Japanese Computer Pioneers

Degawa YujiroDegawa Yujiro

Degawa Yujiro was born on May 31, 1909. He graduated from the Department of Electrical Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1933. After a career as a research assistant in the Institute, he jointed NEC Corporation in 1934. Pursuing research and development of telecommunication technology, he achieved many successes, which became the foundation of today's super multiplex cable transmissions, such as the research on "non-linear distortion in the carrier multiplex transmission" and the inventions of "double balance modulators". For these achievements, the Tokyo Institute of Technology conferred a degree of Doctor of Engineering on him in 1943. He also promoted new technology developments such as wide band co-axial cable transmission. His achievements in the public communication technology in our country were great.

In 1957, at the dawn of the computer age, Degawa, foreseeing that the computer would come to play a bigger part in social economic growth and to lead electronic technology in the years to come, organized a new department to develop computer products and business, and he took it upon himself to oversee the department. Adopting the ETL Mark 's technologies from the ElectroTechnical Laboratory (ETL) of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), he completed the transistor computer NEAC 2201 in September 1958, and installed it in the computation center of Japan Electronic Industry Development Association (JAIDA). Within the following year, he manufactured NEAC 2203 and put them on the market as the practical electronic data processing systems, and he made computer manufacturing a firm business.

Attempting to expand the computer business, Degawa carried out a technology tie-up with Honeywell in 1962 on the one hand. On the other, he made efforts to reinforce international competitiveness of Japan's computer industry, as he led original development of large scale computers, investing personnel and funds. Through his leadership, NEAC 2200/500 was completed in 1966 marking its world premier as the world's first large scale computer fully composed of monolithic ICs. In 1967, this computer began the earliest Time Sharing System (TSS) service in Japan at the computer center of Osaka University.

In 1971, when computer makers formed groups following MITI's guidance to liberalize computer trade, Degawa realized the cooperation of NEC and Toshiba in computer development. He promoted the joint project of ACOS77 series computer development and led the collaboration project to success. In 1974, he established NEC-TOSHIBA Information Systems Inc, a joint stock company, and performed his duties as its president.

Degawa contributed to the Information Processing Society of Japan (IPSJ) from its founding, and was elected as the 4th president in 1967. The IPSJ was on the verge of financial collapse in those days, because the Society took on so many new projects to keep up with rapid growth of related areas. Weathering this financial difficulty by his managerial skill, he laid the secure foundations for the Society operations, and provided for its rapid expansion from 1970 onwards.

Degawa served as a director of IPSJ in 1964-1965, the president of ISPJ in 1967-1968, and received honorary membership from ISPJ in 1976 and from IEICE in 1975. At NEC, he was appointed Senior Vice President in 1965, and Executive Vice President in 1970, responsible of supervising the information processing business at the top management level, until he established NEC-TOSHIBA Information Systems Inc, and assumed the position as its president.

Degawa was awarded the Medal with a Purple Ribbon in 1959, the Medal with a Blue Ribbon in 1978, and the Order of the Secret Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon in 1979.
Degawa died on April 24, 1997.

(Miyagi Yoshio)