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History of Computing in Japan

from 1500 onwards

This chapter is a narrative on the higlights of historic computing events in Japan

Computing, in the sense of the main time line, in Japan started probably with the adoptation of the Soroban or Abacus as it is known in western countries.



apr. 1500

The Abacus is introduced in Japan from the mainland of China



Fujitsu Ltd. put the first Japanese computer on the marked: the Facom-100.



Fuji Photo Film Co. in Japan develops a 1,700- vacuum-tube computer for lens design calculations.



Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. develops the Musasino-1, the first parametron computer. It uses 519 vacuum tubes and 5,400
parametrons—logic elements based on the principle of parametric excitation and invented by Eiji Goto in 1954.

Japan’s Electrotechnical Laboratory develops a transistor computer, the ETL Mark III, that uses 130 transistors and 1,700 diodes.



In Japan a computer based on the principle of the parametron was produced: HIPAC. The parametron principle was technological a completely unknown phenomena. (see also 1954 and Masusino and Principle of Parametron). The machine has a magnetic drum as memory.

parameter computer in japanThe parametron computer PC-1 is constructed, shown is the machine in the spring of 1958 when it was operating but not yet completed. Eiichi Goto is on the right; Hidetosi Takahasi on the left.(19)


NEC starts to build electronic computers: NEC 1101 and 1102


In June, Japan’s first commercial transistor computer, NEC Corp.’s NEAC 2201, is demonstrated at an exhibition in Paris.


At Texas Instruments, Jack Kilby, Jerry Merryman, and James Van Tassel invent a four-function handheld calculator. This is the result of a project initiated by Busicom. A Japanes frirm that gave the assignment to T.I. to develop a calculator. Busicom in the meanwhile goes out of business and T.I. further develops the microprocessor. This results into the explosive growth of the micro computer industry.


Japan grabs a big piece of the chip market by producing chips with 64 Kbits of memory.


Japan launches its “fifth generation” computer project, focusing on artificial intelligence.


The CD-ROM, introduced by Sony and Philips, provides significantly greater storage capacity for digital data. Eventually the CD will make the 3.5" floppy almost obsolete.

NEC manufactures a 256-Kbit chip, and IBM introduces a 1-Mbit RAM chip.

Most important machines and inventions



Manufacturer Type Country Date Reference












Software developments





Other interesting developments








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Last Updated on 20 December, 2005 For suggestions please mail the editor in chief 

Footnotes & References