When Barcelona and general football legend Lionel Messi handed in his transfer request on Tuesday, the reaction was overwhelming.
” Why? ”
“Where will he go? How much will it cost? ”
But it was the next line of the report that really mattered: “The Argentina international, 33, sent a fax to the club on Tuesday telling him he wanted to exercise a clause in his contract, allowing him to leave for free with immediate effect. . ”
Fax? Really? FAX?
Imagine writing an email by hand, then scanning it and tucking the sheet of paper into some kind of hybrid between a phone and a printer, which the recipient prints before writing their response.
It is essentially a fax.
If this sounds very old fashioned, that’s because it is.
The idea was first patented by Scottish watchmaker Alexander Bain in 1843 – long before the invention of the telephone.
He was swinging a pendulum on a copper line drawing. Every time it hit a little copper, the pendulum would send an electrical signal to another pendulum, which would copy the same image.
The copy was an exact replica of the original – a “facsimile”, or fax for short.
This was then adapted to send the electrical signals over telegraph wires (yes, the telephone still had not been invented) and the fax could be sent over long distances.
For the sake of faxing
Fax machines have obviously gone from pendulums and copperplate designs – but the basic concept is the same.
Their heyday really started in the mid-1980s. (Around the same time Messi was born – coincidence?)
It was the time just before email took off and fax was the fastest way to send documents back and forth.
Documents, especially where a signature was required, were (and sometimes still are) faxed between companies.
They were still in use until the 2000s – and people still remember that painful cry when they accidentally dialed a fax number instead of a phone number.
He just refuses to die
Cassettes, VHS, Ataris – they were all big in the ’80s, but they didn’t last long until the 21st century.
Somehow the fax did it.
A 2003 BBC article – when email was definitely a thing – explains how faxing was “more popular than it has ever been”.
In fact, he goes on to say that it was common to print an electronic document and fax it to someone who would then type it in at its end.
Fortunately, this kind of inefficiency is not really seen today, as faxes eventually became obsolete.
Lawyers continue to fax legal documents when signatures are required.
And as recently as 2018, the NHS was banned from buying more faxes.
This came after an investigation found they were still using around 9,000 fax machines across England to send information such as patients’ medical histories.
The NHS has been urged to stop using them by March of this year and switch to email.
And the fax time may also be up for lawyers. Electronic signature company DocuSign recently reported annual revenue of $ 974 million (£ 741 million), which suggests that online signatures are a big business.
Don’t let faxing get in the way of a good story
OK, back to Messi, because there is another part of the story behind his so-called fax.
Many people online have commented that it probably wasn’t a fax in the old-fashioned ’80s sense.
He sent a burofax – kind of like a UK registered delivery.
It is likely that his lawyers would have sent a PDF via the Spanish postal service and FC Barcelona had to admit having received it.
In Spain, this means that there is legal proof of what was sent and on what date.
Which could be useful if the dispute between Barca and Messi gets, well, messy.
They are fighting over a clause in his contract worth around 700million euros (£ 629million) so it could end up in court.
But you never know – maybe Messi was really fueling his transfer request to an old fax machine from a multi-million pound mansion last night?
As sports writer Ryan Baldi points out, he’s never been the type to get things done by the book.
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