Fax to email and a history of rapid document transfer – Part I
Long before the convenience of fax to email, receiving messages or sending documents around weren’t as simple as picking up a phone, sending a fax or typing up a quick email.
To get a signature on a contract could take weeks or months! Life may have been simpler but the need for rapid communication became more urgent.
Before railway and telegraph lines criss-crossed countries, mail services, such as the famous Pony Express was the fastest way to get documents between destinations. The Pony express ran between St. Joseph Missouri and Sacramento, California.
Imagine, a group of riders, (189 to be exact) racing on horses day and night to get mail between 165 stations dotted over a distance of more that 3 000km! The Pony Express ran for only 19 months before the railway and telegraph lines were completed. While the horse breeds used varied greatly, the riders seemed to fit a certain profile.
On average, the riders were young, skinny orphans between 18 and 20 years of age, weighing an average of 55kg. One of the riders was as young as 11 years old! The lighter the riders, the more weight they could carry on their horses. Also, since these were the days of train and coach robberies, the riders were armed with cold revolvers, a Spencer carbine and a sheath knife by his side.
The average distance between stations was between 16km and 24km and horses would be raced between stations, then swapped for a fresh one. The rider however only had a two minute break in between. Riders would swop only after a full day (or night) of hard riding. Costing $5 to send 25g, compare that to the cost of sending a fax to email document today!
Often letters were dispatched between telegraph stations to get a message to it’s addressee sooner.
Next time you pop a fax directly to an email address, spare a thought for those who used to race around the clock to deliver mail and documents through hostile territory. In our next blog we’ll look at how telegraph technology developed into what we know as fax to email today.
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