My uncle Armando has been in my mind a lot lately; more so than usual. In a way he is always around as I’m named after him, as is my grandfather and so is my kid; we are all named Armando, but he came up with my nickname Mandy, which has become my de facto name.
My uncle was a very successful car dealer with several car dealerships in Havana and then in Miami, San Juan and Caracas, selling Fords, British Fords, Subarus, Mazdas, Fiats, Lancias and his beloved Ferraris. He always had time to pick me up and drive me around on his weekend visits to dealerships. Even before I understood what work was, I was working part-time side-by-side with him for what seems all my late childhood and teenage years. In return, I got the greatest of gifts as some of his business acumen and a lot of his sense of humor rubbed off deeply on me and predestined a big chunk of who I am today. He is no longer with us, as he transferred to the Big Dealership in the Sky many years ago. But his presence fills my business days in many ways.
He also was a great gadget guy, although back then we had no idea what a gadget was. We had stuff like compact film cameras and Beta video players to business-related gadgets like telex machines and faxes. On a trip to visit one of his dealerships in Miami during the late 70s, in my role as official sidekick, I saw a fax machine for the first time. This thing was beyond any science fiction stuff I had ever seen in movies: a way to send a piece of paper via telephone. Back then, a Florida bank loaned the dealership a $12,000 fax machine so the dealer could transmit one-page credit applications to the bank in just 20 minutes. (That’s not a typo. It took 20 minutes.)
Today I get my faxes on my smartphone without even owning a fax machine while using a fax number that was given to me for free. Talk about technological paradigm shift in a single generational cycle. This all happens using a service called eFax. These guys have been around for an eternity in dot.com terms. Their web-based service has been available long before the smartphone boom of late. Their desktop and web apps are very well-designed and provide an excellent user experience.
Like all great apps, this one is free. Their free service comes with a dedicated fax number, which will most likely not be in your same area code as your phone number (you must pay their premium charge for same area code numbers). This used to be a big deal but now, in the era of national roaming plans for cells phones, no one is attached to their residential area code anymore.
Apps became popular for smartphones and the eFax folks follow suit with a free app that will alert you immediately and display faxes that you receive. This has proven to be a great tool. Faxes are not as common as they used to be, but we still have several business partners that hit the technological glass ceiling with the fax machine and will not email you a scanned document if their business depended on it. Like all good sales guys we have to adapt to our customers’ needs, so eFax is our way of engaging those customers while connecting them to our all-digital communications hub. In a strange way eFax is a handshake between old tech and new tech.
I think my uncle would probably be a smartphone user if he was around today. He was the kind of guy who was not big on regrets, but one regret I do have is that he never had a chance to see me as a writer for an industry magazine. Maybe someday soon I can Quantum fax you an article, Uncle Armandito!