Japanese Computer Pioneers

Amo KoheiAmo Kohei

Amo Kohei was born on July 31st, 1928 in Dalian, China. He graduated from Electric Engineering Department of Tokyo University in 1952, and then joined Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co., Ltd.(currently Toshiba Corporation). The same year, he was given the first Fulbright Scholarship to conduct research on computers at Stanford University, U.S.A., in which he received the doctor’s degree. He was active as the assistant to professor and as a researcher of the Electronic Application Laboratory at Stanford University. He returned to Japan in 1956, to engage in the IT from very early stage of computers when vacuum tubes, magnetic drum storage and machine language were used, up to now. He was involved in and devoted to the development, designing, commercialization and business for computers for his life.

He developed a transistorized computer named TOSBAC-2100, using the patch-board-program method. It was exhibited at the first Japanese Computer Show. This was the kick-off assembly of Japanese computer manufacturers supported by JEIDA in April 1958. In 1961, he successfully developed TODBAC-3100, a stored program computer. Both computers were full-scale business computers, very rare in those days, with a line printer and a card input-output equipment.

From 1961, he engaged in the development of a micro-programmed computer named KT Pilot, with Professor Hagiwara Hiroshi of Kyoto University. KT Pilot was an epoch-making computer controlled by a changeable micro-program as well as asynchronous logic. Plug board was used for the changeable micro-program. He developed a high-speed transistor circuit, and introduced measures to reduce electric noise by adopting twisted pair wiring and all ground method. He also achieved high-speed computation by solving problems in the system design, implementation, packaging and circuitry , including making efforts for cooling systems. Thus, KT Pilot was a precursor of micro-program/firmware controlled computer which became very popular afterward. The research paper, which was presented as one of the representing Japanese papers at the IFIP 1962 in Munich, received and gained favorable reception.

Improving the technologies developed for KT Pilot, Amo developed and announced the TOSBAC-3400 in 1963. Newspapers mentioned the TOSBAC-3400 to be “the world’s fastest computer”. TOSBAC-3400 was well accepted by the market, swept the market and was sold very well as a scientific/engineering computer. The computer was very popular with good reputation at the Japanese Computer Show every year. It was displayed at the Toshiba Show in Moscow in 1968.

Afterward, he leads the development, design and business of TOSBAC and ACOS series general purpose large scale computers, jointly with GE and Honeywell. In this regard, he exported 3 sets of ACOS 600S and 700 to Iraq. He established the foundation of Toshiba's computer business by continuously introducing new products to the market, such as Japan's first word processor (1978), the first small office computer with Chinese character dot-matrix printer (1978), DP series distributed computer (1978) and personal computer (1983). He also opened Japan's first training class for word processing (which is now Toshiba OA Consultant Co.) in 17th Mori-Building in 1980, exploiting a glamorous job for women up to now.

He became Executive VP, members of the board of NEC Toshiba Information Systems Corp. in 1974, Senior VP of Toshiba in 1982 and Executive VP of Toshiba in 1984 both of which were members of the board, as well as Executive Deputy President of Japan Olivetti in 1986.

He moved to Sun Micro Systems in 1988. It was a focus of attention as be serving Senior VP level of a Japanese company shifting to a foreign company was quite rare at that time. He was appointed to the president and then chairman of the company. He was concurrently named as a vice president of U.S.A. headquarters of Sun Micro Systems, and established the business basis for workstations and client-server type network-computing systems. He introduced indirect sales system extensively and increased sales by 13 fold during his serving period, thus contributed to the spread of network computing in Japan. Those achievements by Amo were introduced in a governmental publication as a success story of a foreign company in Japan. He retired from the company in 1997.

He served as the Aizu liaison officer, bridging Aizu University and industries, to promote academia-industry relations which has been his strong advocacy, and served as the auditor of People Soft Inc.. Dr. Amo is still a councilor of Toshiba. He is also the honorary chairman (and was the first chairman) of Foreign Information Industry Forum and is educating and supporting young generation about "international" and "computers," which are his identity as well as his expertise. At the same time, he is the chairman of Tokyo University Alumni Association in Kamakura.

He was elected to the member of τβπ and Sigma Xi in 1953 and 1954 in the U.S.A., and is still member of them.

He has many patents and is an author of many books and papers (including those published overseas).

(As of June 25, 2006)