As with pre-owned computers, prices for pre-owned faxes have been plummeting. But buyers get better performance for the price from the latter because facsimile technology hasn't advanced nearly as rapidly as desktop computers'. To test that assumption, we bought a used heavy-duty commercial fax from a local law firm for $450 and compared it with what we could currently get from the same manufacturer for $450, after discounts.

A formal market for retired faxes does not yet exist as it does for computers (see "The Used-Computer Market," May 1991, [Article link]), but word of mouth is brisk. Function by function, here's how the two faxes stacked up:

Used '88 Fax New '92 Fax

Maximum document width 11.5 inches 10.125 inches

Document feed capacity 30 pages 10 pages

Document memory storage 125 pages 0 pages

One-touch speed-dialing capacity 32 8

Transmission time (sec/page) 12 17

Delayed transmission ability? Yes No

Receive even if out of paper? Yes No

Auto redial if busy? Yes No

Confidential mailboxes? Yes No

To be sure, the old fax weighs 48.5 pounds; the new, 11. And the former lacks an automatic fax/telephone switch (which detects whether a call is meant for human or electronic ears). Without dedicating a separate line to its machine, for about $100 an office can install a switching device capable of steering an incoming fax call through a key service unit (KSU) or a private business exchange (PBX) to the business's fax number.

-- Robert A. Mamis