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