Monday, February 27, 2012

Fax Machine...what is that?

Over the past month or so we have been installing a new phone system at my workplace. It had been several years since we updated and this experience really brought home some significant changes in how we communicate, not only in the business world, but at home as well.

As we were designing the new installation we had to inventory all the devices that needed to be connected to a new system. The old system had five fax machines connected. An investigation of the use of these machines showed that one would be more than enough to handle the fax traffic. Faxes have been almost entirely replaced in the business world by other much greener and efficient technology. Instead of faxing paper documents, scanning and creating PDF copies of documents that can be attached to emails have saved thousands of trees and in our case at least 4 telephone lines.

Long distance telephone costs have gone from a significant business expense to one that is hardly worth tracking. Calls that once cost dollars now cost pennies. But it is not only the cost of the calls that has diminished; the number of calls placed on a daily basis is a fraction of what it was only 10 years ago. Email and the web have changed the way be communicate, order supplies and even negotiate contracts.

Rather than picking up the phone and calling some supplier, we now just find the web site, look through the catalog, make a selection, arrange for payment and choose the method of shipping. All of this is done free on the Internet and all requires neither a phone call nor fax. Also we don’t have to wait for a west coast office to open 3 hours after we come to work to place an order.

Perhaps the biggest shift is in use of regular mail. Rather than getting a large sack of mail delivered each day, the carrier usually has a small batch to drop off and most of that is junk mail. It is no wonder that the US Post Office is falling on hard times.

I find it both telling and funny that the US Post Office is running a series of ads on TV touting the benefits of “real” mail. The spot shows smiling faces of carriers and customers in a “Norman Rockwellian” small town gushing over receiving a letter or more likely a chance to win a million dollars from Publishers Clearinghouse. If you want to contact the post office don’t send a letter. The spot ends with a tag line giving a web address for more information.

The digital age affords almost instantaneous communication with less cost that ever before. The way we communicate isn’t changing, it has changed.

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