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In Japan, the Beeping Goes On

An interesting article in the New York Times reports there is a reluctance of Japanese companies and individuals to switch to a fully web-based communication system in place of using the antiquated, beeping fax machine. How ironic of the Japanese hesitation to switch to a more advanced method of communication considering that the country is one of the most technologically developed nations on the planet.

In Japan, the Beeping Goes On

The reluctance stems in part from the Japanese language being so complex that keyboards couldn’t handle the thousands of characters required to communicate in the language until the advent of the word processor in the 1980s. Before the word processor came on the scene, people would hand-write what they needed when placing an order with a business, for example.

Moreover, Japan is a nation that continues to grow older with a relatively low birth rate for the developed world. Since a majority of the population is older, they are more reluctant to adapt to a different mode of communication than they have been used to, which helps explain why older Japanese citizens still prefer faxes to getting an email address. Many of these same people may also not feel that email or other modes of web-based communication are secure enough to protect their personal information. Consequently, fax machine remains extremely popular in Japan. So popular, in fact, that 1.7 million machines were sold in Japan in 2012!

Nearly 100% of all Japanese businesses and almost half of Japanese homes have a fax machine. While banks and other businesses are trying to convince the population that using other means of electronic communication, mostly web-based, are safe and efficient, it’s been difficult to get the older generation on board. Some interesting alternatives are being introduced, such as a method that would allow someone to send a fax to someone’s smartphone, which could help bridge the divide between those who love the fax machine and those who prefer a smartphone. Japan has seen itself falling behind other countries in terms of technological efficiency, and may fall even further behind if the Japanese citizens don’t adapt and change their basic methods of communicating.

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