30 November 2011
Junk mail. It’s something most of us receive in the post on a daily basis. Multiply that exponentially and that’s the quantity of email spam that someone on average might receive in that same amount of undisclosed time. I’ve sometimes checked my junk folder with only a month gap to the previous round of mass spam deletion to find that there’s another 2000+ emails in that folder. Weird printing companies that exist somewhere in the far east offering outlandish deals on business cards, overtly formal letters of bank account transfers from purported princes of Africa asking me, a random Canadian in London, if I will take on their wealth in the event of their succumbing to a strange disease. That’s just the tip of the iceberg really.
Receiving junk mail by fax is another phenomenon: bad, dot-matrix style ads spooling painfully to the out tray with garbled graphics of houses to let and tasteless clip-art. An old friend of mine worked at a paint store that made regular use out of the shop’s fax machine. Apparently the percentage of junk mail that that fax machine received prompted my friend to take action against the spam-sending aggressors. The result is where this whole story starts.
“I just took three sheets of paper, penned them up so they were all black, and taped the three sheets together into the fax machine,” he said — or something to that effect. “Once the chained sheets went through and started coming out the other side, I’d tape the three sheets again into a loop.”
From there one would get an infinite fax message; the three sheets constantly rotating and when received on the other side the fax wouldn’t stop until manually stopped. The blacked out pages added more nastiness to the deed, wasting up the recipient’s toner as well as their paper. Yes, harsh revenge for those shameless fax spammers. This trick was what we then called a “loopfax”.
This friend of mine had a knack for telling stories and things that happened in his life and his telling of it was hilarious. As we had also played in a band together, a short time later after a show in Victoria, the loopfax came up again — this time at a small party at a friend’s house. Fueled by a post-gig high, likely lack of sleep and alcohol — the loopfax story struck a chord with those that hadn’t heard of it as it seemed like the most simple yet ultimately damaging form of technology-based office warfare that there was. The conversation started picking up and as we discussed the repercussions of loopfax usage (or mis-use), scenarios worthy of science fiction were discussed. That and a lot of laughing our asses off.
Imagine a future where man is slave to the machine. It is the year 2056 and mankind has deforested the entire planet to make paper to feed into the Giant Fax Machine. It has been receiving and endless fax message for years. Giant monoliths of printed fax paper obscure the sun, standing hundreds of stories high. The sky is polluted with chemicals from pulp and paper mills. All is dirty with the blackness of toner soot. One day our hero steps forward and ends the madness by simply pulling the plug. Mankind rejoices.
Sounds like a plot as goofy as Spaceballs or Darkstar. And even from there it went on, popping up sporadically over the following years. A friend of mine even did a small blog about it that’s still haunting the internet as a joke, full of suggestions for fax-based revenge and practical jokery — perhaps some modern Dada-style art.
To be honest, I’ve never even tried making a loopfax. If this short piece inspires you, try it at home and send your loopfax related adventures to me by email… or by FAX (scary ending music).