Jonathan CoopersmithFaxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015

by Carla Nappi on July 17, 2015

Jonathan Coopersmith

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Jonathan Coopersmith's new book takes readers through the century-and-a-half-long history of the fax machine and the technologies that shaped and were shaped by it, from Alexander Bain's 1843 patent to the computer-based faxing of the end of the 20th century. Faxed: The Rise and Fall of the Fax Machine (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) chronicles the transformations of fax wrought by a range of industries and technologies in the context of world wars and global economic changes. In Coopersmith's able hands, the history of the fax machine substantively informs a number of fields and disciplines that might not seem immediately related to it: these include visual studies (as newspapers and the military helped drive the development of fax markets and technology thanks to the need for rapid transfer of images in times of war and beyond) and East Asian studies (as fax machines can be traced through the history of modern homes and businesses in Japan). Coopersmith tells a story of fax as a story of repeated failures that were nevertheless productive and germinal, whether they resulted from competition from other technologies and industries, compatibility problems in a fracturing market, or foundation-laying for the acceptance of the email and internet technologies that would ultimately surpass it. It's a fascinating and elegantly told story of a technology that was, for many years, a constant element of the living and working spaces of many of our lives.

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