A facsimile, often abbreviated as fax, refers to the electronic transmission of scanned documents, typically composed of printed text and images, from one telephone number to another. Utilizing telephone lines, the document is replicated and then sent to the recipient, who receives a printed copy. This technology gained popularity in the 20th century before the widespread use of email, but is now mostly obsolete.


The phonetic pronunciation of the keyword “Facsimile” is: /ˈfak.sə

Key Takeaways

  1. A facsimile, commonly known as a fax, is a method of transmitting scanned images or documents over a telephone line or via email.
  2. Facsimile machines were widely used in businesses in the late 20th century, but have since been largely replaced by digital alternatives like email and document scanning.
  3. Despite their decline in popularity, facsimile machines are still used in specific industries and cases, such as in the legal and medical fields, as they offer a simple way to transmit signed documents in a relatively secure and fast manner.


The term “facsimile” is important in technology because it refers to an early form of transmitting printed documents, images or text over a distance using telecommunication systems, such as telephone lines.

Facsimiles, also known as fax machines, played a crucial role in the way businesses and individuals communicated and exchanged information, especially before the advent of the internet and email.

They enabled rapid transmission of vital documents in real-time, bolstering productivity and efficiency across various industries.

Though largely replaced by digital communication methods today, facsimile technology laid the foundation for modern data transmission and provided a pivotal stepping stone in the evolution of global communication networks.


Facsimile, commonly referred to as fax, is a technology designed to transmit printed materials and documents over long distances. The primary purpose of a facsimile is to enable people to send and receive hard copy documents conveniently and quickly without the need for physical delivery. This technology has been widely utilized in various sectors, including businesses, government agencies, and other organizations, facilitating the exchange of critical information.

In addition to providing an efficient way of sharing documents, facsimiles also ensure that the contents are not tampered with during the transmission, preserving the integrity of the sent documents. To comprehend the value of facsimiles, it’s essential to understand how they work. A fax machine scans a document, creating an image of it, which is then converted into a series of electrical signals or data.

This data is transmitted over a telephone line or other communication networks and received by another fax machine, which interprets the signals and reproduces the original document. The process of receiving the document through the facsimile technology allows for near-instantaneous sharing of documents over vast distances. Facsimile technology, despite being overshadowed by the advent of email and other digital communication tools, continues to be an integral part of various industries requiring immediate exchange of physical documents or signatures, such as legal, medical, and financial services.

Examples of Facsimile

Business Document Transmission: In the late 20th century, before email became prevalent, facsimile machines were widely used in businesses to send and receive important documents, such as contracts, invoices, and purchase orders. These machines were a fast and convenient way of transmitting documents over telephone lines, as they could convert the paper documents into electrical signals and send them to another facsimile machine, where the document would be printed out.

Medical Records and Prescriptions: Facsimile technology has historically been utilized in the healthcare sector, where doctors’ offices and pharmacies communicated patient records, test results, and prescriptions via fax. This allowed healthcare professionals to efficiently share critical information, facilitating better patient care and reducing the need for physical document transport.

Legal and Government Communications: Facsimile machines were often used by law firms and government agencies to send and receive legal documents, such as court filings, subpoenas, and other time-sensitive paperwork. Facsimiles provided a reliable way of transmitting crucial information quickly and maintaining a paper trail, which was important for maintaining legal and regulatory compliance.While facsimile technology has largely been replaced by email and digital document sharing platforms, some industries and organizations still rely on fax machines for specific purposes, such as transmitting sensitive information securely or when required by specific regulations.

Facsimile FAQ

What is a facsimile?

A facsimile, also known as a fax, is an electronic method of sending and receiving printed documents over a telephone line. It scans a document, converts it into digital format, and then transmits this data to another fax machine that reconstructs the document and prints it out.

How does a facsimile work?

A facsimile works by scanning a document and converting its content into a series of black and white dots. These dots are then encoded into a digital signal and transmitted via a telephone line. The recipient’s fax machine decodes the signal and reproduces the document by printing the black and white dots onto paper, essentially creating a copy of the original document.

What are the advantages of using a facsimile?

Some advantages of using a facsimile include quick transmission and receipt of documents, cost-effectiveness compared to mailing physical copies, the ability to send documents to distant locations, and maintaining a physical record of the communication. Although modern technology has provided alternative solutions, some businesses and industries still rely on faxes for secure and reliable document exchange.

How can I send a facsimile?

To send a facsimile, you will need a fax machine or an online fax service. Place the document you wish to send in the fax machine’s feeder and enter the recipient’s fax number. Press the send button, and the fax will be transmitted to the recipient. If you’re using an online fax service, scan the document, upload it to the service, enter the recipient’s fax number, and send.

Is it possible to send a facsimile from a computer?

Yes, it is possible to send a facsimile from a computer. There are software applications and online services that allow you to send and receive faxes directly from your computer. This eliminates the need for a physical fax machine, and you can send documents directly from your computer without printing them out first.

Related Technology Terms

  • Telecopying
  • Transmission
  • Optical Scanning
  • Telephone Lines
  • Image Reassembly

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