back to article Faxing hell: The cops say they would very much like us to stop calling them all the time

Bid farewell to the weekend with a story from the Who, Me? mailbag that struck a little close to home for one Register hack. "Lucas", for that is not his name, was charged with setting up an internal fax server for his company. Predating the ubiquity of email and the like, it was a big moment for communications and merited …

  1. John Arthur
    Devil

    "Now is the time to confess all with an email to Who, Me"

    Have you got a fax number instead?

    1. redpawn Silver badge

      Re: "Now is the time to confess all with an email to Who, Me"

      Mine is out of magenta ink, so it won't send.

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: "Now is the time to confess all with an email to Who, Me"

        You're lucky. You have one that does color. Mines black ink only. If I could just get people to stop sending faxes with logos and stuff that's black on a red background....

        1. P. Lee Silver badge

          Re: "Now is the time to confess all with an email to Who, Me"

          Mine doesn't print black, or any other colour, if there is no red ink.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Fat Finger!

    The fingers you are using to mash the keyboard are too large, please consider using a stylus, or the eraser end of a pencil for precise keying, Thanks!

  3. TVC

    I called the cops

    Managed to call the cops by mistake when calling back to the UK from our US office. I dialled 9 to get an outside line then 11 for the UK. The US emergency number is 911.

    I realised and hung up, but they still arrived in force at the front door. Red face.

    1. wyatt

      Re: I called the cops

      Are you sure? The UK country code is 44..

      1. richardcox13

        Re: I called the cops

        In the North American calling zone 11 is the international prefix, the 44 would then follow.

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: I called the cops

          001 = USA

          011 = NL

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: I called the cops

            Pretty sure NL is 031/+31

            1. chivo243 Silver badge

              Re: I called the cops

              I'm from the US when I call home it;s 001 (xxx) xxx- xxxx and when I call the NL from the states it's 011-31(xx) xxx-xxxx What is the 001 and 011??

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: I called the cops

                What is the 001

                00 - European prefix for an international call

                1 - country code for the US & Canada

                and 011??

                US prefix for an international call. The 31 is the country code for NL.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I called the cops

          Isn't the US's international prefix 011 rather than 11?

        3. Peter Simpson 1
          Thumb Up

          Re: I called the cops

          It's (or was) 011 for international, then the country code and the number.

          So for a UK number, you'd dial 011-44-[the UK number]

          Of course, if you're behind a PBX, all bets are off. But that's the way it used to work on my landline.

          1. nojobhopes

            Re: I called the cops

            I've seen it done, and was there when the police arrived.

            Of course even if you stay on the line to explain your innocent mistake, the police in the US are obliged to turn up at the registered premises for the phone number. They need to check all is well.

            A lot of private office exchanges are configured to forward "911" from an internal phone to the police, as if you were on a normal landline. There is even a US Patent for it - US20040081290A1.

            Some interesting snippets in this Cisco manual:

            https://community.cisco.com/t5/collaboration-voice-and-video/911-call-announcement/ta-p/3203809

            "If the caller hangs up before talking to a 911 dispatcher, then emergency services will be sent to the site to verify the emergency. Since most of these accidental calls are caused by users misdialing the number or by accidentally entering the long distance access code twice"

            "Since many dialplans are based on an access code of 9 followed by a long distance number of 1 or 011 for international calls, accidental calls to 911 happen on a frequent basis."

            So remember when you are next allowed into the States and want to call home in UK:

            9 - "oh!!" - 11 - 44 - number without the leading zero

        4. richardcox13

          Re: I called the cops

          As noted in a reply this should be 011 (memory gets worse in time, but is better than the alternative).

          1. nojobhopes

            Re: I called the cops

            And that's the issue - memory. We all know 9 is for an outside line (except on exchanges where it isn't). We all know "1" is the 'national' prefix when in the USA (equivalent to 0 in other countries like the UK). So surely "11" is the international prefix (equivalent to 00 in the UK). And suddenly there are a pair of uniforms in reception wanting to see the person who made the accidental call, just in case... Memory issues mean we forget we should be dialing 9011 before the country code.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I called the cops

              We all know "1" is the 'national' prefix when in the USA (equivalent to 0 in other countries like the UK).

              The '1' is the country code, it's the equivalent of the '44' for the UK, not the '0'. The US network just happens to treat it as an out-of-area prefix as well.

              1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                Re: I called the cops

                This, and all the preceding comments in the thread just serve to confirm what I've already thought. That the whole world wide dialling code system (and the way it's described to users who need to use it) is a mess.

                A small example,of course, is the London dial codes. Because in the transition to the 020 system you could dial the original number or the 020+7+local number there are still lots of people that quote and even write their numbers in the format 0207 123 1234. And since most people these days seem to phone using a tiny mobile with terrible sound rather than a nice comfortable, clear home phone, it will still work for them because you have to dial the full number. But if you use a fixed line phone within London you don't dial the 020 bit. You must still dial the 7 though.

                And of course, when you ask someone to read out a number to you (within London) you never know when they're starting with 7/8 whether it's coming in the form 7712 3456 or its 7123 1234 - unless they say the 020, which you then have to kind of ignore for a few beats until they get to the main number.

                This is trivial and parochial, I know. But it's indicative of the mess that dialling codes have become.

                1. tip pc Silver badge

                  Re: I called the cops

                  "A small example,of course, is the London dial codes. Because in the transition to the 020 system you could dial the original number or the 020+7+local number there are still lots of people that quote and even write their numbers in the format 0207 123 1234."

                  it used to be 01 for london

                2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
                  Trollface

                  Re: I called the cops

                  Damn that population growth!

                3. BenM 29
                  Coat

                  Re: I called the cops

                  >>A small example,of course, is the London dial codes.

                  Which are actually fine - and a great logical growth from operator connected calls - complete with BOFH hacks at the exchanges to make it all work. Its all to do with how exchanges handle dialled numbers.

                  Tom Scott did a good YouTube 5 minute rant about dialling codes - at least he thought it would be a rant but ended up saying (not an actual quote this) 'actually, given how it all came about.... its amazing that they work as well as they do!'

                  If you prefer something less casual than Tom Scott then visit lightstraw.co.uk for all your geeky telecoms history (including the evolution of STD and the London area codes) needs.

                  /mines the one with the "all round geek" manual in the pocket

                  1. ricardian

                    Re: I called the cops

                    The lightstraw site is a handy collection of information but it perpetuates one myth - "all employees sign the Official Secrets Act". No they don't. HM Queen Elizabeth II signed a Bill that became the Official Secrets Act, mere mortals like us sign a form like this https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/346762/FOI201404093_Official_Secrets_Act_Form.pdf.

    2. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: I called the cops

      112 - the UK and EU harmonised emergency services number - is embarrassingly close to 111 for the NHS non-emergency helpline.

      I have never understood why they reserved the entire 0112 block to avoid accidental calls but then allowed that 'stubby fingers' mistake to happen.

      1. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: I called the cops

        Well, I called 112 by accident once.

        I was trying to call an internal extension number stating with 112. Usually you would dial 0 beforehand for an outside line or the extension number directly for an internal one. Only I wasn't using my own phone but the one on a trader's desk. As they would primarily call clients, their phones were configured to call outside lines by default.

        A pretty pissed emergency operator lambasted my for trying to speak to a "Javier", insistently, as he was known to be a kind of a joker and I didn't believe it wasn't him answering his phone.

        Own PEBKAC goal...

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: I called the cops

          I had my phone linked to my motorcycle helmet headset. What I didn't know about was that the iPhone has - on, by default - a feature where you press the button on the side 5 times and it dials emergency services.

          Naturally it did just this halfway down the A3, with the phone safely tucked in my bag out of reach. Explaining to the operator that I had no idea why my phone had called them was awkward, but not as awkward as saying "no, YOU hang up" when he asked me to end the call - I hadn't yet worked out the buttons on the unit. The best bit was I got to do it again 10 minutes later.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I called the cops

          I moved some legacy VoIP customers over to a new hosted platform and created the extensions the same as they were before, 101,102,103 etc. If course they were all in the incoming ring group.

          One day we enabled the UK non emergency numbers on that system, which included 101 as the police non emergency number.

          I got emails the next day from our carrier who had noticed a higher than usual number of calls from us to 101. And a call from the customer saying his phone wasn't ringing any more. Whilst I was at a funeral.

          Ho hum.

      2. Mog_X

        Re: I called the cops

        I thought the emergency number was now 0118 999 88199 9119 725…3

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: I called the cops

          Four! I mean five! I mean fire!

        2. JulieM Silver badge

          Re: I called the cops

          Or (in a German accent) nul-nul-eins, acht-nul-neun, funf-sechs-drei, nul-nul, nul-nul .....

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: I called the cops

            Einz, zwo-und-dreißig, sechzehn, acht, herrscht Konjunktur die ganze Nacht ;)

        3. James Wilson
          FAIL

          Re: I called the cops

          Only if you're getting it from Priti Patel

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: I called the cops

            "Only if you're getting it from Priti Patel"

            Nurse! Mind bleach, urgently!

            (Oh you meant getting the NUMBER from her!)

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I called the cops

        I did something similar: I was in Germany and trying to get my phone system to redirect my UK Sky satellite box modem's calls, such that they would appear to come from a UK telephone number. Sadly, I got my dialplan wrong and the Sky box kept phoning the local police emergency number and I had to explain all that to an annoyed German policeman, in halting German.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: I called the cops

        "112 - the UK and EU harmonised emergency services number - is embarrassingly close to 111 for the NHS non-emergency helpline."

