An inventor patented the facsimile in 1843. Fast forward 165 years and the utility is today universal. An important boost, according to Wired, Jan. 2009, at 47, came when courts “gave the tech a crucial blessing by certifying that a facsimile of a signature was legally valid.” Every law department – indeed, some senior lawyers and administrators individually – have their own fax machines and they stay busy.
In that regard, a minor annoyance in many legal departments is what to do with faxes that arrive and no one picks them up for long time. Sometimes the clutter around a busy fax machine is considerable (See my post of Jan. 13, 2008: systems for distribution of mail.).
The fax’s main rival is PDF, but that utility requires much more complex software, hardware and know-ware. True, we all send documents around electronically by e-mail, but if you hold document that is not in an electronic file, nothing beats dial-and-send-face-down and get a delivery receipt. This universal application is cheap, simple, does what it’s supposed to do with few glitches, and enjoys huge network benefits (See my post of Nov. 13, 2007: network effects.). The legal industry enjoys a Fax Romana.