by Fenella Saunders
The first fax machine was patented in 1843— 33 years before the telephone— by Scottish inventor Alexander Bain. His device read text written in raised metal letters and transmitted it through telegraph lines. Eight years later, Frederick Bakewell, an English physicist, demonstrated a similar machine at the Crystal Exhibition. A commercial fax system was established in 1865 by Italian Giovanni Caselli between Lyon and Paris in France. German inventor Arthur Korn upgraded the fax in 1902 by adding an optical scanner and started a wire photo service for newspapers. In 1948 Western Union started its DeskFax service. Xerox introduced the first general-purpose fax machine in 1966, which operated over telephone lines. In 1980, fast digital faxes using uniform data standards appeared. Now that most computer modems can function as faxes, the stand-alone fax may vanish within a decade.