        Hint: Which came first?

        Hint2: It wasn't the NHS non-emergency helpline

      5. Cthrag Yaska

        Re: I called the cops

        I wrote some fax software "back in the day" and included a block on fax-numbers starting 999. We weren't aware of the harmonised 112 until one of our customers entered "11223344" as a "dummy" fax-number and got the "Stop calling us" phone-call!

    3. veti Silver badge

      Re: I called the cops

      In what illegitimised system do you dial "11" for the UK?

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: I called the cops

        AT&T is the illegitimised system.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I called the cops

        In the US, to dial a local number, it's just the local number (555-1234). To dial long distance, you put a 1 in front of the area code (1-555-555-1234). To dial internationally, you put 011 in front of the country code (011-044-...)

        1. J27 Bronze badge

          Re: I called the cops

          Only some places, more populated areas require the area code too (so-called 10 digit dialing, or 1+10 digit dialing if they also required a 1).

          1. Sherrie Ludwig

            Re: I called the cops

            Only some places, more populated areas require the area code too (so-called 10 digit dialing, or 1+10 digit dialing if they also required a 1).

            Yes, in Illinois from my landline I have to dial 1+area code + seven digit local number, In Wisconsin from my WI-based cell phone I just need to call the seven digit for a number within the same area code. I have been trained by muscle memory to just dial the whole eleven digits, provoking merriment from my WI co-workers.

    4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: I called the cops

      Back in the day, most UK exchanges reserved '8' and '9' for local dialling codes, to dial nearby exchanges by prefixing a phone number with '91' or '87' etc. You could daisy-chain them to a degree, so '991' might take you to nearby town (9) and then on to a close-by village (91). Although the full emergency number was '999' a few very small exchanges had limited connectivity so that '99' was enough to reach the emergency services. It didn't take much misconfiguration of autodiallers to trigger a visit from the local plod asking why you kept calling them and making strange beeping noises...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I called the cops

        Back in the day i heard about a phone hack where a public uk phone box could give you free calls by dialling 99 then using a tone dialer held to the reciever and dialling the number you wanted. Believe it or not you could get free unlimited global calls...

        1. dak

          Re: I called the cops

          I seem to remember that was called "phreaking".

          1. BostonEddie

            Re: I called the cops

            I vaguely recall that the phones could be controlled by certain audio overtones that were generated by a homemade "blue box" or the whistle from a box of Captain Crunch cereal.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I called the cops

          dialling 99 then using a tone dialer held to the reciever and dialling the number you wanted.

          The first 2 nines could get you to a trunk, but you'd then have to send the internal trunk dialling tone sequences, then the final number. Allegedly.

        3. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Re: I called the cops

          Tone dialler? Way back in the day you used to be able to call free from phone boxes by tapping the receiver rest to simulate pulse dialling. They enforced payment by connecting the dial only after coins had been inserted.

          After STD was introduced, there was a way to make cheap long distance calls by stringing together lots of local calls. The long sequences of digits required to do this were keenly circulated around our universities. Unfortunately, the signal was often so attenuated that you'd have done better to go up on the roof and shout. I think phone phreaking was the high-tech successor to this.

          It's a bit weird to recall a time when it was worth going to a lot of trouble to avoid the cost of phone calls.

          1. KBeee

            Re: I called the cops

            Yeah, it was an eye-watering 4d (four old pennies - a little less than 2p)

          2. KillStuffMount

            Re: I called the cops

            A friend's Dad had placed a padlock on the rotary dial of the home phone to stop my mate, we'll call him Ben because I don't have a Regonymiser, racking up the phone bill. The same trick worked on the home phone meaning the padlock was a complete waste of time.

            Another friend, we'll call him Paul, had a strange and evil artefact known as the "Hate Fax". Back in the day of thermal fax printing, leaving the lid up on the photocopier, pressing for 2 copies resulted in a pair of inky black sheets. With a couple of lengths of sellotape these 2 sheets could, if fed through a fax machine and deftly sealed together into a loop, be left to destroy the destination fax machine of your choice.

            I was never able to get him to confirm a successful use of the artefact, but the smirk on his face during repeated attempts to ambush with the question when we'd had a few would suggest the nuclear option had been deployed on at least one occasion to a firm of fax-spam marketers.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I called the cops

              It required 3 sheets on our fax machine, I expect.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: avoid the cost of phone calls

            I'm in the US. My roommate at University in the late 1970's was from Lebanon, It would have been very good to know how to get free calls for him to call home. Seems like it was $11 for him to call home and get no answer.

          4. crayon

            Re: I called the cops

            "It's a bit weird to recall a time when it was worth going to a lot of trouble to avoid the cost of phone calls."

            Not that weird when you consider that once upon a time to make international calls one had to go to some GPO facility (probably hadn't become BT yet) near St Martin-in-the-Fields Church off Trafalgar Square. You had to give them the number you want to call, the name of the person you're calling and how long you want the call to last then took a seat to wait for them to make the call. Once they were connected to the right person they would direct you to the corresponding booth and finally you can speak to whomever it was that you called.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: I called the cops

              Even in the 1970s, to make a call from N. Ireland to parts of the Republic (Donegal, for example) you had to call the GPO operator and book the call. She would call you back an hour or so later when it had been connected, after being manually routed via various Irish exchanges. You had to make the call before about 9pm though, because some of the rural exchanges weren't staffed 24/7.

              The last manual exchange in the UK closed in 1976, the last one in Ireland closed more than 10 years after that.

            2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: I called the cops

              You could use your mobile of course but the day trip to London was cheaper. :-)

            3. josephharris

              Re: I called the cops

              That GPO facility was the Head Office and open 24/7. I think it is still there and functioning under whichever name is current.

        4. BostonEddie

          Re: I called the cops

          Many years ago when the local telephone system around Boston was first set up, as an inducement the first customer was given lifelong free phone service. In error this included both local and long distance phone service. Also unfortunately the grantee was not only very long lived but had a hobby of genealogy, which involved lengthy and frequent international telephone calls. A subsequent legal case proved that the telephone company was indeed bond by it's initial legal contract and the customer chatted happily for many years.

      2. Brian0735

        Re: I called the cops

        Within the United kingdom in the old telephone days within the parent exchange level 99 was not used for a code to link to another exchange. As the satellite exchanges used 9 to reach the parent. So 999 worked for them, while on the parent 99 worked!

        Director systems like London had different criteria.

    5. bob42

      Re: I called the cops

      "Managed to call the cops by mistake when calling back to the UK from our US office. I dialled 9 to get an outside line then 11 for the UK"

      Too easy, I did exactly that, except i was testing the phone remotly from the UK office, so wasn't even there to explin when the cobs showed up atthe US branch. Oops

      1. SuperGeek

        Re: I called the cops

        "so wasn't even there to explin when the cobs showed up"

        You must have been on a bread roll after that!

        1. DCdave

          Re: I called the cops

          that's pretty corny

    6. jelabarre59 Silver badge

      Re: I called the cops

      The other issue in the US is the Area Code for Westchester County NY is 914. And as 4 is right under 1 on your standard touch-tone phone, it's possible to mis-dial that. Surprisingly only happened once (being dialed from a VoIP phone in 914, where it required the area code for *all* calls, we wouldn't bother prefixing with "1")

    7. Vasten_the_Barelegged

      Re: I called the cops

      In the late 90s, when dial-up was all we had, I thought I'd forgotten we thought it was the height of coll to have a dial-on-demand setup, ppp and chat scripts and all.

      Unfortunately, under SuSE (yes, correct case for those days) the test numbers built-in started "999....". Of course I knew this, but once forgot, fortunately when setting up a system at home. I heard the dialling beeps and thought it odd that I hadn't yet configured the numbers, and felt that bum-clench when you know you've done it again. I unplugged the modem, and few minutes later the phone rang. It was the police wanting to know if someone had placed a call (the controller must have sent it straight to the police when the line went dead.) I explained my mea culpa and after a bit of persuasion that the call hadn't been made by the person lying in the bath with the axe through their head, they let it go.

    8. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: I called the cops

      Managed to call the cops by mistake when calling back to the UK from our US office. I dialled 9 to get an outside line then 11 for the UK. The US emergency number is 911.

      You must have been doing it on an outside line. Otherwise it wouldn't have done that.

    9. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I called the cops

      In most locations in the US you probably should just stay on the line and explain after an accidental 911 dial. Of course it takes longer to remembering that then to say "oh sh*t" and hang up..

      Kids car has a nice button to dial 911 on the ceiling near the rear view mirror and the dome lights. It should be red or something so old parents don't push it trying to turn on a light. ;-)

    10. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: I called the cops

      A quick public service announcement: if you do call emergency services by mistake, don't hang up. Quickly inform the person who picks up that you called by mistake and apologize. Then they'll hang up. Otherwise, you will waste their time as they call back to confirm, and that's if they don't decide to send someone to your address just to make sure. You will be doing yourself and everyone else a major favor.

    11. G.Y.

      Re: I called the cops

      Happened to me once, hung up a second later; police officer knocked, I apologized, he was almost apologetic too; I thanked him for doing the right thing.

  4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    555

    I got caught out by 555XXXX. It is (almost) OK for preventing accidental calls in the US (a few numbers have been assigned from that range). The if some website insists on a telephone or mobile number without a good reason, try one of these. Anyone know where I can find a list of premium rate numbers for charities?

