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How a Fax Machine Works

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It is very typical and practical in an office to have a fax machine. Every time you walk in to an office, you may see one of these machines but have you ever wondered how they work? Have you ever thought, how can a machine transfer information from one phone to another without really sending the original document? Some people might think it’s magic but it is actually not. It is science in use, technology. All of this may sound to high-tech but the first fax machine was actually invented in 1843 by Alexander Bain. Know how they work in the following paragraphs.

The first thing you have to do when using a fax machine is to dial the telephone number of the receiving fax machine. Then put the document with the print facing outward in the machine feeder tray. Then there would be something called a photo sensor that had a light and lenses which was attached to an arm that faced the document. The arm will move its way down over the document while it revolved on what you call a rotating drum. The photo sensor is able to capture every single bit of the paper even to the smallest spot on it.

These little spots would be recorded as black and white spots of the paper. The blank parts of the paper are recorded as white spots and texts and pictures of the paper are to be the black spots. For the sensor to be able to scan the whole paper, the drum moves downward. Transmitting the information through the phone line is the complicated yet amazing part. It uses the spots recorded by the machine. If the spots of the parts of the paper were white, then it would send a certain tone. Then on the other hand, if the photo sensor determined some parts of the paper as black, it would send another different tone.

On the other line, the one which is receiving the document, before anything else, you have to make sure that there is ink in the cartridge and paper is loaded into the paper tray. The two machines will wait for a “handshake” tone that will indicate that the both machines have connected to one another. Then, next, the machine would take the sound of the tones and then reassemble them into bits which would be marked by a pen on the paper of the receiving machine. For example, if the machine recognizes a certain tone that was for black bits, it would apply black spots on that part of the paper. Then if the machine identifies the tone as for white bits, the pen would be lifted from the paper so that it wouldn’t make a mark for the intended blank spaces. When receiving the document, the machine decodes and reassembles the scanned information the makes a copy of the document as if it were the original. Nowadays, more advanced and more modern fax machines don’t need a rotating drum but it still involves the same process, just a little bit modified.

There is a sensor at the end of the sending machine to read the information on the paper. They also transform the bits scanned into tones/ sounds that go through the line. When the information is obtained, the paper also undergoes the process in which the machine writes or marks the information on it. It also has a photo-diode sensing array that contains 1,728 sensors. This is so that it will be able to scan a whole document at a time. Fax machines are one of the essential things in an office. It is just right for us to know how it works and understand how to use it so that in the future, when we encounter an experience involving this we know what to do. It also amazing to know how technology can do such things, to turn ordinary information into sound and rearrange it back and print it as if it was photo copied. I personally was just very curious on how this machine works and didn’t know a thing before this research and so I think this paper really helped me to gain knowledge about this innovation in technology.


1. http://faxanswers.com/answers/how-does-a-fax-machine-work 2. http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/fax/fax-machine.htm 3. http://www.ehow.com/how-does_4564384_fax-machine-work.html

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