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Hiroshi Wada: Pioneering Electronics and Computer Technologies in Postwar Japan
July-September 2008 (vol. 30 no. 3)
pp. 84-89
Hyungsub Choi, Chemical Heritage Foundation
Chigusa Kita, Kansai University
Hiroshi Wada was a pioneer in Japanese semiconductor and computer technologies in post-World War II Japan. His influence is widely felt in diverse technical fields, including semiconductor manufacturing, computer technology, information processing, and character code standardization. He also played an instrumental role in shaping the high-technology policy during the postwar reconstruction of Japan.

1. Wada's doctoral thesis was entitled "Research on Electrode-type Electric Boiler."
2. For an overview of Wada's career, see Y. Nakagawa, Nihon no handōtai kaihatsu [The Development of Semiconductors in Japan], Daiyamondo-sha, 1980, p. 40; and S. Takahashi, "Japanese Computer Pioneers: Wada Hiroshi, 1914–2007"; see h-wada_e.html; S. Endo, Keisankiya kaku tatakaeri [How Japanese Computer Engineers Struggled], ASCII, 1996 (in Japanese); The Foundation for C&C Promotion, ed., Konpyuta ga Keisanki to yobareta jidai [The Age when Computers Were Called Calculators], ASCII, 2005 (in Japanese).
3. Wada quoted in Nakagawa, p. 40.
4. The only record of Wada in the von Hippel papers at MIT is in the "List of Former Lab Members," n.d., box 3, folder 11, Archives Collection #321, MIT Archives, Cambridge, Mass. Wada quoted in Nakagawa, p. 41.
5. H. Matsuo, Supāzunōshudan, Densōken [Super Brain Group: ETL], Konpyuta Ejisha, 1987, pp. 125-126 (in Japanese).
6. H. Wada, "Kaigai kenbun—Amerika no denki gakkai to denki kōgaku no dōkō(So no 2) [Observations from Abroad: Trends in Electrical Engineering in the United States (Part 2)]," Kōgyōgijutsu, vol. 3, no. 7, 1953, p. 30 (in Japanese).
7. "Denshi-bu o shinsetsu [Newly established Electrics Division]," Denshi News, July 1954, (in Japanese).
8. For Wada's efforts within MITI, see H. Akio, "Denshi KōgyōShinkōRinji Sochihōno seiritsu katei" [The Establishment of the Extraordinary Measures Law for the Promotion of Electronics Industry in Japan], The Keizaigaku [J. Economics], vol. 59, Oct. 1997 (in Japanese).
9. S. Partner, Assembled in Japan: Electrical Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer, Univ. California Press, 1999.
10. For the full text of Denshinhō, see M. Watanabe, "Denshi KōgyōShinkōRinji Sochihōni tsuite [On the Special Measures Law for the Promotion of the Electronics Industry]," SangyōKagaku [Industrial Science], vol. 68, Oct. 1957, pp. 28-45 (in Japanese).
11. J. Law, "Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion," The Social Construction of Technological Systems, W. Bijker, T.P. Hughes, and T. Pinch eds. MIT Press, 1987, pp. 111-134.
12. , Both Kikuchi and Tarui were members of the ETL Physics Division when they were recruited by Wada.
13. Matsuo, Supāzunōshudan, pp. 135ff.
14. For more details on ETL's transistor development project, see H. Choi, "Manufacturing Knowledge in Transit: Technical Practice, Organizational Change, and the Rise of the Semiconductor Industry in the US and Japan, 1948–1960," PhD dissertation, Johns Hopkins Univ., Dept. of the History of Science and Technology, 2007, Chap. 4.
15. S. Takahashi, "Early Transistor Computers in Japan," Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 8, no. 2, 1986, pp. 144-154.
16. S. Takahashi, "A Brief History of the Japanese Computer Industry Before 1985," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 18, no. 1, 1996, pp. 76-79, During this period, Japanese researchers at the Electrical Communications Laboratory had been working on a digital computer based on an indigenous electronic logic element called "parametron," invented in 1954 by Ei'ichi Goto, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo. The two-pronged strategy for technical development was typical in Japanese research management since the Meiji era. See M. Fransman, The Market and Beyond: Cooperation and Competition in Information Technology Development in the Japanese System, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990, pp. 13-23.
17. E.C. Berkeley, Giant Machines; Or, Machines That Think, Wiley, 1949, Wada later recalled that he became aware of Berkeley's book during his stay in the US in 1951–1952. See H. Wada, "Memoirs of a Survivor," Early Years in Machine Translation: Memoirs and Biographies of Pioneers, W. John Hutchins, ed., John Benjamins, 2000, pp. 377-386.
18. H. Wada, "Silver Jubilee of Machine Translation," JōhōShori [IPSJ Magazine], Feb. 1981, pp. 1-4, (in Japanese). Also, see the IPSJ website on early Japanese computers: .
19. S. Takahashi et al., "English-Japanese Machine Translation," Information Processing: Proc. Int'l Conf. Information Processing, UNESCO, 1959, pp. 194-199, Wada also presented another paper at the same conference: H. Wada et al., "An Electronic Reading Machine," pp. 227-232.
20. Wada's articles on character code standardization include H. Wada and S. Takahashi, "On Codes of Code-Kai," IPSJ Magazine, vol. 1, no. 2, Sept. 1960, pp. 107-109; H. Wada, "International Standardization for Computers," IPSJ Magazine, vol. 3, no. 2, Mar. 1962, pp. 83-86; "Report on the Standardization Meeting," IPSJ Magazine vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 1964, pp. 1-2; H. Wada and H. Aiso, "Standardization of Character Codes," IPSJ Magazine, vol. 6, no. 6, Nov. 1965, pp. 301-307; H. Wada, "Report on ISO/TC 97 and Tokyo Meeting," IPSJ Magazine, vol. 7, no. 4, July 1966, pp. 213-220; "Activities of Standardization Committee in 1967," IPSJ Magazine, vol. 9, no. 4, July 1968, pp. 211-218. (All articles in Japanese.)
21. For example, see Y. Aida, Denshi rikkoku Nihon no jijoden [Autobiography of Japan as a Nation Built on Electronics], 4 vols., Nihon HōsōShuppan Kyōkai, 1991–1992 (in Japanese).

Index Terms:
Hiroshi Wada; Japan; information processing; industrial policy
Hyungsub Choi, Chigusa Kita, "Hiroshi Wada: Pioneering Electronics and Computer Technologies in Postwar Japan," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 84-89, July-Sept. 2008, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2008.48
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