Japanese Computer Pioneers

Suekane RyoutaSuekane Ryouta

Suekane Ryouta was born on Februay 8, 1925 in the City of Kyoto. He entered Department of Aeronautical Engineering, School of Engineering of Tokyo Imperial University, and, in March 1948, he was graduated from Department of Applied Mathematics of the same University. The Department he had entered was closed after the World War II, and he had to change department. After remaining for three years with the University as an assistant, he joined the Electrotechnical Laboratory of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, where he was assigned to Mathematics Research Unit. In 1952, Suekane and Komamiya Yasuo completed ETL Mark I, a pilot model of automatic relay computer. This was the first sequential digital automatic computer in Japan.

Following this success, they started, in collaboration with Takagi Masahide and Kuwabara Shigeru, to develop a full-scale automatic relay computer ETL Mark II, and completed it in November 1955. This was the first large scale automatic relay computer in Japan, and the largest and fastest relay computer in the world.

In October 1965, Suekane received a degree of Ph. D. in engineering from the University of Tokyo for his thesis entitled, gTheory and Application of cyclic base-p number systemh. He visited east European countries to investigate theory of computing machines from April 1966 to February 1967. Around this time, he became strongly interested in the history of computing in Japan and other countries.

Suekane was appointed Chairman of the history committee of the Information Processing Society of Japan in 1970. The Committee established at the opportunity of 10th anniversary of the Society tried to collect oral histories from computer pioneers of Japan, but could not publish them in a printed form.

Suekane quit the ETL as the head of Research Unit of mathematical basis of pattern information Division, and was appointed professor of Department of Electrical Engineering of the University of Yamanashi in April 1973.

Suekane died on October 24, 1987.

(Takahashi Shigeru)