The use of the fax machine to transmit images via telephone lines did not become common in American businesses until the late 1980s, but the technology dates back to the nineteenth century. In 1843 in England, Alexander Bain (1818-1903) devised an apparatus comprised of two pens connected to two pendulums, which in turn were joined to a wire, that was able to reproduce writing on an electrically conductive surface.
In 1862, the Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli built a machine he called a pantelegraph (implying a hybrid of pantograph and telegraph), which was based on Bain’s invention but also included a synchronizing apparatus. His pantelegraph was used by the French Post & Telegraph agency between Paris and Marseilles from 1856 to 1870.
Elisha Gray (1835-1901), American inventor, born in Barnesville, Ohio invented and patented many electrical devices, including a facsimile transmission system. He also organized a company that later became the Western Electric Company.
In 1902, Arthur Korn (1870-1945) in Germany invented telephotography, a means for manually breaking down and transmitting still photographs by means of electrical wires. In 1907, Korn sent the first inter-city fax when he transmitted a photograph from Munich to Berlin.
In 1925, Edouard Belin (1876-1963) in France constructed the Belinograph. His invention involved placing an image on a cylinder and scanning it with a powerful light beam that had a photoelectric cell which could convert light, or the absence of light, into transmittable electrical impulses. The Belinograph process used the basic principle upon which all subsequent facsimile transmission machines would be based. In 1934, the Associated Press introduced the first system for routinely transmitting "wire photos," and 30 years later, in 1964, the Xerox Corporation introduced Long Distance Xerography (LDX).
For many years, facsimile machines remained cumbersome, expensive and difficult to operate, but in 1966 Xerox introduced the Magnafax Telecopier, a smaller, 46-pound facsimile machine that was easier to use and could be connected to any telephone line. Using this machine, a letter-sized document took about six minutes to transmit. The process was slow, but it represented a major technological step. In the late 1970s, Japanese companies entered the market, and soon a new generation of faster, smaller and more efficient fax machines became available.