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Westernizing Japan
December 13, 1965 Electronics Magazine

December 13, 1965 Electronics

December 13, 1965 Electronics Cover - RF Cafe[Table of Contents]

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Electronics, published 1930 - 1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.

Here is an editorial excerpt from a 1965 issue of Electronics magazine that could be from a contemporary news publication: "If U. S. manufacturers continue to abandon their engineering and production for Japanese products, they are headed for oblivion because they cannot compete with the purely merchandising organizations such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward* which buy Japanese products too." Of course you could easily substitute South Korea, China, Taiwan, or any other now-prominent technology company in place of Japan. American economic "experts" assured us in the 1990s that we no longer needed to manufacture anything; rather, we would become a service and retail economy. That worked out real well, eh? What we really became was dependent on the rest of the world for our goods, and were forced to surrender intellectual property (IP), erstwhile closely guarded national defense secrets (handing over ICBM guidance systems, high precision CNC machinery, semiconductor processing equipment, etc.) for the privilege of establishing business operations in those countries. This edition of Electronics is dedicated to reporting on the amazing ingenuity and determination of the Japanese people in their efforts to not just revive their industry based in the post-war (WWII) era, but to wisely rebuild with the most modern technology available.

* The latter is now defunct, and the former soon will be.

BTW, does anyone know what the English translation of the Japanese characters in the picture is? Google translator can't figure it out. I took a guess at "japan technology" and got: 日本の技術 , which looks very close.

All these articles appeared in this issue: Westernizing Japan | Japanese Technology - The New Push for Technical Leadership | Japanese Technology - When You're Second, You Try Harder | Japan Stresses Research | Japan: An Industrious Competitor

Westernizing Japan

Westernizing Japan, December 13, 1965 Electronics Magazine - RF CafeJapanese developments in electronics are moving almost as fast as the trains on the new Tokaido line, the railroad the Japanese are so proud of because it is the world's fastest. They still lag behind the United States, as most Japanese will frankly admit, but they are racing to catch up. That's the really significant inference of our special report on Japanese electronics (pp. 77-112).

After reading Yasuo Tarui's survey of integrated circuit activity (p. 90), it's hard to believe the first development started only 18 months ago. And this without benefit of a gigantic military or space program to subsidize the work. One of the biggest government research projects supporting integrated circuit activity is for $80,000, a sum puny by U. S. standards. Yet six companies are sharing in the award to develop six different IC equipments.

Semiconductor production is the nucleus of Japan's electronics industry. Takuya Kojima and Makoto Watanabe have surveyed not only some unusual Japanese devices but how some of their associates use components in circuits (pp. 81-87). While the technology may not be impressive to a student of advanced semiconductor phenomena, nearly every U. S. consumer-products company uses Japanese devices - an impressive fact.

In solid state microwave technology, Japan may well be on a par with the United States. Its terrain and economy have encouraged use of wireless communication instead of coaxial lines so that Japan today has the densest network in the world, as Isoa Someya reports on page 99. Solid state systems save installation and construction costs, keenly important in a country whose resources are sharply limited.

Because the Japanese desire greatly to be considered an advanced people, they tend to take a gamble on the new even before it is proven. This has been particularly true in industrial plants, many of which were destroyed during World War II. Rebuilding from scratch during the post war boom, which accelerated sharply from 1960 to 1964, many manufacturers installed industrial electronics instead of conventional electrical or mechanical controls. Japanese companies have shown far more willingness to change to electronics than their counterparts in U. S. industry. Today, even in the face of a recession, Japanese industry is buying more numerically controlled machine tools (p. 106) and computers for process control (110) than ever before.

Progress has created a demand for a lot of new products too: radio, television and tape recorders. Now the fads are air conditioners central heating and hot water heaters. At Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., a major appliance manufacturer, executive managing director Kaoru Iue explains the pressure: "In the summer, the average Japanese has always come home after work, taken off his clothes and sat nude in front of a fan to keep cool. Thousands of Japanese who have traveled to the U. S., now believe that is no way for an advanced people to behave - so they want air conditioning. In the same way, Japanese housewives have learned the desirability of having hot water in the morning, after centuries of doing all the morning chores in cold water."

All this activity and dynamism in Japan poses a considerable threat to the U. S. electronics industry, clearly the world's leader. The Japanese are particularly attuned to the infant markets of Asia and Africa and have serious designs on maturing markets in Europe. For several years. now, they have been raising havoc in certain parts of the U. S. electronics market.

But the most serious threat to U. S. electronics firms may be something the Americans are doing themselves. Manufacturer after manufacturer is buying Japanese consumer products with the U. S. company's nameplate riveted on at the end of the production line. If U. S. manufacturers continue to abandon their engineering and production for Japanese products, they are headed for oblivion because they cannot compete with the purely merchandising organizations such as Sears, Roebuck & Co. and Montgomery Ward which buy Japanese products too. These merchandisers own outlets through which they can retail the Japanese products; the manufacturers must resell the goods to independent retailers who then have to compete in price with the Montgomery Wards and Sears stores.

The two things the Japanese fear most are the fast rate of development of U. S. technology and U. S. automation. To offset the phenomenal progress the Japanese are making, U. S. companies will have to pour more effort and money into product development and automation of production facilities. This is no time for American companies to be complacent.



Posted August 23, 2023
(updated from original post on 8/6/2018)

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