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9781421415918
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Faxed

The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine

Faxed is the first history of the facsimile machine—the most famous recent example of a tool made obsolete by relentless technological innovation. Jonathan Coopersmith recounts the multigenerational, multinational history of the device from its origins to its workplace glory days, in the process revealing how it helped create the accelerated communications, information flow, and vibrant visual culture that characterize our contemporary world.

Most people assume that the fax machine originated in the computer and electronics revolution of the late twentieth century, but it was actually invented in 1843. Almost 150 years passed between the fax's invention in England and its widespread adoption in tech-savvy Japan, where it still enjoys a surprising popularity. Over and over again, faxing's promise to deliver messages instantaneously paled before easier, less expensive modes of communication: first telegraphy, then radio and television, and finally digitalization in the form of email, the World Wide Web, and cell phones. By 2010, faxing had largely disappeared, having fallen victim to the same technological and economic processes that had created it.

Based on archival research and interviews spanning two centuries and three continents, Coopersmith's book recovers the lost history of a once-ubiquitous technology. Written in accessible language that should appeal to engineers and policymakers as well as historians, Faxed explores themes of technology push and market pull, user-based innovation, and "blackboxing" (the packaging of complex skills and technologies into packages designed for novices) while revealing the inventions inspired by the fax, how the demand for fax machines eventually caught up with their availability, and why subsequent shifts in user preferences rendered them mostly passé.

About the Author

Jonathan Coopersmith is a professor of history at Texas A&M University. He is the author of The Electrification of Russia, 1880–1926 and the history of technology blog Infinity, Limited.

Reviews

"Coopersmith provides an illuminating, meticulously researched and often fascinating account."—Times Literary Supplement

"Archival research and interviews were used to reveal this lost history, while a tone designed to entertain as well as inform lends to a survey highly recommended for any interested in technological advancement and business history."—Midwest Book Review

"Coopersmith tells his story clearly with ample attention both to technical detail and wider context, and notably with an eye to the comparative evolution of fax in different national contexts. It is highly recommended to readers."—IEEE History Center Newsletter

"This book should be part of any history of technology collection. It also provides an interesting read for general audiences."—Choice

"[The] breadth of coverage alone makes Faxed an important contribution to the history of communications technologies, and provides a strong foundation for further work that digs deeper into particular time period, devices, or markets."—IEEE Technology andd Society Magazine]

". . . Each invention deserves at least one good book, and Coppersmith has written the fax machine's definitive history here."—Journal of American History

"Based on an immense body of material collected from archives across three continents, Faxed provides a model of transnational scholarship and represents a major addition to the histories of communication and information technology."—Technology and Culture

"Juxtaposing the obvious and the obscure, the momentous and the mundane, Coopersmith leads us inside the black box of fax history, and we emerge with fresh perspectives of one technology whose time has passed but legacy remains."—H-Net Reviews

"The most important lesson of Faxed is that the real history of technology is inherently messy, and the complicated history captured in this book—which can be admired through the 1,148 footnotes in the back matter—is testimony to that inescapable fact. If you wish to know anything about the history of fax technology, it is highly probable that you will find it in this encyclopedic treatment."—Shashi: The Journal of Japanese Business anc Company History

"We are fortunate that the author took the time to complete this book, because our understanding of the history of faxing, and of the history of modern technology in general, is much richer for it."—The Pacific Circle

". . . This work is meticulously researched and the information astutely synthesized. Those with a strong interest in the history of technology will be richly rewarded."—Library Journal

"An impressive amount of primary research has gone into writing Faxed, the definitive life history of the fax machine. Scholars of information and communication technology, especially historians, will be interested in this fascinating story of a uniquely persistent digital technology."—Gregory J. Downey, University of Wisconsin–Madison, author of Closed Captioning: Subtitling, Stenography, and the Digital Convergence of Text with Television

9781421415918 : faxed-coopersmith
Hardback
320 Pages
$54.95 USD
9781421415925 : faxed-coopersmith
Electronic book text
320 Pages
$29.95 USD
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