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: 555

      Excellent suggestion.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: 555

      The 555 exchange was the imaginary exchange for US TV shows.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: 555

        Also sometimes spelled out as "KLondike-5": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/555_(telephone_number)

      2. Mark #255

        Re: 555

        In the UK, Ofcom maintain a list of numbers reserved for TV shows.

        I couldn't possibly comment on whether I've used any of the numbers in online forms.

    3. J27 Bronze badge

      Re: 555

      I normally use an area code starting with a 1, most web sites don't check for that and US area codes start at 200.

    4. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: 555

      the "go to" number for this is 555-1212 in the USA. This is _ALWAYS_ reserved.

    5. redpawn Silver badge

      Re: 555

      When in the Peace Corps I had the opportunity to be stuck in Naru over night in 1995. Most of their phone numbers start 555-XXXX, the others were 666-XXXX.

  5. Lee D Silver badge

    Once had a fax try repeatedly to connect to my parent's house number. Drove us all mad (I was living at home at the time).

    After a day or so of constant calls and no way to trace them, and before I could cobble up a fax modem to do what it was supposed to, we called BT and had them intercept the line. Weirdly, they claimed the only way to trace it was to take over our entire phone line for the whole day and we'd receive no calls whatsoever... kind of a self-imposed DoS.

    Anyway, they intercepted the line. And then gave a phone call to a nice chap working in a central bank who was faxing incredibly sensitive documents to what he thought was another central bank, but was in fact our home number. The BT guy took a certain amount of joy in explaining it all to us, not least because said bank needed to then contact us to ask us to please, please, please never reveal what had happened and to destroy anything that we'd received (I was so annoyed that I couldn't get the fax modem working - think of the extortio.... I mean reward!).

    We eventually got our phone line back, a grovelling apology, and never did get another fax call.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      The days before 1471 one assumes.

      1. Lee D Silver badge

        I think the phone number was only a fax system, so when you called it back, all you got was a fax tone and nothing else.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      BT Openreach can still do the same, although for us was about 10 minutes (Checking our external phone numbers for lines coming into out buildings, a little old lady picked up on one of the numbers. After apologising for getting a wrong number tried again and the same lady picked up. Confirmed the number I dialed which she confirmed wasn't her number. Got Open Reach to check, however never found out why it happened as obviously it had fixed itself by the time they had arrived)

      1. Kevin Johnston Silver badge

        Funny how often it happens that a problem has gone away like that. Almost as though some 'Who-me' moment has occurred and been fixed on the quiet before the engineer can track it down

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Yeah especially as they will often charge for it

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Once had a fax try repeatedly to connect to my parent's house number. Drove us all mad (I was living at home at the time)."

      I had this happen too. The much simpler solution was to grab a fax and plug it into the line - to discover that my home number was the same (but a different area code) as a major finance company's fax line.

      After the company ignored complaints about their agents faxing the wrong area code, we took to faxing back the (highly senstiive) application forms with "APPLICATION REJECTED. POOR CREDIT RISK" in scrawled over the top of the form in large black marker

      The calls stopped after about a week

      Another person I know took a similar path and found out the home number of the CEO of a company whose fax machine was dialling out at 2-3am then rangi that CEO up every time he received a 3am fax call - at 3am.

      Unsurprisingly the 3am fax calls stopped happening within days.

      1. ICPurvis47 Bronze badge
        Devil

        When we moved into our new house in Rugby, it already had a telephone line connected. Some months later, the local council installed an incoming only phone at the taxi rank in North Street, with a phone number which was a very close approximation of ours. We were continually receiving calls at odd times during the night, asking for a taxi to take the caller either home from the pub, or some other essential journey. We would politely explain that they had dialled the wrong number, and told them the correct number to dial. One Christmas Morning, at about 3AM, we had another call and did the explaining bit again, only to have the same (very drunk) person call again two minutes later. He didn't believe that he was calling a private house, and became very abusive, so I had to get out of bed and go downstairs to unplug the base station from the wall socket, so he would receive the engaged signal next time he rang. The next working day I rang the telephone company to complain, and they changed our number to something that was similar but had extra digits in it to make it completely different from the taxi rank number. Blessed peace!.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Years ago, we moved into a new office and plugged the fax into the newly provided phone jack. A few weeks later we received a long medical report! We faxed back "sorry, you've got a wrong number" but unfortunately the sensitive faxes, from all over the world, kept arriving, about one a month.

      We had sent a "you've hit an out-of-date number. who are you trying to contact" fax to a few senders and it turned out to have formerly belonged to the Medical Research Council's office at the local hospital. The MRC couldn't really sort the problem from their end because the number would have been in publications going back years, so we had to go back to BT and they gave us a free change of number They said it had not been in use for 2 years, so the system had released it for reassignment (we suggested what they could do with the number... erm, give it back to the MRC)

    5. Sherrie Ludwig

      Why didn't they....

      I will never understand why, at the advent of dedicated fax lines, the phone companies didn't just provide an "overlay" area code for faxes. It certainly would have saved that momentary annoyance of, on a crowded 6pt. type business card, you dial what you think is the phone number to the establishment and get the warbling scream of the fax machine instead. Worse because they were often one digit different, so a fat-finger dial would get the wrong one anyway.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Why didn't they....

        How would you have stopped consumers plugging their fax machine into a non-overlay landline?

  6. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    My first modem..

    A 36k speed demon had the software for faxing. Used have my dad getting very smug over being able to fax orders through to local suppliers on the rare occasion he couldn't be bothered to ring them instead.

    I've even got a few machines with modems built in kicking around (an old vaio and lenovo) so I could still have some fun with the stuff now (software permitting).

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: My first modem..

      I'm still running an active Hylafax connected to a USB fax modem (hard to find non-winmodems, but boot sales are very useful!).

      Granted, we've not had a fax in years, but the system is still there and works. Users just "print" to Winprint Hylafax Client printer (freeware), it gets sent over the network to the Hylafax server, gets queued and sent out as appropriate, and then the user gets an email confirmation with PDF attachment of what they sent.

      Incoming faxes do the same in reverse, popping a PDF attachment to an email to a given email address. For the last 2 years, it was nothing but spam-faxes, so nobody even bothers to check any more.

      But it's a fun afternoon project, but definitely a dying technology.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: My first modem..

      I've even got a few machines with modems built in kicking around

      I was astounded to find that a recent-model Canon printer that I bought a few months ago has a fax capability.

      1. JohnG Silver badge

        Re: My first modem..

        Yes - quite a few multi-function printers still include a fax modem and the associated "scan and fax" functionality - but I don't think many people connect them to a phone line any more.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: My first modem..

        My DSL router/PABX has built in fax facilities too.

        Not that I've ever used them for anything other than testing. i don't even get spam faxes - and I have a very large LART to deploy (fax protection service registration) if they ever do start happening.

      3. drgeoff

        Re: My first modem..

        Fax is still very much alive in Japan. That's why the All-in-One printers from Epson, Brother, Canon etc have it.

  7. Maelstorm
    Joke

    When I worked for the local phone company, we would get vendors that called in to help them with their connection to our network. Many of them were clueless. So, a common thing I would do is:

    "What's your fax number?"

    "Why?"

    "I want to send you some documentation."

    "Ok. It's ......."

    So I draw them a picture and fax it to them. It's insulting, but they never really caught onto it.

  8. RhoganJosh

    That reminds me of an incident that happened in my office back in the early 00's.

    one of our users was trying to send a fax, and as the fax lines all went via the PABX they has to start the number they were calling with 9 prefix, for an outside line.

    They later confessed they were having a bad day and jabbed the 9 multiple times, something along the lines of "Press 9 (jab) for an outside (jab) effing (jab) line (jab).

    They did not realise the fax was diligently recording each key press, and so when it dialled the number it went straight to 999. The user oblivious to what was happening just saw the fax had failed to send and walked away in frustration. The fax machine just did what was expected of it and kept redialling every 10 mins trying to make a connection...

    Not long after a Police car turned up at the office with a very irate PC demanding we turn the "bloody fax machine off". Thankfully I wasn't involved in the "fact finding enquiry" that took place but I did see it happening and there was nothing humorous about it...at the time.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      > Not long after a Police car turned up at the office with a very irate PC demanding we turn the "bloody fax machine off".

      The lesson there is that the external access code for your PABX should NEVER bear any similarity to the local emergency numbers.

      But, "quality british design" and all that......

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

        @Alan Brown - "the external access code for your PABX should NEVER bear any similarity to the local emergency numbers"

        Think of it as a safety feature: you're still likely to get through to the Police when dialing in a panic as an axe murderer breaks down the door to the office and you haven't realised it's a PABX line.

  9. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

    Castelle Faxpress

    I can't remember the model but we had a Castelle FaxPress.

    Was in the rack forever along with Rational Networks (Might have the wrong name) 24 port 56k dial in appliance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Castelle Faxpress

      Those were awesome. We had a 4 port model that was kept quite busy. Little thing just ran and ran. Only issue was the red light would illuminate about once every three months. For us, that was a cue to login to see who tried to print to the Faxpress LPT port (which we didn't use) instead of a network printer.

      I know it had some auto routing ability, but for our use case we had someone manually route incoming faxes. Worked fine until the assigned employee (not me, thankfully) sent our president's faxes to a temporary employee's account. I think there were just some brused egos after that one.

  10. Ozan

    I remembered the time I had to use a fax years ago. Thing is noone of the modems had any fax functionality. Not one on my thinkpad as well. I had to dig around internet to find a place to send a fax.

    1. Peter Simpson 1
      FAIL

      Fax...for when you want to send a slow, low resolution, black and white copy of an document you could easily have scanned and attached to an email.

