Scottish inventor Alexander Bain worked on chemical mechanical facsimile type devices and in 1846 was able to reproduce graphic signs in lab experiments. Frederick Bakewell made several improvements on Bain's design and demonstrated his device at the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. Bain and Bakewell's systems were inferior and could reproduce only poor quality images. They lacked synchronization between the transmitting mechanism and the receiving mechanism. In 1861, the first practical operational electro-mechanical commercially exploited telefax machine, the Pantelegraph, was invented by the Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli. He introduced the first commercial telefax service between Paris and Lyon in 1865, some 11 years before the invention of workable telephones.
In 1881, English inventor Shelford Bidwell constructed the scanning phototelegraph that was the first telefax machine to scan any two-dimensional original, not requiring manual plotting or drawing anymore. Around 1900, German physicist Arthur Korn invented the Bildtelegraph, widespread in continental Europe especially since a widely noticed transmission of a wanted-person photograph from Paris to London in 1908, used until the wider distribution of the radiofax. Its main competitors were the Bélinograf by Édouard Belin first, then since the 1930s the Hellschreiber, invented in 1929 by Rudolf Hell, a pioneer in mechanical image scanning and transmission.
 Wireless transmission
As a designer for the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), in 1924, Richard H. Ranger invented the wireless photoradiogram, or transoceanic radio facsimile, the forerunner of today’s "Fax" machines. A photograph of President Calvin Coolidge sent from New York to London on November 29, 1924 became the first photo picture reproduced by transoceanic radio facsimile. Commercial use of Ranger’s product began two years later. Radio fax is still in common use today for transmitting weather charts and information. Also in 1924, Herbert E. Ives of AT&T transmitted and reconstructed the first color facsimile, using color separations.
 Telephone transmission
Prior to the introduction of the once-ubiquitous fax machine, one of the first being the Exxon Qwip in the mid-1970s, facsimile machines worked by optical scanning of a document or drawing spinning on a drum. The reflected light, varying in intensity according to the light and dark areas of the document, was focused on a photocell so that the current in a circuit would vary with the amount of light. This current was used to control a tone generator (a modulator), the current determining the frequency of the tone produced. This audio tone was then transmitted using an acoustic coupler (a speaker, in this case) attached to the microphone of a common telephone handset. At the receiving end, a handset’s speaker was attached to an acoustic coupler (a microphone), and a demodulator converted the varying tone into a variable current which controlled the mechanical movement of a pen or pencil to reproduce the image on a blank sheet of paper on an identical drum rotating at the same rate. A pair of these expensive and bulky machines could only be afforded by companies with a serious need to communicate drawings, design sketches or signed documents between distant locations, such as an office and factory.
 Computer facsimile interface
In 1985, Dr. Hank Magnuski, founder of GammaLink, produced the first computer fax board, called GammaFax.