Well before the internet made it a breeze to instantly send a photo from one side of the world to the other, this ancient-looking machine, the United Press International UPI Model 16-S, scanned black and white photos and sent them across the globe via phone lines.
Used by news agencies from the early 1970s all the way up until the early ’90s, the UPI Model 16-S slowly scanned a black and white photo spinning on a drum using a laser, and than sent that analogue data along, line-by-line, over phone lines that pre-dated high-speed fibre optics.
Scanning and sending a black and white photo took about eight or nine minutes, assuming you had a reliable phone connection. And when colour models were later introduced, that jumped to a minimum of 26 minutes to transmit each image.
Over time the technology used in these types of machines improved with faster scanning times, better image quality, and transmissions that took just a couple of minutes. But when digital cameras eventually arrived, they made these types of machines obsolete almost overnight. Sending a photo electronically was still no where near as fast as it is today, but since it was a perfect digital copy there was no loss in quality, and it didn’t matter if it was black and white or colour.