Japanese Computer Pioneers

Takada ShoheiTakada Shohei

Takada Shohei was born on Sept.14, 1911, and graduated from Electrical Engineering Course of Engineering Faculty of Kyoto University in March 1935. After his graduation, he joined Oki Electric, and 3 years later moved to Hitachi to initiate research activities on telecommunications at its Hitachi Laboratory.

In 1943, when Hitachi established its Central Research Laboratory in Kokubunji, Tokyo, he was assigned to the leader of the research on telecommunications and vacuum tubes.

In 1956, Hisamoto Tadashi who was one of the old friends of Takada, and the Manager of Research Division of Hitachi’s Cable Works, visited Takada and requested him to develop an electronic computer. At that time, a large-scale project constructing electric power transmission line between Okutadami Electric Power Plant and Tokyo was going on. Hisamoto thought that use of an electronic computer facilitating high speed calculation for transmission line construction would have a great advantage in the competition of getting order of ACSR (Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced) cables from Tokyo Electric Power Company. In those days, it was usual that many operators, each provided with a mechanical calculator, performed such calculation.

Takada responded to Hisamoto that he had an idea as to developing electronic computer, but had neither money nor people to realize the idea, so if Hisamoto would provid him with necessary resources, then he would start the project. Hisamoto got an approval of the project and budget of 5 million yen from his Works, and loaned Iwakami Hideo and Numajiri Bun-ya of his engineering staffs to the Central Research Laboratory. Thus, in June 1956, the project of developing an electronic computer started at the Central Research Laboratory.

At that time, Goto Eiichi, a graduate student at Takahasi Hidetosi's Laboratory of Science Faculty of Tokyo University, had invented Parametron as a logic element for computers. Takada had been investigating the possibility to apply this technology to an electronic telephone switching system, and he could easily shift this technology to an electronic computer. As a memory device, he decided to adopt a magnetic drum, and asked Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (later SONY) to coat the surface of an aluminum cylinder of 100mmƥƥ with magnetic film. Vacuum tubes were used for peripheral circuits of the drum, but soon replaced by transistors. In December 1957, the computer named HIPAC Mk-1 was completed and its basic function as a digital computer was confirmed. Immediately, it was used for the calculation of transmission line, and Hitachi Cable Company succeeded in getting order of ACSR power cable of Okutadami-Tokyo line.

In June 1959, UNESCO held the 1st International Conference of Information Processing in Paris. Yamashita Hideo and Wada Hiroshi requested Takada to exhibit Hitachi’s Parametron Computer in AUTO-MATH 1959 to be held in conjunction with the Conference. Takada accepted their request, and exhibited HIPAC101, an improved model of HIPAC Mk-1. This exhibition, with stable demonstration, was a great success, and acquired good reputation.

In August 1959, Takada was appointed the Manager of Computer Division of Hitachi’s Totsuka Works. In August 1962, when Hitachi established its Computer Division with its Kanagawa Works, he was assigned to Deputy General Manager of Kanagawa Works, and in February 1963, he was promoted to its General Manager. In August 1964, Takada was appointed Chief Engineer of Computer Division, and in 1974, he retired from Hitachi. Then, Takada founded a company named Link in Kokubunji, Tokyo with the purpose of technological development in niche area of the field of electronics and computer. Since its inauguration, Takada had been the president of Link, and in 2001, he assumed the position of its Chairman of the Board.

Takada served as a Director of the Information Processing Society of Japan in1965/66, and as its Vice President in 1971/72. For these services and achievements in computer technologies, Takada was awarded an honorary membership in 1980 by IPSJ.

He died on March 28, 2005.

(As of Aug. 26, 2005)