Forgotten, but not gone: the fax machine

23 April 2009 story: When you sign up to be an iPhone developer for Apple, you have to find your company certificate and fax it in. Yes, as in using one of those clunky machines connected to a landline that makes that horrible EEEEEEEE-AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! sound of squeaky death before sucking your document in and spitting out a copy of it at the other end of the line.

Even though nobody buys standalone fax machines anymore, you have probably encountered more than one occasion when a businesses emails you some stupid form, asks you to fill it in and FAX it back.

That usually means the long frustrating process of printing out a form (especially as they seem to like converting it to PDF first to make the process just that extra bit complicated for you) filling it in by hand, and then when you feel like you're back in the 90s, faxing it.

So considering how backwards that sounds, you may be surprised to find out that from 2001 to 2007, sales of multifunction printer/scanner/fax machines rose by an amazing 340%. Granted, it wasn’t the fax technology that drove those sales, but the truth of the matter is this: faxes will never die.

Sometimes, there are just no better alternatives, particularly because signatures received over fax are considered legally kosher. So if you do if you find yourself in one of those bizarre, time-warped situations where your only option is to send a fax, here are some options to consider:

1. Rent a machine: If you rarely send faxes and you live near a city, then you have the option of going to a business services chain like a local money laundering facility international call centre, and having them fax your document for you. But buyer beware: usual cost range from 50p a page up to an extortionate £1.50 a page in some locations. Unless you want Bob to transfer a gazillion Nigerian nairas, maybe he'll give you a small discount for signing away your bank account.

2. Ask a friend: A free option would be to ask a fax machine-owning friend who owes you a favour, like that time you lied to his wife that he was out with you when you really still have no idea where he vanished off to. That probably translates to approximately 629 separate occasions to borrow his machine for life. Well done.

3. Ask a business: If you only send/receive the occasional page, you can probably talk your way into getting one sent for free from a local business, like a hair salon or your local charity shop, even. If you plan to do this more than once though, you probably should buy something equally useless.

4. Email it: Yes, that's correct. Some businesses that insist on faxing a document usually don't need it except for their records. Emailing the form back usually will suffice. Often just by explaining that you can save them time by sending it as a PDF will usually make them nod in agreement (and appreciation). Use a free online PDF converter like, and get yourself an electronic signature image (make sure to set it as a transparent PNG so that it fits nicely on the dotted line).

5. Online fax services: To use these, you need Internet access and an e-mail account. But if some malicious person sends you a paper version of something you need to fax and you can’t get it electronically, you’ll need to scan it in once you sign it, which could make this a total pain in the arse for the avid fax user. But usually internet access plus an email account will suffice.

We will be doing a comparison on a few online fax services in an upcoming post, from suggestions made by you. So if you have any thoughts/comments on sending/receiving/eating faxes, please share them in the comments below!


  • Colin
    When I joined the iPhone developer program, for the form requiring a signature (actually a US tax form that Apple simply need to have to save you paying 30% tax to the US government, as you mentioned I don't think they even look at it), I just posted it like Apple asked. Post seemed much more convenient to me than trying to fax internationally :P There's another form Apple would like me to fill in if I plan to sell my apps in Japan, but that one needs to be posted as it needs duplicates all signed and letters from the Inland Revenue and things, apparently.
  • Matt W.
    OR 6. Use your computers fax modem to send the fax
  • Paul S.
    It's the certificate from Companies House you're asked to fax to Apple. If it all goes wrong and you ask nicely, they let you send a scan.
  • Colin
    Ahh, that explains it - I selected "Individual" specifically so I didn't need to bother proving anything :P It's always a nuisance trying to prove to RS or whoever that I'm operating as a sole trader and thus should still be allowed to use their Trade Counters without having any actual documentation as to company names.
  • tsj ? :)
  • fax p.
    Only a quick post about sending a fax, I hate making these inconvient fax cover sheets, so I found this great useful resource that I included in the link above. As an alternative of needing to trace down a template and launching a bloated word processor, you as a substitute simply enter your info on a simple web form and press print, and it is done. I hope you get pleasure from this hint, let me know if you have another helpful recommendation for making life somewhat more simpler.

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