The Functionality of Faxing
Verbal communication is wonderful; teleconferencing can be even better. Some communications cues work more effectively when delivered by voice, and even better when two people can look each other in the eye -- even remotely -- and observe each other's body language and gestures.
There are times, however, when only having an actual document in hand is sufficient to meet the demands of a business situation. Contracts, leases, bids, proposals, and many other documents simply cannot be satisfactorily understood when received by the ear. To comprehend such documents thoroughly, or even adequately, it's indispensable to see and examine the document itself.
Lawyers have a reputation for over-writing documents. As a practicing lawyer for many years, I'm forced to admit, with some regret, that the accusation is often meritorious. But even when documents are skillfully and sparsely worded, the legal significance of the exact wording is important: such wording will determine the course of the parties' transaction and their relationship, sometimes for years.
Of course, there has long been mail, and, for many years, faster, express delivery services. Even an overnight delivery, however, cannot substitute, in interstate or international transactions, for the practically-instant function of modern facsimile machines, or faxes.
How does a business in New York negotiate terms of a transaction with a business in Los Angeles without a fax machine? How does a franchisor in St. Paul regulate a franchisee in St. Louis without a fax machine? In fact, how does a lawyer downtown negotiate the terms of a divorce settlement with a lawyer in the suburbs, without a fax machine? The ability to transmit a full-text document practically instantly has become truly a sine qua non of modern business operations. Surely, for every document faxed across state lines or across an ocean, dozens must be faxed across town.
When the fax machine was a new innovation, some businessmen thought it a "frill;" I remember the reluctance of one of my own partners to invest in our first fax machine. Today a fax machine is a business tool almost no one is willing to live without. Partly for that reason, fax machines, and muti-function printer-scanner-copier-fax machines are now in virtually every office and many homes. Like many technological innovations, the relative price decreases as the machines become more common: some multi-function machines now have a purchase price not a lot more than $100.
Of course, for those who don't use such a machine often, there are still companies and outlets that will transmit your document for a fairly reasonable fee. The proliferation and the viability of such businesses throughout the country evidences their significance, as well as the significance of the fax technology they offer.
Trying to survive today -- much less run a business -- without access to fax technology seems almost primitive, like lacking running water or electricity. Now, access to such technology is an irreplaceable necessity to doing business on Twenty-First Century terms.