Japanese Computer Pioneers

Matsushita ShigenoriMatsushita Shigenori

Matsushita Shigenori (Shig) was born on March 11, 1936. He graduated in March, 1959 from Department of Electrical Engineering (Major in Communication) in University of Tokyo. Later, he was bestowed with Master of Science in August, 1963 from Department of Electrical Engineering in University of Illinois, and Doctor of Engineering from University of Tokyo in October, 1974.

He joined Toshiba Corporation in April 1959 to design the basic transistor circuits for computers. He played the role of chief design engineer for a patch-board programmed computer and a magnetic drum internal-program computer. Fulbright scholarship enabled him in 1962-1963 to study in the Master of Science course in University of Illinois and to work as an assistant for development of a pattern recognition computer, Illiac III, in Digital Computer Laboratory.

In 1961, a joint research project with Assistant Professor (at that time) Hagiwara of University of Kyoto was started and the first full-scale microprogrammed computer, KT-P, was completed. This computer was reported at IFIP in 1962 and attracted attention for its variable microprograms implemented by patch-boards and by punched hole cards covering photo-transistors. Based on this technology, the development project of a commercial high-speed microprogrammed computer, TOSBAC-3400, was started and he assumed the chief design engineer of the project. This computer was used widely in the computer centers of local universities primarily for FORTRAN calculation and camera manufacturers for lens designs.

Toshiba became affiliated first with Computer Division of General Electric, which was then annexed into Honeywell Information Systems (HIS). As a result, HIS became the common affiliated company for Toshiba and NEC.

He led the joint HIS-Toshiba development project of a high-speed computer and its technology by dispatching several dozens of engineers to HIS. In 1978, Toshiba licensed the design of a low-cost large-scale microprogrammed computer of its own design, ACOS 600S, to HIS. He was responsible for technology and business negotiation and contracts with HIS and NEC.
He studied by himself in his private hours to construct a crosstalk theory of digital signals and he was given the doctor of engineering degree by University of Tokyo in 1974.

In 1978, Toshiba transferred its large-scale general-purpose computer business to a joint company with NEC, NEC-Toshiba Information Systems, and he was responsible for the transfer in business planning, negotiation and contracts. On the other hand, Toshiba emphasized the business for a new office, under the name of "office automation" or "OA", realized by integration of small-scale computers, communication and business machines and he planned, promoted and evangelized the OA business. Later, he was named associate general manager in technology of those businesses and responsible for administration of those technologies. When the computer group and control systems group were integrated, he became responsible for the technology operations. He decided the strategy in 1985 for the IBM-compatible lap-top personal computer T-1100.

When the new breed of companies emerged overseas, he promoted alliances with overseas companies such as the first OEM contract in Japan with Sun Microsystems, a joint company with Computer-Vision, a joint company with Olivetti, the first sales contract in Japan with Netscape.

He worked in 1993-96 as the Executive Vice President of Toshiba Information Systems and led switchover from the custom-made COBOL software development business to the online, packaged or personal computer software business. In 1996-2001, he worked as President of the Japanese subsidiary of an American start-up company, Wink Communications, to make efforts to popularize the interactive television.

(As of Aug. 29, 2003)