How Fax Machines Work

Portable Fax Machines

New technnology allows users to receive faxes directly to their e-mail inboxes.
Photographer: Andres Rodriguez | Agency: Dreamstime

As long as fax remains an essential part of doing business, every office will have a fax machine. But what if an essential part of your business is not being in the office? How are you supposed to send and receive faxes from the road? E-mail and Internet fax technology have been a boon for road warriors, but some people still like to have that piece of paper in their hand. That's where portable fax machines come in.

As of this writing, only one company sells a truly portable, wireless, self-contained fax machine. The Greta GSM Fax and Printer by Possio is essentially a big cell phone that doubles as a fax machine, scanner and copier. Weighing a little over two pounds and measuring 11 inches by 6 inches, the device contains a GSM card that allows it to send and receive cell phone voice and data calls. It also comes with a 50-foot roll of paper for printing out approximately 50 fax pages.


To send a fax, you feed your document page by page into the slot scanner. Then you dial your destination fax number and press send. To receive a fax, the machine simply needs to be powered on and within range of a cellular signal. While GSM is the standard in Europe, coverage in the United States is still catching on and could be spotty.

Portable fax machines like the Greta could also be helpful for their mobile printing, scanning and copying functions. Even if you use Internet fax, you can use the Greta to easily scan paper documents to send as e-mail attachments.

Portable fax machines would be particularly useful for salesmen, real estate agents, lawyers, truck drivers and anyone else who spends a considerable amount of time away from the office.

For more information about fax machines and related topics, check out the links below.

Fax Machine FAQ

When was the fax machine invented?
Alexander Bain patented the first fax design in 1843.
What does a fax machine do?
A fax machine both sends and receives black and white documents. A sensor reads the paper and encodes the black and white spots on the paper on the sending end. On the receiving end, a mechanism marks the paper with black dots.
Does a fax machine need a phone line?
Yes, to have a fax number and use a fax machine, you need a landline phone.
When did fax machines stop being used?
There are still some businesses and people that use fax machines, but for the most part, people have gone digital. But the first decade of the 21st century saw a major decrease in the use of the fax machine and this vintage machine is all but extinct now.
Where can I go to fax a document?
The UPS Store and FedEx are two of the most widespread stores that you can use a fax machine. Many Office Depot/OfficeMax and Staples locations also have faxing services.

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