      1. not.known@this.address Silver badge

        Ah, the good old days

        Before someone came up with this IP telephony trickery, when all you had was direct-dial phone lines, you could safely send a fax from your desk to someone else's desk and be pretty sure it wouldn't go anywhere other than where you wanted it to go.

        The same cannot be said of email. Given the choice between slow but secure and quick but shared with the alphabet soup brigade (and other, even less scrupulous actors), I know which I prefer...

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Ah, the good old days

          Fax machines are still on hot standby in every (good) financial markets ops dept for exactly this reason, plus that they (used to) work even when all other networks are down.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ah, the good old days

          "you could safely send a fax from your desk to someone else's desk"

          Or, more commonly, you could send a fax from your office to a shared machine somewhere in the vicinity of the desired recipient where the fax would lie in a pile with advertisements and joke faxes the secretaries sent to each other (precursor to memes).

          For bonus negative security points: early faxes had a carbon roll that was a great way to leak information. Later faxes sometimes had print buffers that were exploitable.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "for when you want to send a slow, low resolution, black and white copy of an document you could easily have scanned and attached to an email."

        Or as we used to put it back in the 90s - "a fax is a picture of a page, an email can have the actual content of the page - and one is 1000x smaller than the other - which means it gets there faster or costs you less on an international call"

        1. irrelevant

          Except when somebody scans in a document, embeds it within a Word document, and sends you THAT as an attachment ...

          Probably find the original document was typed ALL IN CAPS with spelling errors thrown in for good measure, too..

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Recently, someone was sending me a document containing a table of colour-coded rows, so they printed it out on a monochrome printer, scanned it into a PDF and sent the PDF as an attachment.

            I am astounded by the ingenuity of ignorance.

      3. Maelstorm

        The thing about a fax is that it's mostly secure unlike email. So if you're sending critically sensitive information, a fax is better than email. In fact, a courier with a sealed package that contains an encrypted disk is even better.

        1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

          Fax is not encrypted. Anyone listening on your line can have a copy

        2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Except the disk can contain malware. Faxes can't.

      4. Uffish

        re: "black and white copy"

        Here in France a fax has a certain legitimacy whereas a printed out email attachment doesn't, probably due to some arcane mix-up in the law. Professionals such as doctors and pharmacies keep using it for that reason, and also the sheer simplicity of the procedure.

  11. Dave K Silver badge

    Virtualising a fax server

    Nearly 10 years ago, I moved to a new company. We were busy tidying up all the IT infrastructure (way too many clunky and old physical servers doing menial tasks). I was given the task of virtualising the fax server. It wasn't used much any more for obvious reasons, but was still required occasionally.

    All seemed straightforward until I realised that HyperV doesn't support (or at least didn't then) the connecting of physical serial ports on the host to a guest VM. I ended up cobbling together a solution using a couple of freebie tools (com0com and hub2com) to create a virtual com port on the guest which tunnelled the serial data to a specific port on the network. The same tool running on the host intercepted that network port and routed the data back to the physical serial port on the machine (where the fax modem was connected).

    And it worked as well! I was always quite proud of that little workaround.

    1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Virtualising a fax server

      Upvote for the inspired bricolage.

  12. MarkB

    For future reference

    If you need telephone numbers as placeholders, it's perhaps worth looking at this page

  13. Admiral Grace Hopper

    Also works the other way round

    My desk phone number was one digit away from that of the Swallow Hotel, Leeds. There were some very tedious mornings as a result of that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Also works the other way round

      I knew someone whose surname began with the letters TAZ. Used to get really fed up at chucking-out time on a Friday when the drunks tried to find "TAXI" in the phone book...

      1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Also works the other way round

        Long before mobile phones, a friend of mine had a number just a few transposed digits from a taxi firm.

        When drunks called to book a cab, she just used to say, "We're really busy tonight, so it'll be about twenty minutes".

        This was based on the principle that they would not find the correct sequence of numbers to call back, and it saved her a huge amount of time and explanation.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Also works the other way round

          We once had a number in the office that was always used for personal calls, so it was common to answer it "Tartan Paint Company", "Up-and-Down Lift Co." or even something ridiculous.

          One day it rang, one of the guys answered "Underground Airways" and the voice at the other end asked about flights to Malaga! Turns out they had found an ad in the local paper, dialled the travel agents, got engaged, so redialled but tacked on the number underneath the first one, the ATOL number, and got us.

          It also resembled a Barclays Bank HR number. The occasional tearful call asking when they were going to get paid or similar got put in the right direction (we had looked it up), others generally got the runaround

    2. CliveS
      Gimp

      Re: Also works the other way round

      When I used to run my own business our phone number was a single digit substitution away from a local "massage" parlour. We would (too) often get calls requesting details of services and prices we offered (those were the better calls), or how much for massage with happy ending, bare-back without, and other services not provided by a small software consultancy. I now know more about that line of "business" than I would like... (Gimp mask icon for obvious reasons)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Also works the other way round

        'When I used to run my own [software consultancy] business our phone number was a single digit substitution away from a local "massage" parlour'

        "Hi, do you agile spurts, or do you follow the waterfall model?"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Also works the other way round

        Few years ago, discovered due some idiot that kept mis-dialing, that if you transposed the last two digits of my phone number, you would get the local Chinese takeaway around the corner. Very useful for where I had to give out my phone number to people that I didn't want to speak to.

        Also, back in 2000-2005, I used to get a phone call from Gill's mum.No idea who she was, but she kept dialling the wrong number every bloody week for nearly a year, and she thought it was hilarious that she had managed to do it yet again, never apologetic. If I didn't answer she would leave a message - which then I had to pay for to listen/delete.

        I started off politely, but one week - lost my temper and swore at her. Never had any calls since then though! Still have the same number!

        1. Scott 26

          Re: Also works the other way round

          I hate wrong numbers who ask "well, what's your number?"

          Who gives a fuck what's MY number - clearly not the number you want.... grrrr

          Or multiple wrong numbers in a row "I keep pressing redial and I keep getting you".... no shit sherlock.

          1. Maelstorm

            Re: Also works the other way round

            Or multiple wrong numbers in a row "I keep pressing redial and I keep getting you".... no shit sherlock.

            Yeah, that one. I had a few tickets dealing with a brain-dead or defective customer. They called in a ticket saying that they CCO, get wrong number. The give the number, I get someone down in the central office to hop on their line to make the call, and it goes through. So I check the routing tables and such and I don't see a problem. This takes about 30 minutes. So I call the customer to tell them NTF (No Trouble Found). Then they explain to me what they were doing.

            That's when you tell them to find the box the phone came in, package it, and return it to where they bought it because they are too fucking stupid to use a phone.

            1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: Also works the other way round

              because they are too fucking stupid to use a phone

              I have done something similar, but only once.

              I wanted to redial the last number I called, which was a sequence something like '**3'. Instead I misdialled '*3', which was a programmed short code to a local supplier. I apologised, and hung up.

              Then I had a brain fart & did what I had originally intended, '**3' to redial last number. Which of course was now the supplier...

          2. David Beck

            Re: Also works the other way round

            They ask this question so they can determine if they have mis-dialled or if they have been given the wrong number. This is to avoid assuming a mis-dial and ringing you again because the problem was they had been given an incorrect number or transcribed incorrectly. How would you make this decision?

          3. Sherrie Ludwig

            Re: Also works the other way round

            I hate wrong numbers who ask "well, what's your number?"

            Reply, "what number are you trying to reach?" If it is in fact yours, you can say, "you have been given the incorrect number." If not, "you have misdialed". Simple.

    3. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Also works the other way round

      My office desk phone direct dial is one digit different from a local insurance company.

      Unfortunately a national airline/holiday company is showing their usual (in)competency and has decided to start giving out my number instead of the insurance company one to some of their irate customers who want to claim back on cancelled flights and holidays.

      Even after alerting them 3 times to it, I'm still getting the damn things (the last one about half an hour ago). Particularly irritating when you're on a Zoom/Teams/Skype/Webex (we have all of them for the convenience of various customers) conf call and you get interrupted by one.

      It is certainly becoming very tedious indeed...

      1. dak

        Re: Also works the other way round

        When you get a wrong number, give the caller the number of the holiday company's competitor. I know from experience that will sort the problem PDQ.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Also works the other way round

          I just decided that rather than being nice and giving the correct number, I'd just tell the callers to contact the company back and complain that they're giving out the wrong number.

          That way as they'll be getting multiple people per week telling them rather than just me, it might actually get sorted.

          Either that or I'll get HR to have an official and formal chat with ABTA or whoever the relevant body may be about it as I'm sure like others have said it could be an open goal to phish for personal and banking details.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          Re: Also works the other way round

          Nice idea, but I gather this is customers wanting their money refunded for flight or holiday cancelled due to the coronavirus this year. Referring them to a different holiday company won't get their money back.

          However, you might be able to argue that if your number was misused on purpose to avoid refunds then RuinAir are in breach of their legal duty to blah blah blah and they could be fined astronomically.

  14. Empty1

    Wrong number in Mag

    Many moons ago I ran a fairly busy modem BBS and one of the magazines of the time had a nice big review of it - sadly printing the wrong phone number. Unfortunately it was for an old dear down the road. It was Hull Telephones at the time and I never did find out how they resolved the problem of her no-stop disturbances, I can only think of giving her a new number.

