From his residence in Dubuque, Iowa, David Chesney, owner of $1.5-million Chesney's Heartland Foods, uses one to pro-cess price lists for his distributorship. From his house on Long Island, Barry Hauser, owner of three list-management ser-vices, uses one to develop subscription campaigns for his clients in publishing. The space-saving, low-cost multipurpose machine is arriving in home offices.

In these cases, it's a facsimile send/receive device called the FaxJet -- what appears to be a common thermal-paper stand-alone. But when it's cabled into a microcomputer's communication port, the single-square-foot unit becomes an optical scanner, a copier, a backup printer, a fax/modem, and a memory-rich plain-paper fax. Some commercial faxes already interface with micros. But the FaxJet claims to be the first to make the PC connection at the home-office level. Bundled with the necessary computer software, the setup sells for as little as $700 (discounted), or some $200 more than an unenhanced stand-alone.

Chesney adapts his system to channel incoming faxes of suppliers' prices straight into computer files. Then, using character-recognizing software (about $200 extra), he copies the items into a spreadsheet. The computer formulates the middleman markups of the goods and faxes the revised list to customers. Before, Chesney would input all the information by hand, a process subject to considerable error, given that his warehouse handles more than 200 varieties of cheese alone.

Hauser scans pieces of art into desktop-generated layouts, where the graphic images can be cleaned up and incorporated into proposals to clients. Such a proposal, processed and faxed entirely by computer, arrives at its destination clean and perfectly aligned. "Professional-looking faxes lend distinction to a small business," Hauser says. "When you feed printed pages into a stand-alone, they come out skewed and streaked at the client's end -- but you never know it."

Both entrepreneurs harness the system's interconnectivity for dialing preassigned recipients at preassigned times and transmitting a discrete fax to each (as opposed to the conventional "broadcast," in which the same fax is sent to all). The automated routine not only saves on phone bills by faxing when toll rates are lower, but, it turns out, can be a sales tool as well. For example, Chesney has a large institutional account whose cutoff time for quotes is noon. For months he dutifully faxed the numbers the night before, since he'd be too busy to do it the next day. Yet he never made a sale. With everyone else's quotes piling on after his, maybe his bids weren't even being read. When he acquired the new system, he set it up to transmit at 11 o'clock each morning, thus discreetly positioning his offer near the top. "In small businesses," Chesney marvels, "little things make a big difference. Now I always get an order."

The suggested retail prices for the FaxJet model RA-2136 facsimile machine with AutoFax software and cable are $1,145 (Macintosh), $1,095 (MS-Windows), and $1,045 (MS-DOS). They're from Relisys (800-783-2333). -- Robert A. Mamis