confidential documents. , since the transmission can be done directly on the other hand, from a device.”

However: today only a few faxes are analog. According to the expert, faxes are now mainly sent as e-fax: “Fax to email or email to fax – these are the terms known today. Incoming and outgoing faxes are simply transmitted by email and receive”.

More digital communication

The digital department of the Frankfurt city administration only receives electronic faxes in any case. Although the fax number is still listed on the website, it is rarely used. And soon the number could even be disconnected completely, because all fax machines in the entire municipal administration are supposed to be eliminated.

“We are embarking on a digital path,” said Councilor O’Sullivan: “That also means that we will clearly say goodbye to faxes in 2024 and that we will also put a lot of effort into using the digital communication channels that exist. already exists, we must continue to expand it.” For example, citizen communication should be even more digital in the future.

The end of fax machines?

There are also similar initiatives in many state governments: in Bavaria, for example, the digital minister, Fabian Mehring, wants to ban these devices in public administration. Mehring wants to make Bavaria the first fax-free state, at least when it comes to administrative work.

The German Bundestag also wants to abolish paper spitters: all other fax machines should be switched off on June 30, 2024. However, it remains doubtful whether registrations can still be submitted, since, according to the Bild-Zeitung newspaper, the application to abolish fax machines was submitted by fax.

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