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Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001


The next tech boom: explosive electronics

Don't call me, fax me or ask me to watch TV. Don't even ask me to heat up a cup of water in the microwave. 'Cause I'm having a bad electronics month. Judgment Day has come for all the electronics in my house -- a collective kaput, consensual hara-kiri.

In the high-tech world today, you would think the Japanese would have invented products that self-destruct when they are finished. We have self-cleaning ovens, so why not self-cremating fax machines or self-exploding TVs? Or even something more gradual, like products that would slowly fade away until one day they just disappeared completely. At least we would have some warning it was on its way out.

You: Where's the telephone?

Your spouse: Just a moment. Let me get my glasses.

You: Did you see it yesterday?

Spouse: I could still see the outline of the receiver.

You: Maybe it disappeared overnight.

Spouse: That's OK. I've already bought a new one.

You: Great. By the way, have you seen the big-screen TV lately?

But instead, you go to make a telephone call one day and the telephone is already dead. Or the TV just doesn't turn on. It makes you wonder why electronics are so eager to enter the afterlife. No one can really blame the TV for giving up in these times, when all it has to report is violence, terrorism and civil unrest. But what could possibly await electronics when they leave this material world? After it goes to the garbage dump, maybe the TV's soul goes to electronics heaven, where it plays back great sports events of the times.

In other instances, I think it is just a matter of electronics having shorter life spans. Same old story: longer working hours and not enough rest. I'm pretty sure that's what happened to my facsimile machine: fax machine "karoshi."

Ideally, we could just repair broken electronics to bring them back to life. But in Japan, repairing something often costs more than buying a new product. That's why I think electronics should have insurance. I want my electronics to be covered by National Health Insurance. After all, I consider them dependents. Doctors could easily do electronics repair on the side. Besides, if electronics had regular checkups like people do, we could catch these problems before they claimed the life of the machine.

I also think that someone ought to teach cell phones how to swim. I just lost my third cell phone this year to drowning. Although this time I vowed not to get another cell phone, I am still suffering withdrawal symptoms. A vibration rips through my body every 30 minutes, a form of conditioning called Pavlov's telephone in manner mode. And I still have to resist the impulse to answer other people's cell phones in public.

But overall, I'm enjoying my new status: that of estranged. With no telephone, no cell phone, no TV and no fax machine, I'm finding inner peace and joy through being by myself. I've even discovered voices inside my head. There are other people in there -- you just have to take the time to discover them. And now that I am completely cut off from those of higher status who can order me to do more jobs, I have a lot more free time.

So I'm putting that free time to use. Although I haven't come up with the formula for self-destructing electronics yet, I've come up with an alternative: Electronics Heaving Day. It's a new Shinto ceremony designed to purge yourself of modern technology overload. The philosophy is "heave and destroy to achieve estrangement."

Contact Amy Chavez by e-mail at amychavez@excite.com. To subscribe to "Japan Lite" for free, go to www.amychavez.com .

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