Why doesn't this exist?

Monday, January 11, 2010 , Posted by Johnny Fuery at 2:02 AM

Originally Published 2005-08-30 15:49:29

Why can't I buy a fax machine that has an ethernet port on it?

Think about it... a fax machine turns hard copies into digital data, then turns it back into analog (sounds and such over a phone line), then back to digital and back to hard copy.

So how about we skip the dematerialize portion of that and just send digital data? Plug the damn thing in, and have a built in mini-web server just like the wireless routers every non-luddite in first world countries has in their home serve up some config pages. Some clever software might talk to your VOIP provider so that you can have your smart fax machine talk to the other dumb ones via the analog translation route.

The real kick I'm after, however, is the complete elimination of the damn print. Why do we use fax machines still? As in, why EVER? Well, let me see:

  • The person you're working with is a luddite and hasn't encountered email as a common, useful method for transmitting data (form or otherwise)
  • You have something that requires a good, old-fashioned John Hancock, and last time I checked most our PCs don't have sigital signature capture input capability (although maybe that's another idea in and of itself :-) )
  • It's just the way it's always been done (See first item, above)
  • It's perceived as faster than using email or some other form of communication.
  • You have something that isn't digital already and the act of digitizing it seems painful (which the fax machine does for you, but more transparently).
  • Maybe you don't want to save this particular document forever in the annals of your corporate email server, gmail, or similar.

Hmm. About the only one that makes sense to me (the rest are for marketing people, and, ultimately, will go away if more practical methods are created and marketed semi-effectively) are the John Hancock and convenience issues. A digital fax machine would solve that.

Just take your off the shelf USB-based scan/print/fax/phone hardware (the HP OfficeJet comes to mind), and add ethernet with a web server on board. Then add a mini-keyboard interface to the lcd readout on the top of the terminal so that a walk-up user can fax to an email address. A simple blackberry-sized alphanumeric keyboard would do the trick, along with some auto-fill capabilities for repeat sends -- basically a smart re-dial function.

There are other bells and whistles I can think of, like scanning software that actually works, email-forwarding capability so incoming faxes can be sent in digital format to an smtp server, etc, but that's all fluff.

Basically, I'm sick of printing shit out I get on the web, filling it out by hand, and then faxing it somewhere, only to have it re-digitized on the other end for storage purposes. (Think legal contracts, and you'll get my drift.)


On 2005-09-01 11:01:10 Michael said:
Hmm off the shelf USB-based scan/print/fax/phone hardware like an HP OfficeJet. Wonder where this idea came from >;-/

Seriously, I've been waiting for a device like this. Get the R&D department of your taiwanese consumer electronics manufacturing company to write up the plans and patent dat shiet. Then sell the rights to HP. In three years we'll all see the new HP Digital OfficeJet: an off the shelf USB-based scan/print/fax/phone/document server. In payment, accept only profit shares.

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