  15. ColinPa

    Whoops - hello Mum

    Going back 40 years when you could use the office phone for limited personal calls, we used to get a piece of paper monthly with all of the personal calls made from the office. You work out with your office mate whose calls were whose, and pay the money into an honesty box.

    One number was being called about 20 times a week, for about 2 minutes a time - even when I was away from the office. My colleague, Martin, denied it was him. so we phoned the number. The conversation went as follows "Hello xxxx building society", "Er hello mum, it's Martin, sorry, wrong number"

  16. Richard Gray 1
    Facepalm

    Phone forwarding

    The company shall remain nameless, but back in the day, when mobiles were no as ubiquitous around the world as they are now, it was common to use a Sat phone. mobile > Sat phone was even more expensive than Mobile > landline > Sat phone, and it was easier to keep tract of the costs.

    Imagine the suprise when the Bill that came in was HUGE! tracing thought the logs to find out who had made all the calls showed that it was in fact a local landline number.

    At the time the Sky (Satellite TV) used to have to "phone home" to make sure of your subscription. Or people would buy a cracked on from the back of a van that would phone a random number that in this case ......

    I think they ended up putting pin codes on it after that.

  17. Symon Silver badge
    Coat

    "Brrrrr... dunngadunng... braaaaarp"

    Where those noises really come from, as revealed on Monkey Dust.

    https://youtu.be/dTos3CsvnLQ

  18. logicalextreme Bronze badge

    When I worked in record shops

    Our fax machines would sometimes mysteriously dial the lines of customers who'd been particularly obnoxious/ranty/threaty to us. Never figured out why.

  19. Sam not the Viking
    Meh

    Wrong Number

    Our home telephone number is very close to the local branch of the Nat West bank. Some years ago, before internet banking, we kept getting messages on our answerphone from an old gent wanting some information about his current account.

    Eventually, expressing real urgency, he left a message and gave his name, address, account number and pin number.....

    We were so concerned, I rang the bank directly, explained what had happened and asked them to get in touch with the poor guy and perhaps remind him to safeguard his details over the phone. As you will understand, it took ages for the bank to grasp the issue. I'm sure the guy would have believed me if I had returned his call but that would not necessarily have sorted the problem or alerted the bank.

    We didn't get any more calls from him. I only hope scammers never found him; they would these days.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Wrong Number

      "it took ages for the bank to grasp the issue."

      WHy am I not surprised. These are the people who ring customers to talk about their finances and never feel it necessary to be able to prove who they are. Or have 3rd parties spam customers on their behalf.

  20. TonyJ Silver badge

    I used to repair fax machines...

    ...for Sharp Electronics UK.

    Bearing in mind this was the -very- early 90's and home faxes were still new and to some folks, genuinely space-age.

    I genuinely had to speak to customers (often of a more elderly persuasion) to explain one of two things: no, it really has sent it, even if you have the original in your hand (they honestly believed it somehow sent the original like a letter! Or (far more commonly) no, there is nothing wrong with either fax - try turning the one you're sending over...when they called to complain it was just blank at the receiving end.

    You used to be able to put them into a diagnostics mode as well and one of the tests was the fax tones. I was so practiced, I could tell a duff modem chip just by the slight change in the warble.

    Oh and then there was the time the MD brought a box in, plonked it on my desk and told me he'd told his mate I could fix his fax machine for him...he'd dropped it down several flights of concrete stairs.

    The "repaired" one he got was made mostly of scavenged parts from previously scrapped units.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: I used to repair fax machines...

      I had to support fax machines , along with the pcs, right up to a couple of years ago.

      Out of the hundreds of calls there was rarely anything wrong , it was always them dialling the wrong number , or the other number not answering OR in fact the other number not sending.

      People just dont realise they are making a phone call , and there are some easy diagnostics they can do themselves, like "does that number look like a phone number???" or try ringing it from a normal phone.

      Although , in the user's defence , I once saw a hideous looking error on the little LCD , totally incomprehensible jargon , that after some googling i discovered meant "out of paper"

      1. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: I used to repair fax machines...

        Ah yes... I'd forgotten the "it doesn't go" errors - most of which, as you say, were down to things like the person trying to send a fax to a phone or my personal favourite on a line that did both, the receiving person either picking the phone up and not then pressing start on their fax machine, or despite being told "I am about to send you a fax" not setting the machine to answer.

        Ahh happier, simpler times.

    2. Martin
      Happy

      Re: I used to repair fax machines...

      "....they honestly believed it somehow sent the original like a letter!"

      The first time I ever sent a fax, I carefully printed out the letter I wanted to send, then carefully made a photocopy for my files, and then sent the fax - and felt a total pillock as I realized, of course, that I hadn't needed to make a copy, as I still had the original in my hand.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I used to repair fax machines...

      "no, it really has sent it, even if you have the original in your hand (they honestly believed it somehow sent the original like a letter! "

      Honestly the easiest way to describe it as "It's taking a picture of the page and sending that to the other fax machine" - which seems to be the lightbulb moment

      and "look at the little diagram on top which shows you which side the text needs to be on"

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: I used to repair fax machines...

        "It's a photocopier, with the output tray in somebody else's office"

        Lightbulb comes on. ;)

        When I was working in Hong Kong and trying to fax mortgage documents to my bank in the UK I had to come into the office at some ungodly hour as my bank couldn't get it into their head to leave their fax machine switched on overnight.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fax will never die!

    So cmon, who still has to deal with these things in 2020?

    I know they're out there , due to various luddites refusing to move on . I bet most Builders supplies stores have them.

    This nhs trust I'm at is on a big push to get rid , but im not sure if they've done it yet.

    And theyll still have virtual ones. in fact , yup , just checked my printer collection . I ve got a fax machine right here , in the long list of "shit that isnt actually a printer" in the "Printers and scanners" thingy

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fax will never die!

      I bought a brand new Brother laser printer a few weeks ago. It has a fax function, even came with a phone cord.

    2. stungebag

      Re: Fax will never die!

      Until I retired a couple of years ago the computer company RM required a fax to place an order.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Fax will never die!

        Amazing, presumably due to cushy govt / educayional contracts there was wasnt any need to compete , innovate ,modernise, provide usable software or any of that tricky stuff

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fax will never die!

      We still often make purchases through SAP that go to fax machines. I suspect most companies have switched to digital "fax" machines (create PDF instead of printing a page), but I've had a vendor tell me their fax machine has been having problems, or someone grabbed the wrong page from it, etc. They're still in use.

      1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

        Re: Fax will never die!

        SAP and fax machines, together at last. *shudder*

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Fax will never die!

          SAP and fax machines, together at last. *shudder*

          Just wait until they spawn!!

          1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

            Re: Fax will never die!

            It's in the vents!

    4. logicalextreme Bronze badge

      Re: Fax will never die!

      Hotels were still using them about ten years ago for transmission of card details for prebookings (because it's a secure transmission method…that almost certainly leaves a hard copy of the communication sitting unattended at a publicly-accessible desk until somebody remembers to pick it up). NHS still uses them a fair bit as you know (I was delayed trying to get an X-ray a year or two ago because my GP refuses to hook up to whatever modern-ish system exists for referrals and they hadn't sent the correct fax over, or some such nonsense).

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Fax will never die!

        "my GP refuses to hook up to whatever modern-ish system exists for referrals and they hadn't sent the correct fax over, or some such nonsense"

        One of the silver linings of the CV19 cloud. GPs and pharmacies have been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century! Just a few short months ago, it was quicker to call in to the GP surgery and request a prescription renewal than to have to keep re-dialling the single phone line hoping to get anything other than an engaged tone. (They did already have an online offering, but my wife can't register for that because she doesn't have enough of the right kinds of ID to prove she's the same person that's been going to that GP surgery for the last 20 years.) They have a nice simple system now. A separate prescription renewal number you call, giving name, address DoB and prescription and it gets delivered a day or so later. Simple, works and minimum technology.

        1. Jean Le PHARMACIEN

          Re: Fax will never die!

          I think you'll find pharmacies haveen ordering your medicines from wholesalers via electronic transfer (not fax!) For over 35yrs. It's the GP to pharmacy bit that's been missing...(think private business NHS contractor=GP Practice communicating with private business NHS contractor=pharmacy) which was The bit the NHS had to sort.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Fax will never die!

            Oh yes, I remember Newbrain laptops with their one or two lines of green led display being in pharmacies many years ago. And it's not THAT long since I last saw one still there, in use.

        2. JJKing Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Fax will never die!

          Oh yes, calling to get a prescription renewal is the best thing to come out of COVID-19. It used to shit me to tears getting an appointment every 2 weeks and then wait for up to an hour coz the Doc always ran late. (Starts at 9am and by his second victim would be 15 minutes behind).

          Phoning in and picking up the script from reception and no waiting is just wonderful and saves me a lot of time.

        3. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Fax will never die!

          We've had online repeat prescription requests for at least a couple of years - and they send them electronically to my little local pharmacy.

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            Re: Fax will never die!

            My doctor started taking repeat prescription requests online a few years ago. Stopped a couple of years later. I'm considering taking my sickness elsewhere.

    5. shd

      Re: Fax will never die!

      I still use a fax machine to pay most of the monthly bills at my small company. Much more secure than online (only potential problem being between paper and dialpad), and I reckon it takes me a bit less time than doing it online as well

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Fax will never die!

        " to pay most of the monthly bills"

        how the hell does that work??

        You fax them a copy of some £10 notes? :)

        no , seriously , who , how ?

        Apart from just faxing your card details to some machine ...

        how does that work?

    6. renke

      Re: Fax will never die!

