Long ago, in the mists of time before email, a device called a facsimile machine once roamed the offices of the land before dying a swift death on a cold Thursday afternoon in early 1997. Except in Japan, that is, where domestic and office faxes alike are still evolving into something entirely new.

The latest peculiar fax variant is the ¥39,000 (£158) Speax SP-NA540W from NEC . It has co-opted the communication methods of its evolutionary rivals by learning to handle email.

Taking work home

According to the NEC press release, the main purpose of the emailing fax is to keep worker drones chained to their jobs even longer. The machine emails PDFs of incoming faxes to their phones or home PCs through a LAN cable.

More cuddly illustrations show small children faxing their drawings from home to Dad's phone, thus cheering him up as he slaves away to underpin Japan's crumbling economy.

Image formats

While a computer can handle a full-size fax, the NA540 automatically resizes those sent to phone email addresses to a more manageable 640 x 480 pixels. It manages this by being aware of which addresses in its memory belong to mobile phones, plus it can be told if there's a preference for JPEGs or TIFFs instead.

On top of all that very un-faxy malarkey, there's a button to automatically tell nuisance callers where to hang up, 45 minutes' worth of memory for recording calls and two wireless handsets. It's available from the end of August and only in Japan.