25 things vanishing in America, part 2: the fax machine

I can still remember the first time I saw a fax. Wow! Words could be transmitted over a phone line and printed out exactly on the other end. I couldn't wait to get one for my business with all the bells and whistles; color copier, computer friendly for integrating data bases, and group speed dial. I bought a top of the line fax for about $450, convinced that it would launch my business and keep the phone ringing.

After installing a separate phone line, spending hours loading phone numbers, and stocking it with paper, I was ready to go. I offered "FREE" tips to the readers of my columns to be delivered by fax. I sent faxes to businesses, insurance companies and friends. The machine was very active for about three years.

Then two years ago, I noticed that the only faxes I was receiving were junk faxes. Promises of cheap vacations, work at home schemes and enhancement of certain body parts that I didn't even have were showing up in my tray. While most businesses listed their fax numbers, very few requested faxes from me. They would simply e-mail instead and request documents or attach them.