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Article: How do faxes work and can I send free faxes?

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Unfortunately sending faxes is not free, however, affordable charges do apply and you can set your email to fax, or PC to fax service once you have activated your free fax to email service.

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You receive a premium rate 086 number, issued by Telkom. Although Telkom does not provide you with the fax to email service, Telkom will supply the service provider with the 086 fax number. The service provider iwll then route your 086 faxes through their servers, convert the fax into a TIFF image or PDF file.

How does the fax machine work?

  • Alexander Bain patented the first fax design in 1843
  • A fax machine allows you to transmit pieces of paper to another fax machine in the worls instantly
  • A fax is sent from one point to a second point using a standard telephone line

Early fax machines, which were very similar to today's fax machines, had a revolving wheel (or drum) which pushed the paper through the machine.

  • There was a small photo sensor with a lens and a light.
  • The photo sensor was attached to an arm and faced the sheet of paper.
  • The arm could move downward over the sheet of paper from one end to the other as the sheet rotated on the drum.

Early fax machines used a simple technique: If the spot of paper that the photo cell was looking at were white, the fax machine would send one tone; if it were black, it would send a different tone. For example, it might have sent an 800-Hertz tone for white and a 1,300-Hertz tone for black.

At the receiving end, there would be a similar rotating-drum mechanism, and some sort of marker to mark on the paper. When the receiving fax machine heard a 1,300-Hertz tone it would apply the pen to the paper, and when it heard an 800-Hertz tone it would take the pen off the paper.

A modern fax machine does not have the rotating drums and is a lot faster, but it uses the same basic mechanics to get the job done:

  • At the sending end, there is some sort of sensor to read the paper. Usually, a modern fax machine also has a paper-feed mechanism so that it is easy to send multi-page faxes.
  • There is some standard way to encode the white and black spots that the fax machine sees on the paper so that they can travel through a phone line.
  • At the receiving end, there is a mechanism that marks the paper with black dots.

A typical fax machine that you find in an office is officially known as a CCITT (ITU-T) Group 3 Facsimile machine. The Group 3 designation tells you four things about the fax machine:

  • It will be able to communicate with any other Group 3 machine.
  • It has a horizontal resolution of 203 pixels per inch (8 pixels/mm).
  • It has three different vertical resolutions:
    • Standard: 98 lines per inch (3.85 lines/mm)
    • Fine: 196 lines per inch (7.7 lines/mm)
    • Super fine (not officially a Group 3 standard, but fairly common): 391 lines per inch (15.4 lines/mm)
  • It can transmit at a maximum data rate of 14,400 bits per second (bps), and will usually fall back to 12,000 bps, 9,600 bps, 7,200 bps, 4,800 bps or 2,400 bps if there is a lot of noise on the line.

To reduce the number of bits that have to be transmitted, Group 3 fax machines use three different compression techniques:

  • Modified Huffman (MH)
  • Modified Read (MR)
  • Modified Modified Read (MMR)

 


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