Historical Events  Science
First Fax

First Fax sent in 1964

First Fax sent in 1846

We need some toner

Here's a nice head-scratcher - when was the first fax sent?

There are quite a few reports of "tech before it's time" now, where everyday gadgets and tools seem to most people to have only been invented recently. The fax, however, suggests it needs a huge infrastructure of telecoms, protocols, and yes, toner. So when people hear it was 1846 it comes as quite the surprise, so much so that some are pointing to it as a Mandela Effect.

It's actually the first commercial fax, in the form people would today recognise, which was introduced by Xerox in 1964.

Alexander Bain filed a patent in 1843 to transmit an image over wires. He built a machine which did this in 1846. Both stations were only in one room, and involved synchronising pendulums via a clock, but although the resulting transmission was of low quality, it was the first image sent using electricity via wires. In other words, the world's first fax.

Victorian communications technology

Even within the short time of the first transmission, the technology was improved upon almost instantly. The first design used pendulums, but the next one improved this considerably by using rotating drums which improved the images due to the much tighter synchronisation.

This is explained in more detail at Fax Authority.

History of the facsimile

The fax was invented before the telephone. The full history is fascinating: