Today in History
17.10.1906: First Photoelectric Fax Transmission
Alexander Bain registered his idea of a facsimile transmitter as a patent back then. Bain had invented a system of synchronized clocks. The pendulums, which were linked together electrically, swung together, reaching the ends of their swing simultaneously. By fitting a contact at one end, moving over letter shaped contacts and a stylus at the other end, he was able to reproduce the shapes of the letters. The stylus moved over chemically coated paper and the paper was moved forward on each swing, thus tracing the shape of the letters.

Frederick Bakewell's invention of a cylinder and screw, resembling a phonograph cylinder, became a prototype for future fax apparatus.

When Bakewell presented his invention at the world exposition in London in 1851, he was sure of his peers' admiration. His photoelectric transmitter was a milestone in the history of facsimile transmission.

If these inventions were to be considered early precursors of fax machines as we know them today, then one could say that fax machines were actually developed three decades later. The person who could be given special credit for the invention of the fax was the German mathematician and physicist, Arthur Korn.

Korn caused a great buzz on October 17, 1906 when he managed to transmit a portrait of the crown prince, William, over a distance of 1800 kilometres.

Unlike his predecessors, Korn worked with so called light sensitive selenium cells. They took over the function of the stylus. Soon after his first success, Korn transmitted pictures from Munich to Berlin, from Berlin to Paris, from Paris to London.

It took approximately twelve minutes for a picture to reach Paris from Berlin. This time cannot be compared to present-day transmission times but still, it was a huge step from the previous years' developments.

The first authorities to make use of Korn's perfected photoelectric facsimile were the police. The practical results were quite satisfying, as the scientist wrote in one of his many books: "The first success was already in 1908 when a criminal in London was identified with the help of my image transmitter from Paris to London."

But not only the police found uses for the transmission of images: meteorologists, the military, and above all newspapers also used this technology. According to Korn's reports, the French magazine "L'Illustration" was the first to use the new possibilities. The paper soon began transmitting pictures in autumn 1907. The regular transmission routes were Berlin-Paris and Paris-London.

In a book published in 1923, Arthur Korn recalled, "The importance of picture telegrams for reporting in illustrated press was recognized, and soon various other illustrated magazines took interest in the technique, especially the Daily Mirror in London, which used every facsimile station in London and Manchester. Almost every morning paper published a transmitted picture which had been photoelectrically transmitted."

Amongst the pioneers of photoelectric fax users were the newspapers "Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger", "Politiken" in Copenhagen and "Dagens Nyheter" in Stockholm.

Hard times hit Arthur Korn when the Nazis came to power. The technical university in Berlin, where he taught and conducted research, sent him away on "permanent vacation". Korn emigrated to the United States in 1939. He died in Jersey City 6 years later.
Zitat des Tages
Zitat des Tages
Which German writer, born 17 October 1813, paved the way for early expressionist drama?
  Georg Büchner
  Heinrich Böll
  Thomas Mann