      Four fax servers in three different locations, with a PRI each. Low 5-digit count of daily faxes. Use case: Transmitting diagnostic findings to customers (mostly smallish doctor's practices).

      I will not comment on the state of our healthcare system...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fax will never die!

        To be fair:

        1. The diagnostic findings arrived, shortly after sending, with a confirmation of arrival on the sending end.

        2. Unlike email, it would be difficult for a third party (who doesn't have physical access to either facility) to intercept the communication.

        The main issues are poor resolution and people either not grabbing the faxes on the other end, or picking up the wrong ones.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Fax will never die!

          "2. Unlike email, it would be difficult for a third party (who doesn't have physical access to either facility) to intercept the communication."

          That depends on a lot of things. If you're referring to malware installed on the recipient's computer or the mailserver, you might have some point. The problem is that malware usually isn't on the mailserver and malware on a computer could catch any information entered from the faxed document anyway. If you're referring to intercepting the communication by tapping a line, email is probably better. It is possible to wiretap both types of lines, and in most cases such a tap will be sufficient to collect the message, but in the case of email there is some chance of encryption, whereas a fax cannot do that. In most cases, the connections between sender and sender's mailserver and recipient and recipient's mailserver are run over TLS, meaning the easiest place to attack is between the sender's and receiver's mailservers. Depending on the system, this too may be encrypted. If the message is secure, you can encrypt the message independent of any other encryption on the connection.

          1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

            Re: Fax will never die!

            good points. People keep touting fax as "secure" , but it isnt really.

            The only saving grace is I reckon you'd have to be in the vicinity of the sender or reciever to tap the line, whereas with email you could be anywhere .

            It reeks of "Security by obscurity"

            Anybody with a mind to could find a business they know is receiving a lot of card details or whatever by fax , fit a tap on the line and leave an automatic harvest running for months

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fax will never die!

              The thing is, it's a lot more trouble to apply a phone tap than to intercept digital communications. It requires physical access to phone wiring at one end or the other, either in the sender/receiver's building or at a nearby exchange. And then you have to know which line the fax machine is on. As opposed to email, which can be done remotely, the hack applied at one of several locations (sender's PC, sender's mail server, sender's ISP, receiver's ISP...), and simply filtering for the data you want.

              As another poster pointed out, sending an encrypted disk by courier is much more secure. But much more expensive, and slower.

              1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

                Re: Fax will never die!

                You can't, for example, have vast legions of phone tap script kiddies who can "travel" costlessly from all over the world to tap your physical fax line. Nor can they get automatically alerted to do so.

              2. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: Fax will never die!

                The problem with that logic is that it's not all that easy to tap lines at ISPs. If you work there, maybe. If you are able to get malware on them, sure. But really, it's not easy. Mailservers may be easier if they're not managed properly, but a lot of email goes through massive outsourced ones that have proven not bad. By far your best bet is to get malware on the sender or recipient's computers. That can steal lots of email very easily. However, it's worth keeping in mind that a lot of faxes these days will simply be entered into a computer. Malware on that computer can steal the entered information just as easily as it can steal emails. Meanwhile, if you do have some access to the lines in some way, whether that is with a tap on local wires or the relatively difficult though possible tap on an open line, you can steal a fax at any point. No, you don't have to know already what line the fax machine is on. If you have a large enough hard drive, you simply capture every line and you can write a program to pull out faxes at your leisure. If you want a smaller tap device, you implement a function to listen to each line and ignore it if you don't hear fax negotiation tones. You will then be able to collect a list of numbers with fax machines on them and all the faxes they sent or received. You can sort this list for the interesting machines and comb through those faxes, pass the received images with character recognition and make a computer sort for interesting faxes too, or even modify the fax data en route.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fax will never die!

      As the company my wife works for (Nation private healthcare company), has yet to give the staff their own email address (let alone provide them with a PC) all requests for medication etc have to be done by fax.

      In fact the weekly time-sheets are typed up and faxed to the head office

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fax will never die!

      HMRC will fax a tax code to your employer if your arsey enough.

    9. keith_w Bronze badge

      Re: Fax will never die!

      Doctor's offices in Ontario still communicate via fax, apparently in the (probably accurate) belief that it is more secure than email.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nursing Home

    Our home phone number is just one digit away from one of the local nursing homes. We occasionally get calls asking about a resident and I've been tempted to respond that granny is now in a much better place - but I've resisted that as a bit cruel and just given them the correct number.

    1. Paul Cooper

      Re: Nursing Home

      For many years, the communal phone in our map-room had the same number as a local saw-mill - but on a different exchange. We were on the big city exchange, as were the vast majority of villages around us. But the sawmill was in a village that happened, no doubt for historical reasons, to have an independent exchange. Most people didn't remember that the village in question was on a different exchange, and just dialled it as a local number. We got innumerable phone calls asking for quotes for fence poles etc., and some people got really irate when we insisted that we weren't the sawmill! We sometimes wondered if we could make a profit by finding out the pricelist of the sawmill and taking orders with a bit added on!

      1. logicalextreme Bronze badge

        Re: Nursing Home

        Yes; the ire of somebody who knows that they dialled the correct number, despite all evidence to the contrary, is a very special and particular kind of ire.

  23. Terry 6 Silver badge

    I mourn the fax machine

    We Brits get pretty crap service from a lot of companies. Complaints are usually avoided, by making email addresses impossible to find. And the "contact us" links on web pages are constructed to make sure that we don't contact them, by never actually linking to the page that has the web contact form. The "contact us" link takes you to an FAQ page full of questions that no one has ever asked. Which has a "need more help" link, which takes you to the generic "Help" page, which takes you to the "contact us" link.......(repeat ad infinitum). For a short while, while it was still fairly new, you could bypass this with Twitter etc. but by and large they've learnt how to dodge or ignore that now too.

    But a Fax! .

    That always got results. As good as a written letter, but immediate and cheaper.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: I mourn the fax machine

      This really grinds my gears. There ibsolutley no reason for anyone to queue on a phone line . they could ring u back in the order people called them , but thats another story.

      What i really resent is that big utility companies dont have a "Ticket" system where you can log your beef , by typing in a form , they get round to looking at it then transfer the conversation to you to read their reply and react , and so on , back and forth.

      simple. Like we do in I.T all the time.

      Instead the closest you get are these stupid chat bots that after an hour of chatting advise they are powerless to do anything becasue thay arnt sure its you , so someone will call you on the phone - which they dont

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I mourn the fax machine

        One company I'm forced to deal with (HSA handler selected by employer) has both phone and email options for support. And both go to real people. Except that the email-based support goes to someone who doesn't have access to do anything, and simply tells you to call the phone number...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I mourn the fax machine

          The police have a similar system.

          1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

            Re: I mourn the fax machine

            Last week I missed a Royal Mail parcel delivery. Due to Crow Plague the opening hours of the local office have changed to 6am-8am. WTF??? There's a 6am now?

            I managed to drag myself out of bed at bird crack, sat down with a cup of tea and the telephone ready to go through several levels of phone hell to try and get it redelivered. Realising I needed their phone number I went to the Royal Mail website.

            Amazingly, there was a "have you missed a delivery?" link. Out of curiosity I clicked on it. It asked for my house number and postcode, allowed me to select "blind bambie" for the "when did you miss the parcel" and immediately claimed they would try to redeliver the parcel in three days.

            And I hadn't even had a sup of tea yet.

            Three days later, and <insert Bloodnok quote here>, the parcel arrived.

            I don't know what's been happening at the Royal Mail, but keep it up!

  24. Mystic Megabyte
    FAIL

    Not A4!

    Our local doctor wanted to copy his car's tax disc (remember those?) so he popped into our office and fed it into the fax machine. The fax promptly chewed it up and became jammed. It took about an hour to gets the remains of the disc out :(

  25. A.P. Veening Silver badge

    Just another example ...

    of a phone number that should never have gotten out in the wild: Click

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We used to have a fax server

    One day we got a nasty note from our new (US) MD.

    He had been told that everyone could send and receive faxes. On his walk around, he had noted that there was "NOT A SINGLE" fax machine on the site!

    He had then urgently gone out and bought a large number of (fairly) cheap and (very) nasty fax machines.

    We did manage to keep that cost out of our budget but middle management developed the habit of faxing from one office to the next - using external phone lines.

    Did they not have fax modems/servers in the USA then?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sphincter-looseningly stupid?

    Yes, but then she divorced me...

  28. heyrick Silver badge

    Way back when...

    I used to live near Aldershot. The home phone number was one digit different to the... I guess it was CID or something. Wasn't the normal cop shop, it was whoever the fuzz called when things went pear shaped.

    So I'd answer and they, the polite buggers that they are, would immediately hang up. Loudly. So I'd count to ten and when the phone rang again would pick up instantly and tell them "you wrote the number down wrongly, go check it".

    Usually that was enough. It happened two or three times a month, so I'm guessing it was written down wrongly on a noticeboard or something.

    I was pushed on one occasion, thanks to belligerence (must have been management) to answer the phone with "trying the same thing multiple times and hoping for a different result of a sign of madness".

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Way back when...

      I was pushed on one occasion, thanks to belligerence (must have been management) to answer the phone with "trying the same thing multiple times and hoping for a different result of a sign of madness".

      But with the old electro-mechanical exchanges, sometimes a strowager relay would stick and not roll through the correct number of contacts, giving you a wrong number, even though you dialled the correct one. Re-dialling that same number again (and again) would eventually get you the right number most of the time.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Way back when...

