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Fax Machines -- Fax Machine Guide

Fax Machine Guide

The fax machine have become an essential device for homes and offices. It allows you to send and receive documents, quickly and easily, with anyone who also has a fax machine. You don't need a computer. All you need is an ordinary telephone line. Almost all fax machines come with a built-in telephone and some even have built-in telephone answering devices. They're easy to use. Many are very affordable and, frankly, the fax has become a vital link to communication. Here are some fax, we mean facts!

Using a fax machines is a quick and easy way to send and receive important documents. Fax is short for 'facsimile', which means exact copy. Using a standard phone line, people can send a virtually-exact copy of a document within a minute, anywhere on the globe. Some fax machines are made for a light workload, ideal for homes that need occasional fax usage; others are heavy-duty machines that can handle the daily workload of office environments. Over the years, fax machines have advanced quite a bit. They went from printing on thermal rolls of paper to using plain paper for printing, and from single function devices to multifunction units that can scan, print and copy documents. While most fax machines print in black, white and gray shades, there are some new models that can send and receive color faxes. Here at J&R, we carry an assortment of fax machines and multifunction units manufactured by Brother, Panasonic, Canon, Compaq, Xerox and Hewlett-Packard, among others.

Plain vs Thermal

When fax machines first became popular for consumer-end use, they printed on rolls of paper, using thermal technology. Thermal roll fax machines still exist today and are rather inexpensive machines, but are being overshadowed by machines that print on plain paper. Because thermal paper is thin and came on rolls, the printed fax was likely to be received all curled up. Thermal is also very vulnerable to fading which makes it a poor choice to save. Thermal paper is less likely to be found in the average stationery store or supermarket, whereas plain sheets of paper are more readily available. Thermal fax machines do have a slight advantage, though. The printing mechanism is very compact and that makes this machine extremely attractive for space-conscious consumers, at home or in school.

Plain paper faxes may be a little more expensive but print on standard sheets of paper. There are three very popular methods for printing on plain sheets of paper:

Thermal Transfer
Uses a thermal mechanism with an ink cartridge that transfers the printed image onto the sheet. The printing mechanism remains very compact and the fax machine fits almost anywhere and is very affordable. Print is usually in monochrome (black-&-white with gray shading).

This print method is often found in multifunction fax units, which can also be used as a computer printers, copiers or scanners. In some of these models, faxes may be sent and received in color, in addition to black-&-white. These machines are larger than thermal units but offer more capabilities.

The laser models are largest and print only in black-&-white (with gray shades). Also mostly available as multifunction models, the laser print mechanism can provide the sharpest print resolutions and the lowest costs per print. Fast and quiet, they are considered ideal for business environments.


Generally, depending on what you're sending, a fax takes about 30 seconds to send from one to another, in the United States. Sending a fax to a different country may take a little longer due to slower telephone and fax transmission rates.

Most fax machines operate at 9600 baud per second (bps). A baud is a bit of information. The sheet that you're sending is broken down into electrical signals that can be quickly transmitted over a telephone line to another fax machine. The other fax machine can interpret those signals and faithfully reproduce the original sheet that you sent. Newer fax machines have the ability to send information at 14,400 bps and as high as 33,600 bps. Speed, however, is also dependent on the speed of the receiving fax unit. Also, certain countries may have slower transmission rates and that could reduce the speed of the fax process.

Single Unit vs. Multifunction

Most Fax Machines have always been multifunction units. The most basic fax machine models usually include a telephone, a number of speed-dial phone-number memories, and may also be used as a copier.

Fax technology converts information on a document into electrical signals and can convert those signals to information that may be printed as a document on a sheet of paper. It does all this with a device known as a CCD (Charged Coupler Device), which is an electronic circuit that converts hard (paper) information into electrical (soft) information. A CCD is also found in a computer printer and a scanner.

When computers became more popular, some Fax Machines were integrated with a computer printer and a computer scanner in one semi-compact unit. A computer printer converts electrical signals in a computer onto a printed page. A scanner reads information from a sheet of paper (much like a fax) and sends it as electrical signals into a computer, where it can be enhanced or stored. By adding these 2 additional CCD functions, you create one unit that helps save desk space and has become a handy tool at home and in small office environments. These are officially considered multifunction units.


The memory of any fax machine refers to its ability to store pages before they are received or before they are sent. Memory becomes an extremely important feature sending the same fax to more than one recipient (called 'broadcasting'), and when you run out of paper on your machine.

This feature permits a fax to be sent to several recipients with the push of one button. Machines with memory have the ability to store fax pages and send them to each recipient without having to stand in front of it and dial each and every single number. With broadcasting, groups of numbers (possibly hundreds) are stored together. When you send a fax, send it only once, and the fax machine will take care of the rest. The unit will dial each number on that specific broadcast and send it to them. Most of these machines have transmission reports after each broadcast, informing you which numbers got the fax and which did not.

Out-Of-Paper Reception
Another instance where fax memory comes in handy is when the paper cassette or tray goes empty while someone is trying to send a fax. In this case, units with memory will accept the fax and keep it in its memory until you add more paper to the unit, then print them out one by one.

Most average fax machines allow for up to 28-page (512K) document memory. Other heavy-duty fax machines can store 700 pages in memory (8 MB), or more.

Document Feeders

If you have a 20-page report to fax somewhere, you'll need a fax machine's document feeder to be able to hold at least that many pages, or you'll have to fax it by dialing twice. If you plan to fax documents often that are several pages long, make sure your fax machine's document feeder can take the quantity. Document feeder capacities may range from 10 sheets up to 50 sheets. Most feeders tend to be around 10 to 20 sheets.

Paper Cassettes

Every fax machine has a place where blank paper is stored. With thermal roll fax machines, the roll of paper usually sits inside the body of the machine. With plain paper fax units and multifunction devices, paper is stored in one of two ways: through a paper cassette or tray that can be pulled out and refilled, or through a stash of paper usually standing above a fax machines control panel. There is a wide range of paper storage capacities among fax machines. Some may store only 20 sheets, while others may store over 100 sheets. Some high-end multifunction units may hold close to 1,000 sheets.


Stand-alone fax machines don't need to be connected to a computer to operate. They do, however, need to be connected to a phone line in order to send and receive faxes, and make phone calls.

Multifunction units that are also compatible for use with a computer need a way to make that connection. The most common connection is a Parallel port, because most computers have one and is a standard printer port. More recently, a new port has been introduced and is found on many newer computer models. Called the USB (Universal Serial Bus), it works faster than the Parallel port and is faster and easier to use. Until the development of USB connectivity, multifunction units were only compatible for use with Windows-based PC models. Multifunction units that include a USB port may also have some or full compatibility with USB-based Macintosh computers.

Some multifunction units may even be infrared compatible or include an IrDA (InfraRed) interface. This feature allows wireless connectivity with comparable IrDA devices.

More choices: Fax Machines  
Plain Paper (Thermal) Fax InkJet (Color) Fax InkJet (B&W) Fax
Laser (B&W) Fax Brother fax Machines Canon Fax Machines
HP Fax Machines Panasonic Fax Machines Sharp Fax Machines
Fax Machine Guide

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