A very rapid technical evolution…

A Forgotten Technological Change.

… Telex, Fax, E-mail… what’s next?

Eugenio Magdalena
5 min readNov 16, 2019

With my aunt Mary, and my younger brother Joaquin, in a photo taken just before we all immigrated to Venezuela in 1957.

Many years ago, in February 1986, I was initiating my career in a multinational, American, Insurance company in Spain.

A bit earlier, in December 1985, I have decided to leave Venezuela, in whose capital Caracas I have lived always since I’ve emigrated from Spain along with my parents and younger brother at the end of 1957.

Just in the previous year to my departure, 1984, the country’s currency (The Bolivar) has been devaluated again (at Bs. 13.40 per dollar, from Bs 7.50) after many years (since 1961) of stability at Bs.4.30 per USA dollar, and as an Economist (I graduated in 1979), I envisaged the long-term prospects for Venezuela as very bleak and problematic, but of course, there was no way I even imagined the “socialist” disaster awaiting the country.

Unfortunately, I was right about it, since Venezuela’s economy had evolved from bad to worse ever since my departure, especially since the arrival to power of Chavez and his followers in 1998.

The death of the tyrant Hugo Chavez brought his inept henchman Nicolas Maduro to power in 2015, and ever since Venezuela's problems exacerbated, with widespread famine, lack of everything, long ques, street crime everywhere, inflation of an incredible 1 million %, the Dollar exchange rate of approximately 1 US Dollar=Bs.1 million, all causing that millions of Venezuelans left the country, emigrating principally to Colombia and other South American countries.

Of course, as I said, I could not have anticipated the magnitude of those problems at the time, but I did foresee a future deterioration of the then prevailing economic conditions of the country.

So, moved by that thinking, taking advantage of the fact that my parents owned an unoccupied apartment in Madrid, and with the boldness and lack of fear to the uncertainties of the future, which youth and an earlier emigration from Spain has provided me with, I decided to emigrate again, this time back to Spain and in the company of my wife and son (actually, they joined me three months after my departure trip).

In fact, Spain was about to join the European Union, and a flood of new investment money was expected to downpour into Spain, mainly from Germany, as eventually, it did happen.

I had formal University education as an Economist, spoke and wrote good English and held an MBA, which I’d obtained in England, so I considered Spain a good bet and surely a place where I could find a good job.

And it was an excellent bet, as, after recovering my Spanish nationality in the Spanish consulate in Caracas, I traveled to Spain and arrived at Madrid in December 1985, and in February 1986, as I already said, I started working for a multinational, American, Insurance company, in which I developed an almost 17 years career, which encompassed five different countries.

Adapting to Spain’s society though wasn’t easy for me.

In Spain, I was initially considered as a “sudaca”, a condescending, pejorative term used by the Spaniards to refer to the Latins.

It is true that people became a bit disconcerted when I showed my DNI (Spanish identity document), which proved that I’d been born in Spain, which helped me a lot, but the paradox was that, for most purposes, I was a foreigner in Spain and also in Venezuela, for in spite of having acquired the Venezuelan nationality at 18, in spite of my 100 % Venezuelan idiosyncrasy and customs, there was always someone there who reminded me that I’d not been born in Venezuela (As if one was able to choose nationality at the time of birth!).

Fortunately, that chauvinistic sentiment did not permeate to the country’s educational authorities, which in 1980, decided to concede to me a scholarship to follow post-graduate studies in England, for which I’d feel eternally grateful.

But, just continuing with my experience in Spain, in barely six months after my arrival, I revolutionized the branch at Valencia, a coastal city on the East of Spain, where I was sent after intensive training of 1 month at the company’s H.O. in Madrid.

For starters, I moved the office — very old — of a location very close to the Central Market, to space in a modern building in Valencia’s financial center.

We transferred (For a price) the lease contract of the previous office space (Too big, too old and almost empty, because the branch had only one administrative employee) to a local Accounting firm and moved to a smaller office.

With the transfer’s money, we bought new and modern furniture for the new office, much smaller, simply adapted to our real needs, but better placed and more modern.

Later, I educated and nominated new agents and expanded our operations to the neighboring province of Castellon.

Nowadays, it might seem curious and old but in those days, it wasn’t possible — like today — to send documents instantly from one location to another (We used urgent postage mail whenever we needed to send something, say to USA’s H.O., which always took a long time to arrive at destination).

If we wanted to send a memo to Madrid’s H.O. for instance, copying several people, we used a telex machine.

In the office, we had a telex machine for that purpose.

Telex machine. Photo: Wikipedia.

The message had to be written in the machine’s keyboard, similar to a typewriter, and then the machine issued a perforated tape.

Passing the tape through a device in the machine, allowed you to send the message to a single addressee.

For more than one recipient of the same text, you needed to pass the tape through the device as many times as needed, adding each time a new recipient.

The advent of the Facsimile machine or Fax, as people call it, seemed like a miracle to me.

Fax machine. Photo:https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1200/0*b22BaVPrlyco91yW.png

Identical copies of an original document could be sent everywhere to a user’s number, simply by passing the original document, through the Fax machine.

It seemed like magic!

Nowadays, a document, photography, or a graph, can be sent, with almost no effort, to anyone’s e-mail address, or be saved into a device — even a portable one — and later sent directly to the recipient’s email address.

However, today we got so used to it, that it doesn’t marvel us anymore!.



Eugenio Magdalena

Eugenio is a disabled Economist (UCAB, Caracas), cursed a post-graduate Diploma in Marketing (Strathclyde University, Scotland, UK), and an MBA (England, UK).