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Japanese Computer Pioneers

In July 2000, the Special Committee of the Information Processing Society of Japan for the History of Computing decided to collect and compile biographies of computer pioneers of Japan for public presentation. The Committee selected 64 pioneer candidates in February 2001, and has left the list open for recommendations.

Since then two candidates have declined and five people have been newly accepted as pioneers on recommendation. Therefore, we have 67 pioneers, as of today. A collection of their biographies (in Japanese) together with their photos has become almost complete before April 2002, and been placed on Web pages of Information Processing Society of Japan.*1 Some pioneers are dead, and some were reluctant in writing their biographies by themselves. We asked people, including members of the Committee, who have known them well, to take trouble to write biographies of these pioneers.

In April 2003, to make this collection of biographies available for broader communities, we began preparing its English version. In addition to pioneers who had been dead, two pioneers deceased after the Japanese version was published, and some more pioneers showed reluctance in writing their biographies in English. Therefore, we had to ask volunteers to take more trouble for preparing English version of biographies of these pioneers. A name (or two names) in parentheses after each biography shows such a volunteer (volunteers). When a pioneer prepared his biography including its English version by himself, no such name is attached. When a volunteer prepared only English version or both of Japanese and English version, this volunteer's name appears in parentheses. When one volunteer prepared Japanese version and another volunteer did English version, their names appear in parentheses in this order.

Another problem we encountered was how to express Japanese names in Roman alphabet. Firstly, as for the sequence of family name and given name, we quickly came to a decision to use the "family name followed by given name" sequence. Names have been expressed in Japan this way, being contrary to the way in most of the western countries. Most Japanese people, when presenting their names in Roman alphabet, used to follow the western way by inverting the legitimate sequence of their names, but recent trends seem to be the other way around.

Secondly, there are several different ways of spelling Japanese words in Roman alphabet. Two major varieties are Hepburn System and Kunrei System. Either system converts a series of Japanese "kana" that represents phonetically a Japanese word into a series of Roman alphabet. The former can provide better simulation of the Japanese word when pronounced as if it were English. On the other hand, the latter is simpler as to the conversion rule. We decided, in general, to use the former, unless the person referred to has (or had) any particular choice.

April 1, 2004
Takahashi Shigeru
Special Committee for the History of Computing,
Information Processing Society of Japan

*1 http://museum.ipsj.or.jp/en/pioneer/index.html