You know the song — “Get up (get on up), stay on the scene (get on up), like a fax machine…” And while it may no longer be staying on the scene at the Bundestag, the fax machine has a fascinating tale to tell.
The Council of Elders in the German parliament decided on Thursday that fax machines would no longer be used from the start of the next legislative period. These devices that scan, print, and transmit documents through a phone line have enjoyed a successful run. In fact, young parliamentarians were surprised at how often they were still in use in the Bundestag.
One might ask, “Why were fax machines so popular in a place as significant as the German parliament?” The answer could lie in the reactions from some of the members. Marco Buschmann, parliamentary secretary of the FDP, expressed his pleasure at seeing the “Bundestag had arrived in the 21st century.” Meanwhile, Left Party Parliamentary Secretary Jan Korte termed the decision a “blatant change,” and Cornelia Möhring amusingly revealed she had only just learned how to use them. After all, instruction manuals for these devices, sometimes also referred to as telecopiers, can be over a hundred pages long.
The German government’s relationship with faxing doesn’t stop at the Bundestag. Responding to an October inquiry by the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the federal government disclosed that it was still using over 900 fax machines. These devices were primarily used to exchange classified information, especially in the foreign ministry, where more than 200 machines remained active last October. Even Angela Merkel’s chancellery had a few in operation.
The story of the fax machine in the German government brings to light an interesting aspect of technology and its utilization. While it might be tempting to view fax machines through a certain lens, their continued use in such significant domains reminds us of the unique roles different technologies play in various settings.
In the end, the decision to cease using fax machines in the Bundestag marks a new chapter. Yet, the echoes of the fax machines’ role in the German parliament offer an intriguing glimpse into a part of our technological world that continues to thrive in unexpected ways.
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