Bain was born in Watten, Scotland. A Scottish clock and instrument
maker, he patented the basics of facsimile, and his claim to
priority is rarely disputed. He was an all-round inventor and
technician who later installed the first telegraph lines alongside
the railway between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
got to be careful when reading history because there are actually
two different devices known as facsimile. The one we wouldn't
recognise today employed the minds of hundreds of inventors
in the early days of telegraphy, and was finally developed to
a useful stage by Elisha Gray, Bell's great rival in the telephone
was the TeleAutograph introduced at the 1893 World's Fair in
Chicago. It transmitted both the x and y parameters of a stylus
movement (electric pen) down different wires, and therefore
transmitted the motions of handwriting over distance.
stylus movements were reproduced at the far end by an ink-trace
on paper-tape moved by clockwork. Later developments of the
TeleAutograph were popular with banks until quite recently for
transferring signatures, and they were also used by the deaf.
the early days of electronic communications developments, the
idea of handwriting transfer was seen as potentially important,
and certainly more socially-acceptable than the telephone. Many
refined people wouldn't use early telephones because they had
to shout to be understood.
anyone could use the TeleAutograph, and the bonus was that it
left a personal message if the receiver wasn't at home. E-mail
has some of these same socially-important characteristics.
fax that we know today depended on a totally different approach;
this is more akin to television scanning. In fact, Alexander
Bain is rightly credited with inventing both the fax and also
the television approach to scanning images progressively.
died in Kirkintilloch and is buried in the Old Aisle cemetery.
To Scottish Scientists and Engineers