The Lion King was a great movie. One of my favorite scenes was when Rafiki the Mandrill clubs Simba the lion cub on the head. Simba immediately demands, "What was that for?" Rafiki replies, "It doesn't matter, it's in the past." Simba, still rubbing his head, states, "Yeah, but it still hurts." To this Rafiki says, "Yes, the past can hurt, but the way I see it, you either run from it, or learn from it."
Actually my tact has always been to run from it and to try to learn from it at the same time.
That is the reason that you have to think about fax machines (faxes in general) and their growing uselessness in the modern World. Faxes hurt because in the new century they are expensive to maintain, and tend to lack flexibility and mobility. You have to maintain a phone line or number for them, you have to buy paper, toner, maintain files to store them, and for what? More importantly, faxes are increasingly surviving in the shadow of email.
Do not get me wrong. Fax technology has been durable. For a short time they revolutionized the legal profession. I remember in 1987 a terrible ice storm hit Texarkana, Texas. I could not get out to attend Court in Lufkin, Texas. So, I drafted a motion for continuance on a child support enforcement matter, faxed it to the copy store across the street from the Courthouse in Lufkin, and the owner graciously agreed to print it off, take it over to the Clerk's office and file it for me. The Court then proceeded to hold me in contempt and issued a capias for my arrest. The Court was of the opinion that if I could manage to file a motion seeking a continuance at the Courthouse that I could appear. Once the ice cleared I had to sneak down to Lufkin so as not t be arrested so that I might plead to the judge. I arrived unannounced with the front pages of the Texarkana Gazette tucked under my arm showing the impassable roads. I asked the Judge to please remove the capias. I explained to him about fax machines and how I managed to get the motion faxed to the copy shop across the square. The Judge was just dumbfounded. He could not imagine such a thing. I am not even sure he believed me. He did eventually agree to remove the capias.
I was later explaining this incident to my banker in Texarkana. I told him that the Bank should get a fax machine for itself. He said, "what on earth would we do with one of those."
My, the World changed in 20 years.
It is not that fax technology has not been durable, but dinosaurs were an extremely durable group of animals as well. They originated about 220 million years ago and evolved until the great Cretaceous extinction event about 64 million years ago wiped them out and allowed mammals to take over the planet. We did not conduct scientific studies on dinosaur fossils until about 1770 because religion taught us that God had created all animals in their present form and, if this was true, how could anyone imagine that fossils represent extinct organisms?
In a sense, I think the same thing was true in rural East Texas in 1987. Bankers, lawyers and judges could not overcome their immediate dogma that law is practiced by personal appearances and snail mail. Both were good enough for Abe Lincoln, so they were good enough for the powdered wig equivelent of the time.
But, as we have seen, durability does not last. Technological advance begets better technology. No we electronically file pleadings with the Court. We are sent orders, pleadings, responses and the like via email. Now, fax technology does not appear so durable.
I agree that there are too many technologies out there that are not needed. Too often these technologies are all about design and bling. But email and online communications (especially in the day of notebook computers and smaller devices) have won our hearts and imagination. They are relatively cheap, portable, wireless and flexible.
I have been thinking that fax technology is dead, and I do not want to use it any longer. I do not want to pay Efax more money. I do not want a separate phone line or number. We all have our cheap scan snap scanners. There is probably something out there better than PDF, but it is what is durable now. I only maintain faxes because there are a few lawyers and clients (and institutions) that just refuse to adjust to that which is easier, better and cheaper. They are stuck in 1987 Lufkin, Texas.
I still run into lawyers that do not have email. CNN's Larry King has stated that he has never even used a computer. I ran into a lawyer at a social event over the weekend who said he does not have email. He only has one desktop computer that his secretary uses and he has no internet access. He told me that lawyers ask him all of the time for his email address so they may send him something, and he tells them they need to have it delivered to his office. He does have a fax machine (not acquired until 2000, and not hooked to a separate number). He is relying on the dogma that tech is too expensive and useless. Of all people, I ran into an insurance agent who admitted to me he only set up an email account a few weeks previous and only because his underwriter demanded it. He wanted his underwriter to continue using fax technology.
It was eventually the jaw bone of a reptile named Mosasaurus that was so different that it could not be ignored. It forced a break with the religious dogma of the day concerning dinosaur research. In 1855 dino-teeth were found in the United States. This could not be ignored either, and Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh lead the growth of paleontology. (Marsh because he had to point out that Cope had put the head on the wrong end of a dinosaur reconstruction).
I do not think we have it backwards. My thought is that fax technology needs to die -- become extinct -- leaving it for the techeontologist to figure out when unearthed years from now.