Thursday, February 28, 2013

Japanese explain the technological fax of life

A recent story in the New York Times caught my eye the other day.


It seems the biggest rage in electronic equipment sales in Japan is the fax machine.


Yes, that ancient tool of the Pharaoh used to quickly send hieroglyphics, the fax machine.


It seems that the old fax has some unique qualities.


For one thing, it's dependable.


All you need is a phone line to send any message.


This made a big difference when the tsunami wiped out portions of the Japanese islands a year ago.


Internet signals were destroyed, but messages got through using fax machines.


The Japanese also love the personal touch afforded by the fax.


You can take a pen and hand-write a special message or greeting.


The Times article said Japanese love to fax take-out restaurant order forms with hand written admonitions for extra gravy or other personal requests.


In short, the fax is efficient, reliable, and allows a more human touch.


Just goes to show advanced technology isn't always advancing.


Years ago, NASA spent millions researching a pen guaranteed to write in all gravity conditions.


A Russian cosmonaut shocked the Americans by proclaiming Ruski technology equivalent without the huge price tag.


"Ees vhat ve in Moscow call… pencil."


Touché, Vladimir.


We Americans tend to embrace new technology blindly.


Without looking at its real purpose.


Sometimes faster isn't better.


Sometimes digital isn't more efficient.


It's just, well, digital.


Here's another classic example.


We have digitized our music.


Every sound has  been converted into bits and microbits.


When this first occurred, experts hailed the beautifully clean reproductions of old jazz and classical recordings.


And it was true that the sometimes infernal noises found on those scratchy LPs were eliminated.


The pristine sounds of Duke Ellington in digital format did make "Satin Doll" seem brand-new all over again.


Unfortunately, these clean-format reissues have removed the imperfections that gave character to the performance.


I want to hear Satchmo's breathing.


I even enjoy the coughing you hear in the background of George Szell's conducting Beethoven's Fifth Symphony at Severance Hall.



The fact is, sometimes not using digital information is a good thing.


I fear baseball will ruin the game by replacing umpires with digital sensors.


They've already gone to instant replay to check whether a home run ball went foul or fair.


The great managers, like Casey Stengel and  Tony LaRussa, worked the umpires according to their personalities.


They were artistic in conducting the nine inning ballet.


The non-digital aspect of baseball, it's humanity, if you will, is at the core of its genius.


That's the joy of it.


So, go ahead, technology, march in the direction you call forward.




I'm chilling.


Got my 33 RPM going, sketching a little pencil cartoon that I'm sending to my wife while traveling.


For those of you who think I'm really backward, I'll surprise you by not using a postage stamp to send it.




I'll tell you why.


Just got the fax warmed up.


Play Ball!

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