Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fax to the Max New Technology Creates a Need for New Services

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fax to the Max New Technology Creates a Need for New Services

Article excerpt

When the Missouri River rose in Chesterfield Valley and broke through the levee, one of the responses by the Chesterfield city government was to set up a fax information service.

It utilizes a service of Southwestern Bell called Faxwise Broadcast. The user produces a fax message and sends it once. The "broadcast" service sends it to any number of designated receivers - 10, 20 or hundreds.

The objective at Chesterfield was to disseminate information to businesses and others who needed to know what was happening in the flood crisis.

The service is continuing. The publication, called the Flood Recovery Information Bulletin, is issued weekly to 125 subscribers. Earlier it was daily.

"The fax has saved us a lot of time," said Brenda Love Collins, assistant to the administrator. "Our subscribers who had been forced out by the flood were able to set up fax lines or use the line of a friend. We probably could not have offered the quick service without the fax."

The Chesterfield experience is an example of new technology offering a new service. Fax, or facsimile transmission, is not exactly new, of course. It has been around for years. Increased use has come about recently because new technical developments have made it more efficient and easier to use. Fax Is All Around

Fax seems to be everywhere. Like the telephone, it has become an almost indispensable tool for doing business.

There are 9 million fax machines in the United States and 20 million in the world, says Ruth Ann Gardner, senior analyst for Dataquest, a high-tech market research firm in San Jose, Calif.

To the U.S. total add fewer than 2 million sales a year and you have what Gardner calls an OK market, alive but highly competitive. It is not undergoing any big upsurge in sales.

If we seem to be in a period of explosive growth for fax, you are seeing fax usage, not sales. Usage has been going up 30 to 40 percent a year recently. Usage, of course, is messages sent on existing machines.

A number of factors are at play. One is that the machines wear out or break and need to be replaced. Another: a large number of users are changing to plain-paper fax machines from earlier thermal paper machines.

Oddly, one of the things that has bolstered the market is the less-than-robust condition of the economy and overall employment, Gardner said. After people lose their job they may need a fax machine for fast correspondence in a job search. Plain Paper To The Rescue

A look at sales suggests that the business market may be pretty well saturated, she said, but has been propped up in part by the switch to plain-paper fax from thermal fax. Direct thermal machines, the most widely used, require heat-sensitive paper. A print head made of many heating elements warms the paper, creating the letters.

Plain-paper machines use standard office paper. They use an imaging cartridge made of inked Mylar that is like a large typewriter ribbon. The ribbon receives a periodic jab of heat corresponding to the image. The paper is pushed against the inked ribbon and the image is transferred.

The plain paper process is superior to the thermal process in reproductive quality. …

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