I was at FedEx Kinko’s this afternoon getting some copies made. While I was waiting I saw a college-aged kid trying to send a fax. He was completely flummoxed. First, he wasn’t sure how to feed the paper into the tray. Then he kept getting a message through the little speaker, but he couldn’t figure out what it meant by “you must first dial a one.” It turns out the number he was calling was in Fort Lauderdale, which is long distance, and on a land-line you need to dial 1-954-XXX-XXXX. When we finally got that cleared up, the fax machine on the other end kept squawking but not picking up. “Maybe it takes longer because it’s so far away,” he said with complete earnestness. After a couple of more tries, I told him that the fax machine on the other end wasn’t turned on, which seemed to amaze him.
By that time, my copies were done and I had to leave, so I’ll never know if he got through.
Add the fax machine to the list that includes the tape recorder, the phonograph, the rotary telephone*, the VCR, and the mimeograph that are now ancient technology.
*When I moved into my apartment in Miami in 2001, one of the moving men asked if he could use my phone to order a pizza. I said sure and pointed him to the one in the kitchen: a black 1959 wall phone. He stared at the dial for a moment before I showed him how to use it.