        "sometimes a strowager relay would stick and not roll through the correct number of contacts,"

        The odds of this happening went up with the number of times someone had poked at it.

        The very best way of maintaining Strowager relays was to leave them the hell alone until they actually played - never EVER let the junior tech staff near them - and chuck 'em out if they were out of tolerance/couldn't be adjusted

        Unfortunately it was ALWAYS junior tech staff maintaining them, there was a rigid schedule of maintenance and they were always bodged back into service somehow

        Unsurprisingly, during the 1980s BT strike the number of faults recorded at BT Strowager switches went through the floor - which mind of made the points above

      2. swm Silver badge

        Re: Way back when...

        A lot of the old strowager exchanges had a mechanism to "absorb digits. In one exchange with 60,000 subscribers) dialing "2" would just be ignored; dialing "4" would also be ignored but would take the next digit (even 2 or 4). So dialing 242-xxxx would result in 2 (ignored), 4 (ignored but prime for the next digit), 2 (would actually step to the second level and go on to the next bank of switches).

        This could cause connections to numbers only loosely related to what was dialed.

        I actually saw this exchange (I think in Albuquerque, NM, about 50 years ago) and it was an amazing sight and sound. Continuous clickity-clacks and alerts etc. Amazing that they could keep this acre of equipment working.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Way back when...

          it was an amazing sight and sound.

          Strowger exchanges are like steam trains. You know they're old, obsolete, technology but there is something quite primeval in the sight and sound of that engineering on display, operating perfectly. It all went downhill from crossbar...

        2. ricardian

          Re: Way back when...

          In the old BBC Radio series "Journey into Space" (https://www.oldtimeradiodownloads.com/sci-fi/journey-into-space) a "Martian" is discovered to be just a computer. The sound effects for the "computer" seem to have been recorded in an old Strowger exchange - probably the best they could do in the 1950s.

    2. MrBanana

      Re: Way back when...

      For a while my number got mixed up with a local primary school. Belligerent parents often don't stop to to listen to what is said when the phone gets answered, and would start their rant before I could get a word in to say they had the wrong number. For some reason, in their angered state, this was my problem.

      Or otherwise it was the something along the lines of.

      "Hello, I need to talk to someone about Johnny not being in school today"

      "I think you have dialed the wrong number"

      "That is the school isn't it?"

      "No, as I said, you have dialed the wrong number"

      30 seconds later.

      "Hello, I need to talk to someone about Johnny not being in school today"

      "I think you have dialed the wrong number again"

      "Are you sure that isn't the school?"

      "Certain, have you checked the number is correct?"

      30 seconds later.

      "Hello, I need to talk to someone about Johnny not being in school today"

      "This is not the school"

      "Oh I must have misdialed, I'll try again"

      "No, I think you have the wrong ...."

      30 seconds later.

      "Hello, I need to talk to someone about Johnny not being in school today"

      "I'm afraid Johnny won't be coming to school here ever again, he is now excluded. Goodbye".

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Been on the receiving end before.

    After numerous calls from a fax machine, we decided it wasn't giving up, so maybe we should. I diverted the office extension to the departmental fax number and a few minutes later it spat out the fax. Cancelled the divert, rang the company who'd been trying to fax our phone all morning and we all lived happily ever after.

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Been on the receiving end before.

      good thinking!

  30. irrelevant

    Sensitive

    A few years ago we had several months where we got a spate of fax calls on our home phone. They would usually try two or three times then go away, and 1471, if it worked at all, would give me different numbers from all over the country that mostly didn't show up on google and answered, if rung back, with a fax tone. After one didn't give up and bugged us most of the afternoon, I dragged an old fax machine I'd bought at a boot sale out of the back of the cupboard and plugged it in, and on the next call, out popped a fax. A Prisoner Transfer Form from some court somewhere, giving full details of the offender and what he had been charged with and where he was supposed to be going to. With the court details at the top, I managed to get hold of the person sending the fax, whom was suitably horrified that I'd received it.. it seemed they had been trying to send it to Securicor or Group 7 or some such outfit with the vans with bars at the windows.. Googling them locally I found they had a single digit difference between their public fax number and our landline. Talking to the woman at court, it seems that there was a many-times-photocopied list of fax numbers that had been passed around the courts, and we were on the receiving end of enough noise in the photocopying that one number could look like another!!

    The ICO were very interested, but by the time they got back to me I'd shredded the evidence, and we hadn't had more calls: The courts were supposed to have already transferred onto some electronic system (probably email...) by then, and were apparently told to stop using faxes, even as backup!

    1. William Towle
      Holmes

      Re: Sensitive

      > They would usually try two or three times then go away

      I remember when callers who failed to get through were prepared to try again *wistful sigh*.

      These days people don't even explain themselves to an answering machine and expect you to call back, which is annoying to find after the service kicks in as you're trying to pick up. This happened to me so many times I turned the automatic response off to give me chance - and (of course) I then started getting complaints that when I was busy the recorder wasn't on...

  31. Bruce Ordway

    blowback or.. no more fax jack

    Reminds me of when auto-dialing software for faxing was relatively new at a site.

    A call was transferred to the IT dept... one person, me.

    I managed to get "hello" out when a woman started to unload on me.

    She stated our companies fax machine was auto-dialing her residence and that her mother had been awakened and had actually fallen on the way to answer the phone. When I asked her for some details she broke into a salvo of screaming and then hung up on me... after refusing to give me a phone number!!!

    I have never experienced a barrage of abuse like this before or since. I actually had to walk around for about 1/2 hour before I recovered from a queasy stomach and general weakness.

    Anyway, I did manage to figure out which phone number*** she had called from and began to unravel the mystery of the unwanted calls.

    The number in question did belong to one of our customers who lived in a rural area.

    I discovered that a single phone line was shared between the business fax machine AND their residence.

    i.e. a manual switch in their office, fax by day, home phone by night.

    And in this case, a fax they had requested had been transmitted during business hours the previous day, but someone in their office had forgotten to make the switch to "fax" on their end. Since our fax machine was set to resend any failed faxes, mom had been repeatedly disturbed until the switch in their office was made the next day.

    I remember I was able to add an exception to our fax system so this would not be repeated from our end.

    Then I called the company to explain what had happened.

    It turns out I reached the same woman who made the original complaint.

    She didn't say much as I explained what had happened.

    I received neither thanks or apology. I only remember her sounding surprise and embarrassed.

    *** Finding phone numbers - "in the day"

    I remember it being the beginning of the "Caller ID" era,

    or generate reports from an ATT logging PC that was attached to our Lucent Legend too,

    I was also able to finally able to unravel

    Luckily, I had le

  32. Luiz Abdala Bronze badge
    Boffin

    Fax as scanner.

    The most wizardry I ever did was to use a fax machine as a scanner, and save the .tiff file as an Word watermark. Insert nicely done logo on fax, get the fax-modem to take the call on another extension, edit some imperfections on MSPaint...

    We used that file for eons, and stopped spending on offset pre-printed material.

    But we never managed to dial the cops.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Fax as scanner.

      Did something akin to that back in the day when staying in hotels for business.

      One particular one seemed to like to charge (an inordinate amount) for printing stuff out for guests, but I found out that for some reason were happy to accept faxes for self-same guests.

      So as this was the dial-up era, ended up faxing the file I wanted to print out to the hotel's fax machine and used it as a cheap printer. Not the highest quality, but it did the job well enough for the needed purpose.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Fax as scanner.

      "get the fax-modem to take the call on another extension"

      Hmm, a 9V battery, some capacitors, a few bits of wire, and two phone sockets. Set one fax to manually send, the other to manually receive...

      Later on, I "scanned" a pile of business documents using the fax, my fake phone line, and a faxmodem. Company owner was too cheap to buy a real scanner...

  33. imanidiot Silver badge
    Pint

    Ahh, the good old days when sometimes you picked up the phone and you went deaf from an ear piercing screech as a fax tried obliviously to send you data. Lovely. (Ohh god, I'm getting old. I doubt kids these days would even know what a fax IS, let alone what one sounds like...)

    --> I need a few of those, maybe. Now get of my lawn -->

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      "I doubt kids these days would even know what a fax IS, let alone what one sounds like..."

      The company I work for, here in France, still uses fax for order confirmations (well, it's a photocopier with intelligence actually) because emails are unreliable and there's not a great paper trail. Armed with a document and a cover report showing a mini version of it, when it was sent, and to what phone number, it's a pretty solid piece of CMA armoury. Email just doesn't compare...

  34. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    We used to fax out work orders from a fax server to businesses who did installations for us. We came in one morning to a failed queue and a complaint regarding a number slightly different to the one in the failed faxes. It turned out that the destination had several fax lines and for some inscrutable reason forwarded overnight faxes from one line to another. That night, fat finger.....

  35. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Integrated fax systems were a surprise to some!

    Back in the early 90's, and very late one evening when I was providing on-call support, I was on a call from a customer who had managed to do an "rm -r" (fortunately on a data filesystem rather than /) on one of their systems, but who had very sensibly just hit the power button, and was wanting to recover as much as they could.

    I sat on the phone with them for a while, talking to them continuously, while I worked out in the background (by deliberately corrupting a filesystem on one of our test systems) how to scan the filesystem using icheck and fsdb to work out which inodes with zero link counts still contained the block list for the deleted files.

    Once I had this sorted, I got the fax number for their office from our customer records, and sent the script to it from my desk using our fax server. I then said I was sending them the script, and they asked how I was sending it, and how long would I take. By that time the fax had left the queue, and I just asked them if they knew where the fax machine for the number I'd sent it to was, and that they would find the script there. I could never understand why they were so surprised when they looked and found it. Shows that even technical people did not fully appreciate the advantages of an integrated IT system.

