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Please Email; Please Don’t Fax; But Whatever You Do, Don’t Telex.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 29, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle

Recently, I reviewed a contract that used the word “Telex”. I struck it, figuring that this contract language had been drafted fifty or more years ago and recopied hundreds of times without anyone considering the absurdity of requiring a Telex communication. However, I subsequently discovered that the Telex brand still exists via a recent post in Adams Drafting. References to Telexing do appear in contracts, he notes, although not that often. Wikipedia has an article on Telex too.

I can remember observing a Telex machine in the late 70’s, early 80’s in an office where I once worked. In the quiet of the night, you could hear it pounding away down the hall. But the only communications I ever saw come out of it were Associated Press news dispatches. I never sent or received a telex, but every now and then I would come across a Telex address on someone’s letterhead. In a wireless world, Telex apparently still has a niche. But not with me. Don’t try to send me one, I don’t have a wiring address.

At the same office we had an early version of the facsimile machine. It used strong chemicals that you could smell down the hall. The pages were rather poor quality and started turning brown and curling at the corners on the day you received them. I cannot remember anyone ever sending us a facsimile message in those days. We used it (rarely) to communicate between our own offices.

Before modern faxes, my old law firm (not the same place that had the Telex and prehistoric facsimile machine) had employed several law students to run around downtown Pittsburgh on foot, delivering documents by hand to clients and other law firms. Clients from the suburbs or real estate agents would circle the block while a passenger ran upstairs to deliver or pick up agreements. Then, one momentous day, a client who was constantly sending employees on document runs from Cranberry threatened to fire us unless we bought a fax machine. At the time, we didn’t know whether anyone else who did business with us used one. The managing partner actually called several corporate clients and persuaded them to buy their first machine so we would have somebody to fax.

He needn’t have gone to the trouble. Magically, overnight, everyone started faxing. Our machine hardly rested from the moment it was plugged in. After about two weeks it was running all night. As a result of faxing, the pace of work at law firms hit the accelerator. Lead time shrunk to zero. Once a task had to wait until documents arrived in the mail, but now clients demanded that lawyers pay attention to faxes immediately.

Despite regular advances in technology, even today the quality of faxes are less than ideal. Deed descriptions, recopied and refaxed over and over, became grainy, tiny and unreadable. But progress marched onward. Enter email and scanned documents.

At first, it was hard to get most corporate clients to use their email accounts. The fax habit was hard to break. Typically, they would type a letter, print it and send it by fax. This practice was justified on the grounds that it was necessary to include certain grainy hard copies that had been received from someone else by fax. Scanning did not catch on immediately because it required learning a procedure and took more time. But gradually, the benefits of having an electronic file became evident. And here we are.

Today, when I politely ask: “please don’t fax, please email a scanned document”, there is a very good chance that the person on the other end will actually do it.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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