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German parliament to stop using fax machines

You know the song — “Get up (get on up), stay on the scene (get on up), like a fax machine…”

Unfortunately (or not, depending on who you ask), the fax machine can no longer stay on the scene at the Bundestag from the start of the next legislative period, the chamber’s Council of Elders decided on Thursday.

Fax machines — devices that scan, print and transmit documents through a phone line, ubiquitous in the 1970s — have had a good run. Young parliamentarians in particular were surprised at how often they were used instead of emails in the Bundestag.

Marco Buschmann, parliamentary secretary of the FDP, said he was pleased to see that the “Bundestag had arrived in the 21st century.” Left Party Parliamentary Secretary Jan Korte called the decision a “blatant change”, and his colleague Cornelia Möhring joked that she had only just learned how to use them — instruction manuals for the devices, sometimes also called telecopiers, are often over a hundred pages.

The German government, too, is addicted to faxing. Responding to an October inquiry by the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the federal government revealed it was still using over 900 fax machines.

The devices are primarily used to exchange classified information, especially in the foreign ministry, where more than 200 machines remained active last October. The ministry of labor used 135 machines, and the finance ministry 130. In contrast, Angela Merkel’s chancellery had just “a few” fax machines — but is known to rely on a pneumatic tube system.

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