Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?

Replying to Lisa Hancock in earlier message, this issue:

I don't know the termination date, but I know that in 1959 there was some central office desk fax equipment for sale in Chicago surplus stores. Perhaps it had been replaced by equipment of more modern design, or perhaps Desk Fax was being phased out in that area at that time.

I wasn't aware that DeskFax had ever shared lines with telephone service. The DeskFax machine expects a two-wire DC loop from the customer's office to the W.U. office The signal is basically analog, but chopped so that it will pass through AC amplifiers.

A lot of your questions are answered in the W.U.T.R. Not having it in front of me, but I remember a picture of a central office fax concentrator that was used to receive from customers' DeskFax machines. They probably hoped to be able to use fax end-to-end, as they show an example of a message handwritten in Chinese that obviously could not be turned into teleprinter code. I don't think it ever happened.

It seems almost tragic the amount of money and engineering creativity that W.U. poured into fax without it having any relevance at all to the modern fax that swept away the Telegram.

In the mid 1960s, with long distance telephone rates coming down, there were companies that attempted to build a service to compete with W.U. based on fax and dialup connections between the originating and terminating agency offices. The technology of the day was pretty awful; wet electrolytic paper for recording. The Bell System had a Data Set (modem) intended for connection to fax machines, providing analog signaling. The business model was to sign up agents, who would be supplied with fax machines for sending and receiving. I guess this never went anywhere; and then just a little later with microelectronics, plastics, and experience gained in the office copier business we got the modern fax machines, cheap enough for the customer to own, using built-in modems operating over the telephone network worldwide.

jhhaynes at earthlink dot net

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Jim Haynes
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