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Japan’s love affair with the fax machine – a strange relic of technological fantasies

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With Japan riding the crest of its postwar economic miracle, Sony chairman Akio Morita and Japan’s Minister of Transport Shintarō Ishihara unleashed a manifesto. The document, published in 1989, contained a prophecy that propelled it to domestic bestseller status, and into the concerned hands of officials at the CIA.

At the time, the authors noted, the American and Soviet superpowers had become “dependent on the initiative of the Japanese people” in developing new technology, as exemplified by the country’s dominant production of semiconductor chips. For Morita and Ishihara, this signalled “the end of modernity developed by Caucasians” and the emergence of “an era of new genesis” led by Japanese technological supremacy.

Fast forward to 2021, and Japan’s high-tech image is peeling away. “Japan needs a software update”, the New York Times tells us. The country’s octogenarian IT minister, Naokazu Takemoto, has been mocked for his inability to maintain a functioning website. Japan, it seems, is lagging behind in the global race to digitise, despite being the home of Panasonic and Mitsubishi, of bullet trains and neon-lit urban life.

And nowhere is this better symbolised than in the country’s ongoing love affair with the fax machine. The 20th-century technology is still a fixture in many Japanese offices, where there remains an insistence on paper documents........

© The Conversation

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