Japanese Computer Pioneers

Okazaki BunjiOkazaki Bunji

Okazaki Bunji was born on July 7, 1914, and graduated from Physics Department, School of Science of Tokyo Imperial University in 1939. Immediately after the graduation, he joined Fuji Photographic Film Co., where he engaged in designing optical lens, which required a vast amount of numerical calculations. When Okazaki was thinking over his vague idea of electronic means to do such calculations, he encountered a tutorial article on IBM-SSEC (Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator) by Ando Kaoru that appeared in August 1948 issue of 'Asahi Science', and learned of the possibility of electronic calculation. He wrote a company internal report entitled, " About an Automatic Means for Designing Lens." For this report, Okazaki was awarded a research fund of ¥ 200,000 in March 1949. This was the very first step toward the FUJIC (Fuji Computer): the first electronic digital automatic computer built in Japan.

Design work of lens requires determining paths of thousands of optical rays. Okazaki wanted to do this job faster with the use of a computer. He started research work required for building a computer in March 1949, and its actual manufacturing in December 1952. Okazaki completed the FUJIC in March 1956 after 3 years 9 months in doing research and 3 years 3 months in manufacturing work. It is surprising that, for these 7 years, he did investigation, and design and manufacturing work almost by himself, apart from the financial support and minimal human aids provided by the company.

The FUJIC consisted of logic, storage, input, and output units. About 1,700 vacuum tubes were used, mostly for the logic unit. Mercury delay lines were used for the storage unit that stored 255 words of 33 bits each. Okazaki manufactured even an optical card reader for the input unit, taking a specific care for the material and the shape of the card picking and sending nails of the card reader. Also, he manufactured the output unit with the use of an office electric typewriter, relays, and magnetic coils. In 1953, the computer was almost complete, and was named FUJIC. On November 16, 1955, when conversion logic between binary and decimal was yet to be completed, the FUJIC was demonstrated for the Electronic Research Committee of the Institute of Electrical Communication Engineers of Japan.

After its completion the FUJIC was used not only for lens design calculations for the company, but also for various calculations requested by other organizations. The results of such calculations were published in many academic journal papers.

In 1959, Okazaki joined Nippon Electric Company, and in 1972, was appointed as a Professor, School of Business Administration of Sensyu University.

Information Processing Society of Japan awarded Okazaki a Prize in 1984 and an honorary membership in 1986.
Okazaki died on June 23, 1998.

(Takahashi Shigeru)