I’m an early adopter of technology. I bought my first HDTV in the 1990s! OK, it was the late 1990s, but it was still quite a while ago. I should add I wasn’t able to get an HD signal until 2001, but that’s another story. The point is that in my business and private life I typically embrace new technology, often times as soon as it is available. Some of it works out, some of it doesn’t.
One technology that I used for a very long time was the fax machine. As a freelance writer in the early 1990s I bought my first fax machine to make the filing of stories easier for my editors. In the pre-Internet days I had to type my stories—double space of course—and fax it to the magazine. An editorial assistant would then have to retype the story for my editors. And for a few years the fax machine was an important part of my business.
Fax, of course, had small—and not so small—business uses for a bit longer. Most people don’t know that the actual concept of sending documents over long distances actually originated in the 19th century. The idea of sending electronic signals over distance was conceived before there were even working telephones! Fax machines finally became a part of the work place in the 1970s as a means to getting important documents from point A to point B.
This might seem old fashioned in the 21st century. With the Internet and e-mail most documents can be sent over equally long or greater distances even in a shorter amount of time, and even sent to multiple parties at once. This is something fax could never do.
But fax remains the de facto standard for sending signed contracts between various parties. Despite the fact that e-mail is easier to use and is something anyone with a computer and a phone line has access to, fax remains the way that most contracts are sent when a signature is required.
This all became very clear for me in recent months. My aging fax machine didn’t survive a spill of iced tea last December. As I’m in the process of moving, and will be setting up a new home office, I put off buying a new fax machine…ironically at the time when I needed it most. Countless legal documents have come in and I found that most needed a signature.
Fortunately, I’m a tech savvy guy and I was able to print out the sheets I needed, sign, scan, save as a PDF and return via e-mail. The downside of this process is that it didn’t save a single step; in fact it added new ones. Additionally, I didn’t save any paper, as I had to print out the documents to sign and scan them. I’m still tackling the legality of scanning just my signature and pasting that into the various documents.
Of course I can’t get a straight answer. One argument is that I didn’t technically “sign” the document, but the other argument is anything short of an original signed document—including a facsimile—isn’t technically a “signed” document either. In the meantime I kept printing, scanning, saving and sending.