    Once they knew that they had the script, and that it worked (it set the link count in the inode to one, and then let fsck sort out re-linking the file into the lost+found directory), I left them to it, saying that they could page me again if they had any further problems, which they did not do.

    I got into the office the next day to find that the customer had completed the procedure, and had all of the data that they could not live without back (although not all of the files). The credit for closing the call went to the start-of-day person who called them back to confirm the state of the call!

    And did I get any thanks? No. Of course not. I actually doubt that any of the other on-call specialists in the centre has the same knowledge of the UNIX filesystem, the fax machine setup and the test systems to be able to do the same.

  36. cd

    Worked for a large company in the 90's, now gone, they used fax a lot, 24/7, for mission-critical stufff. Happened to overhear a comment about how when someone would accidentally call the fax number for our location with a voice phone, the older machine in the manager's office would emit lots of screeching trying to connect, then go quiet. Quite possible to hear it from outside, the newly built field office had thin, cost-saving walls.

    On one particular night, I stood out in the lot with my trusty StarTAC and dialed the fax machine, let it rest a bit, then did it again. Soon I heard the bumptious manager cursing in the office. He went to get up and complain to someone, so I dialed his office number, let it ring until he ran back and answered, then hung up.

    Repeated until he almost went mad. He would be holding the phone saying "Hello? What!' plaintively and with futile surrender-diminuendo. No caller ID at this company, costs too much.

    Went out to do some work, in the morning a company truck was there with a new fax machine, which was quieter. That particular brief treatment worked; the manager was far from perfect going forward, but now had a small reserve of empathy occasionally used, and newly acquired slight hesitation when winding up to blame someone.

    Worked for the successor company briefly, they had a position in corporate whose primary function was to read the instructions to any fax machine on company property to any field worker who called him. I called him a few times, i would read off the model number and he merely read from the manual for that machine, which were not supplied with the machines, perhaps to prevent the kind of thing I did in the first part.

  37. fidodogbreath Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Fax up

    Back in the 90s I worked for a company that published books and magazines for farmers. Our subscription department had assiduously collected fax numbers in our subs database (running on AS/400 IIRC) and thought it would be brilliant to save on postage and send out solicitations by fax. Further brilliance ensued when someone realized that calling rates were cheaper in the wee hours, and the die was cast.

    The first broadcast fax went out, and the next morning our inbound lines were flooded with complaints. In all the above-mentioned brilliance, no one had ever stopped to think that our customers were mostly small growers whose "office" was their house -- y'know, the place where they needed to SLEEP AT NIGHT so they could get up early to grow stuff. Many (most) also didn't have a dedicated fax line...so basically we were calling the shit out of their home phones in the middle of the night to offer them a $5 discount on a magazine that they already received.

    In our navel-gazing brilliance, we thought of everything; well, except for WHO THE #$%& IS OUR CUSTOMER?!? The response rate on that promo was one of our highest ever...if you counted all responses. The positive response rate, however...not so much.

  38. Ochib

    Fact of the day

    To play "Happy Birthday" on your phone, press 112163 112196 11#9632 969363.

  39. Maelstorm

    Spamming the wrong caller ID

    When I worked for the local telco, we had a few complaints where people would be calling in complaining that they were getting called by other people they didn't know. Turns out that the people that were calling our customer received a call with the customer's phone number. So they call back to see what they wanted. It took us weeks to finally track it down. We found a company (who shall remain nameless) near a national laboratory who had an ISDN PRI (ISDN over T1). Their PBX was programmed to send out the wrong number for the caller ID. I ran a protocol monitor on the PRI D-Channel (call control signalling channel, which is channel 24 on the T1) and caught them sending out false caller ID in the call setup message to our switch. How did we resolve it? I got a hold of a manager buddy of mine in Traps and Traces and gave the proof to him. He called them and told them (A manager has WAY more authority than I did) they had a problem and to fix it ASAP.

    It went away for awhile, then the problem came back with a different number. This time we had a suspicion of who was doing it and did another protocol monitor and yes, they were doing it again. Did the same thing. It went away for awhile, and then came back a third time with yet another number. I tend to keep documentation about the problems that I worked, so this time, I talked to my manager and told him this customer keeps doing it. So this time, the vice president of Network Operations got involved and got legal involved. They threatened the customer to either fix their PBX, or we were going to the PUC to get authorization to permanently disconnect their service and force them to pay for our time in tracking this down...all three times. Remember, the first time it took us weeks of detective work to track it down, and the company billed at $125/hour.

  40. Hazmoid

    Emergency numbers

    In Australia, you dial 000 to get emergency. However to get an international line, you dial 0011 so you can imagine how often people accidentally dial emergency services :)

  41. Blackjack Silver badge

    Joy?

    Unbridled joy of being able to send and receive faxes?

    That only lasted until you started to get spam.

    And unlike e-mail, faxes meant the spam got printed, wasting very expensive fax machine paper and ink.

    Fax machines needed to be carefully monitored otherwise you ended with hundreds of pages of spam being printed by them.

    And to stop the printing you had to reset to darn things. And some machines were freaking hard heads and tried to get back to printing junk even if you had then turned off for a few minutes.

  42. Marshalltown

    Ah yes, misdirected faxes

    There was always a certain degree of annoyance when you picked up the phone to the hopeful "scr-e-e-e-e" from someone's misdirected fax. However there is a more sinister - one might say - possibility. My wife was an RN at a large hospital in California. We had agreed to meet for lunch and I was waiting at the nurse's station chatting with desk person. The phone rang and she turned very red and said to the phone, "oh, thank you very much! Yes, please shred them all." I looked at her and she looked around and said, "that was <such-and-such new car business> in Roseville. Their fax machine just received a bunch of patient records!" She then called what passed for the hospital IT at the time and demanded that someone come up right away. I drifted off to a bench and continued to wait for the wife. IT arrived and there was a hurried and muttered conference with IT insisting "not our fault!" and the supervisor, who had been called in by then asking, "then whose is it?" Later I heard the rest of the story and that was that the hospital's network "must have been hacked" or??? All the information about the fax was wrong, beginning with the records should never have been faxed anywhere. No one ever figured out why they were sent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah yes, misdirected faxes

      No one ever figured out why they were sent.

      As a wild guess, someone meant to photocopy them & hit the wrong button, whereupon they were faxed to the 'last number dialled' ?

  43. Arachnoid

    Fax`s never die

    Working for a major UK food company they were still using a fax to send dispatch notes to the office on the same site until quite frequently. Working in Silos seems to be the modern lingo for that one.

  44. teambob

    Reminds me of an incident at an EFTPOS company I used to work for. We had a product for supermarkets etc. that would aggregate the data and make all the phone calls for the terminals down the one E1 fibre line.

    Of course what would a French programmer put as the default phone number 000... and of course the emergency number in Australia is 000. The volume of calls ended up causing an outage at the emergency call centre for ISDN and mobile calls

  45. Hairy Wolf
    Alert

    Fax for the memory

    Before the internet, DSL and VPNs swept all before them, companies would often link sites with leased lines. I worked for a comms manufacturer who made a mux that could merge voice and data onto a single kilo-stream link, saving the cost of separate voice lines. The voice links were compressed to save bandwidth and they had a fax relay mode that demodulated the fax locally and just transmitted the digital content to the other end. This was in use in small branch offices and one of these had a problem. If someone was on the phone and the fax was used, the voice call went into fax relay mode.

    Each voice channel had its own DSP, so a software fault was ruled out and the finger of blame started pointing at a 1U pizza box that housed the analogue interface between the mux and a standard phone connection. I had never seen one of these before, but that did not stop it becoming my problem as two tech support engineers "demonstrated" by talking to a phone attached to one line while getting me to listen to another. I could not hear anything over the wall of 19" racks of comms equipment in their lab so I took it away for further investigation.

    I injected signals and measure cross talk on the adjacent channel, but I had to put in one hell of a loud signal to get anything noticeable. I persisted. The PCB was just two layers so the grounding layout was bad. I added thick wires and managed to reduce what cross talk existed. How I could get such a mod into production without being lynched was a problem for later, so I too the box back to tech support.

    Weeks passed and I heard nothing, then I bumped into one of the tech support guys and asked how the modified box worked. He looked a little sheepish. They had taken the field service report at face value, but when he went on site he had noticed that the fax monitor was turned up to full volume. It was basically acoustically coupling to the nearby phone. When they turned down the volume all was well.

    Thinking back, I wonder what the BER was like, but now I'll never know.

  46. docca
    WTF?

    Not the cops -- but the post office

    Many, many years ago, I logged into CompuServe's SWREG "online store" to buy some licenses for an antivirus for the company I worked at the time (damn, I feel old now). Instead of 25 licenses, I typed 250. And also forgot to check the option to receive only the licenses through email. CompuServe had no billing forms to check, card numbers, nothing. They'd charge it directly to the account without as much as a "are you sure?" prompt.

    After a month or so I received a VERY angry call from the local Post Office regional director, requesting that I go there at once and retrieve my 250 packages, as they were filling an entire room and they would not send a car to deliver them. They sent one diskette for each license, inside a plastic case, inside two bubble envelopes. I asked them to SEND THEM BACK. I swear I could feel the hate from the person on the other side of the line in my soul...

    (and also got a VERY steep bill that month, that required quite a lot of talking with CompuServe's billing dept to get out of)

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