Japanese Computer Pioneers

Omi HanzoOmi Hanzo

Omi Hanzo was born on April 5, 1901, in Akeno, Makabe-gun, Ibaraki Prefecture. After graduating from the Tokyo Institute of Technology at Kuramae, he joined the Railway Laboratory of the South Manchurian Railway Company in 1925. He moved to Fujitsu Ltd. A half year after its establishment in 1936. In his new position, he engaged in research, design and manufacture of multiplex carrier transmission equipment using non-loaded cables. This was a method that was advocated by Matsumae Shigeyoshi and was radically different from the loading cable method used until then.

After World War II, Omi led efforts aimed at the development of new model telephones and dialing mechanisms. It was during that time that he read an essay written by Kelly, then head of Bell Laboratories, who suggested that the true relationship between electronic exchange equipment and electronic computer systems may be as "cousins".

Even though, at the time, Omi thought that it would be impossible for Fujitsu to manufacture computers, at the request of Yamashita Hideo in around 1951, he undertook the manufacture of statistical machines and relational computers. Due to his efforts, Fujitsu acquired valuable experience and advanced in this field.

He produced FACOM 100 in 1954, using the relay that had been in use for many years. He also developed the 60 unit-wide paper tape and 60 digit-per-line printer for use with this computer and the MARK II unit installed in the Electrical Testing Laboratory. Because there were a number of operation frequencies in the FACOM 100 relay, his custom-designed relay was adapted in ways that allowed increased speed, stability and the implementation of a reverse logical circuit corresponding to the loose connection of the relay.

Even though, in the 1960s, each Japanese manufacturing company had previously advanced via technical tie-ups with foreign companies, Dr. Omi chose the independent development route. In his recollections about that time he said "We had some painful years, but we were later able to outstrip our competitors who had technical tie-ups with foreign companies."

His basic business stance was an indomitable resolve and a passion for domestic manufacturing, avoiding licensed manufacturing from foreign countries and the promotion of free development. One example of this was the development of an automatic machine tool that utilized numerical control via the parametron.

Omi introduced Gene Amdahl to Ikeda Toshio in 1967. Amdahl, Ikeda and Omi got along well together, and it was decided that Fujitsu Ltd. would participate in Amdahl Ltd., which was established in 1970.

Omi was blessed with foresight in a technological trend, leadership, was a hard worker, an extensive reader, and a humane person.

  • 1945 Board Director
  • 1953 Managing Director (He advanced in the telecommunications section, the computer section, the numerical control section and IC section for 20 years until he resigned from the position of Senior Executive Advisor.)
  • 1960 Executive Director
  • 1961 President of the Fujitsu Computer College
  • 1964 President of Kobe Kogyo, KK. He realized the merger of the company and Fujitsu.
  • 1968 He led efforts toward the establishment of Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. and was the founding president of the company.
  • 1972 The tie-up of Amdahl and Fujitsu 1972 and Amdahl Corp. was accomplished.
  • 1973-75 Chairman of the Information Processing Society of Japan
  • 1973 At the age of 71, He acquired his Doctorate of Engineering from the Tokyo Institute of Technology for a dissertation titled "Research on Scale Limitations in Computers." His mentor, Kawakami Masamitsu, praised his brilliant achievement using the words of Sato Issai, a Confucian Scholar of the 17th century, he said
    "One who studies in young age will do something in middle age.
    One who studies in middle age will not decline in old age.
    One who studies in old age will become immortal."
  • 1979 He was awarded the IEEE Founders Medal.
  • 1985 He died on January 30, at age of 83.

(Wada Eiiti, Fujitsu)