Japanese Computer Pioneers

Fuchi KazuhiroFuchi Kazuhiro

Fuchi Kazuhiro was born on February 16, 1936. He graduated from the Department of Applied Physics at the University of Tokyo and joined the Electrotechnical Laboratory (ETL), Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) of Japanese Government. During his university days, he learned the stored program concept from the book written by Takahasi Hidetosi and the one written by Takahashi Shigeru and was impressed by the beauty and simplicity of this concept. With his unique insight of history and that of technology in particular, he saw the possibility of a great future.

When Fuchi was a 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Tokyo, he studied computers at Takahashi's Laboratory at the ETL and helped develop the ETL Mark IV transistor computer. Nishino Hiroji of ETL asked him to write an input routine for the ETL Mark IV. Fuchi programmed an ultra-short routine consisting of twenty lines of code, including symbolic address processing. This was Fuchi's first programming experience.

Soon after Fuchi joined the ETL, Takahashi asked him to redesign the ETL Mark IV by adding a magnetic core memory that was under development at the time. He completely redesigned the whole computer system by modernizing the instruction set. He worked with Kato Yushi to complete the redesigned ETL Mark IV and named it the " ETL Mark IV A." Although the instruction manual was simple, the computer was used for practical jobs for several years at the ETL.

The development of a new large computer, the ETL Mark VI, started around that time. During discussions on the design of the ETL Mark VI, Fuchi proposed the concept of the "program stack," which is the origin of today’s cache memory.

Fuchi visited the United States in 1961 and studied at the Digital Computer Laboratory of the University of Illinois where he assisted with development of the Illiac II, designed the instruction decoder, and implemented it as an asynchronous system.

He returned to Japan in 1962. By then, Wada Hiroshi and Takahashi Shigeru had already left the ETL. Researchers at the laboratory had been discussing a new development policy. MITI’s large-scale development projects began in 1964. Fuchi proposed the development of an operating system for a time-sharing system (TSS) to coincide with these projects. Noda Katsuhiko and Aiso Hideo organized a project team to develop the TSS. Noda opened the Shiba branch office at Kikai-Shinko-Kaikan in Shiba. Fuchi appointed himself design chief. The team studied the MULTICS and designed an operating system. They added unique capabilities to its paging system and system description language. The system was completed and went into operation, but it didn’t become "Unix".

Several years later, after returning to ETL headquarters, Fuchi was involved in planning "Pattern information processing," one of the large-scale development projects, and completely revising it from a hardware-development-oriented project to a basic research-oriented one. He also proposed and constructed a heterogeneous multi-computer network system for research purposes.

Fuchi was chief of both the Voice Recognition Research Laboratory and newly established Inference Mechanism Research Laboratory in 1972. At the latter, he established a study group on logic-oriented artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

After returning to ETL, Fuchi proposed a time-sharing system with paging capability and developed it with his colleagues. Later he was involved in planning national projects.

The Fifth Generation Computer System (FGCS) project started around 1980. During its planning phase, Fuchi and his group proposed the development of future techniques based on "parallel inference." A realistic alternative plan was proposed by another research group, which later became the TRON project. There was much controversial discussion between these two groups. FGCS Committee Chair Moto-Oka Tohru adopted the former direction.

Fuchi was appointed as research laboratory director of the newly established ICOT in 1982. An academic group led by Moto-oka and the Kasumigaseki group (Japanese government) fully supported him. The project contributed to activate research activities worldwide, and its research results were fruitful. However, this is not recognized as a reality and history in the real world.

When the project was finished in 1993, Fuchi became a professor at The University of Tokyo. He received an award from the Director General of the Science and Technology Agency in 1994. He retired from The University of Tokyo at age 60 and transferred to the Science and Engineering Department of Keio University. He was awarded the Purple Ribbon Medal in 1996 and prizes from numerous organizations, including the Japanese Society of Artificial Intelligence and the Information Processing Society of Japan. He transferred to Tokyo University of Technology in 2000.

He passed away on August 13, 2006.

(Yamada Akihiko)
(As of Jan. 29, 2007)