Modern Forms of Communicating: Fax; E-mail; Video conferencing
Just as the conventional telephone carries voice, a fax or facsimile machine carries printed messages (words and pictures in photocopy form) from the sender instrument to the receiver instrument.
The sender of a fax message prepares the copy on a sheet (generally no larger than A4 size) which can be fed into the fax machine. He dials the destination number, gets the fax tone and feeds the message into the machine.
The printed message is converted into electronic signals as the paper rolls through the fax machine. This message is received in the same form at the other end on the paper roll that is attached to the machine.
Fax machines may have these additional features:
(A) Remote activation:
The owner may use a remote control device to operate the machine.
Despite power failure:
(B) The fax machine may be made to function even during a power failure.
The message sent may be retained in the memory of the machine. At the receiving end, in the absence of paper, the message may be recorded in the machine for developing a printout afterwards.
(D) Answering machine:
(A) Fax enables an accurate transmission of a document including pictures and handwriting. Colour faxes are also a possibility.
(B) Fax can be sent through a computer, in which case it is restricted to the messages created on the computer.
(C) A fax message can be confirmed on telephone to ensure its authenticity.
(D) Faxes are admissible as proof in the court. In this respect they are superior to email.
(E) With repeat dialling facility, a busy number can be reached as soon as it becomes free.
(a) It is expensive compared to email and post.
(b) Sometimes the reception is blurred due to channel defects or mechanical failure at either end.
(c) At the sender’s or the receiver’s end, the document to wrong people may be exposed. Hence it is often difficult to maintain secrecy in sending and receiving a fax message.
(d) At the receiving end, the message is printed at the receiver’s cost. In case unwanted messages pour in, the receiver has to bear the cost.
Internet and e-mail:
Internet is an international computer network that links computers from sectors such as government agencies, business houses, educational institutions and individuals. It receives information, stores it and allows it to be read on satisfying certain conditions.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) allow one to create the e-mail ID free, hoping to recover the cost through the ads to which the user is exposed during the use of email. A typical email address reads email@example.com. Some other ISPs are bsnl, yahoo, hotmail, and Gmail.
Note the use of only lower case (small) alphabets email in IDs.
Every time the user wants to send messages or check the incoming mail, he can reach his ID by typing a password which makes the mail account private. However, once you have submitted to the mechanism of email you do not know who might read this “private” information far away. As such email does not guarantee 100% secrecy.
(a) Email is by far the cheapest and fastest means of sending printed information (verbal as well as non-verbal). At one click of the button, hundreds of pages of information can be sent to hundreds of email addresses worldwide (to be noted by receivers upon checking the incoming mail or inbox).
(b) No paper is required. Messages can be created directly on the computer, and added on from different computer files, CDs, floppies, etc.
(c) This facility is now available in many regional languages of India.
(d) It is informal and allows the sender to remain anonymous (since he can use any name as his email ID. For instance J.K. Singh can use udankhatola as his email name).
(e) Organizations and publishing houses take cognizance of messages coming via email. Newspapers and magazines print letters that come via email.
(f) As long as you carry your password with you, you can open your email account on any computer in the world which has this facility. You remain unencumbered even with a mobile handset. You can just enter an internet cafe, pay the rent and use the email. Email is extraordinarily portable.
(g) You can have an address book in your email account, record the incoming mails, and edit them and so on.
(h) When you reply to an email message, the sender’s message is automatically sent back to him for ready reference.
(i) As human need and imagination guide, more innovations are possible.
(j) Email can enable an ongoing electronic conference. People across the world can “meet” on internet and confer on a topic of common interest.
(k) The receiver need not respond at once as on the telephone but can take his time. Emailing helps to avoid a direct interface.
(l) In an organisation, a subordinate may quickly and directly reach a superior on email. Email makes an organisation more democratic (as individuals have more chance of being heard by the proper person even if he is several levels higher).
(i) Email, because of the potential anonymity, remains an informal channel of communication.
(ii) Excess use and flooding of unwanted messages (especially from advertisers) is a major drawback of this system. Unless one takes care to block unwanted ads, one finds one’s inbox full of offers which maybe doubtful and insincere. Wading through chunks of email is one of the biggest problems for those who depend on email for their communication needs.
(iii) One may not be private while using the computer for emailing. To that extent the secrecy is lost.
(iv) In case the receiver is unable to open his email account as soon as a message is received, the message cannot work for him.
Videoconferencing and Teleconferencing:
This mode of communication begins in teleconferencing. A number of telephones are simultaneously connected to one another. Teleconferencing is a facility enabling people in different parts of the world to have an audio meeting (as opposed to dialogue), saving on transit time and hotel stay. It helps in thrashing out a variety of opinions on a subject to reach a faster conclusion.
A further advance in this technology is computer teleconferencing. The participants can react to the messages and inputs for the others’ knowledge. They may not even be present simultaneously for the computer teleconference but add their contribution at their convenience.
Videoconferencing, however, is the closest it gets to seeing and hearing one another without being present together. The technologies used in a videoconference are: monitor screen, camera, microphone, codec (compressor-decompress or), equipment control pad at each location, and internet connectivity. With the passage of time, this is becoming more popular and easier to use. You often see it in TV interviews.
You often see it in TV interviews. For a videoconference, the participants get into a special room at their respective locations, equipped with the gadgetry. They can see, hear, speak to others and show exhibits without physical presence together.
The entire proceedings can be recorded on video tapes. As someone has jocularly put it, except for the snacks and coffee, everything else is transmissible in a videoconference. At present, the privilege of the richer business houses, videoconferences are set to gain wider popularity.
Video classrooms are another possibility in this field, where an expert faculty member may teach a number of classes in a number of towns simultaneously and answer the participants’ queries.