TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?

Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?
3 Feb 2007 15:51:51 -0800

Jim Haynes wrote:

> I don't know the termination date, but I know that in 1959 there was
> some central office desk fax equipment for sale in Chicago surplus
> stores. Perhaps it had been replaced by equipment of more modern
> design, or perhaps Desk Fax was being phased out in that area at that
> time.

1959? Could you mean 1969?

In 1962 Western Union ran a 16 page color supplement ad in the New
York Times, discussing its future. It was very high tech and
optimistic about various broadband business services. One service was
Desk Fax, which had about 50,000 units by that time. I think that was
its peak or it was growing in 1962.

Desk Fax was intended to replace more expensive teleprinters and much
more expensive messenger delivery service. Given the volume of units
I'd say it was successful.

W.U. also offered large size private line facsimile services, such as
distributing weather maps for the U.S. Weather Bureau.

> A lot of your questions are answered in the W.U.T.R.

I found one issue of the early 1950s describing it, but so far nothing
later on.

> It seems almost tragic the amount of money and engineering creativity
> that W.U. poured into fax without it having any relevance at all to
> the modern fax that swept away the Telegram.

Well, if they had 50,000 units I'd guess it did pretty good and
achieved its objectives. For its day it seemed cost efficient.
Unfortunately other technologies surpassed it in the 1960s, including
lower phone rates.

I found one article that said a NY-DC public telegram in 1949 was only
20c, a message cost far, far cheaper than telephone long distance.
The unit cost for Desk Fax must have been quite cheap too compared to
phone long distance until Bell had big rate cuts in the 1960s. In
contrast, W.U. was continually raising its telegraph rates (NY-DC
telegram in 1970 was $7.00). I don't know if WU's private line
services--which were the company's main business interest--went up so
fast as well.

> In the mid 1960s, with long distance telephone rates coming down ...

I remember in 1980 Xerox offered a "telecopier" using an acoustic
coupler. We forget that faxes a few years ago used a special paper,
not dry like now.

Wasn't "earthlink" originally a pioneer e-mail service offered by
Western Union?

Post Followup Article Use your browser's quoting feature to quote article into reply
Go to Next message: Jim Haynes: "Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?"
Go to Previous message: "Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?"
May be in reply to: "Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?"
Next in thread: Jim Haynes: "Re: Western Union Desk-Fax -- Discontinued?"
TELECOM Digest: Home Page