Visit NTT History Center of Technology, Tokyo

― Looking for  the roots of Japanese telecommunication and its technology development 

NTT- Logo x01.JPG Having keen interest to the recent development of information network , I NTT- View x02.JPGvisited the “NTT History Center of Technology” (Museum) recently in Mitaka, Tokyo last month.  The museum was established in 2000 aiming to show the current technology an its development process in Japan. Now it displays a number of historical materials and equipment related to the telecommunication services and technology.  NTT- View x01.JPGThe exhibition consists of “Tracing Development History” and “Searching Technology” corner, and the both are explaining how Japan has developed telecommunications, telephone services, and information equipment from the initial period until now. In particular, it focuses on the social impact in early days of telegraph and telephone systems, along with describing tele-graph/-phone mechanisms, technical background and functions of electronic NTT- View x03.JPGdevices. The museum is proud of quite rich treasury collection and sophisticated explanation on the technology background. The following is my visit record at that time. However, due to the time constrain and my limited knowledge, I couldn’t look much in the technology detail and mainly focused on the social background occurred in the historic process of Japan’s telecommunications .

♣  Outline of the composition and contents of the NTT Museum

NTT- Ilust x02    The visit course of the Museum could roughly divides into two parts.  One is for ” History” matter and the other is NTT- View x04.JPG“Technology” issues.  The “History” course begins with anecdotes during the early days of telegraph and telephone development. It shows how they were initially introduced and how they could progress to the next stage of full-scale use of them since 1950s after the War period. Then the exhibition indicates the circumstances of technological innovation and diversification from the 1970s, and how the development has shifted to the digital technology from the 1980s and it describes NTT- Switch x04.JPGtoday’s multimedia, mobile and internationalization of telecommunication.  These series of contents provide the recognition of the fact how telecommunication technology made change the way of social life and business world in Japan.
      “Technology” section involves lots of exhibits in it to indicate the technological evolution of switching equipment, transmission tools, computer related telemachines, communication infrastructure, optical transmission, mobile tools, image processing technology, and others. New products and equipment that marked a new stage of communication are abundantly lined upNTT- Ilust x11.JPG NTT- Ilust x12.JPGNTT- Ilust x13in the exhibition, so you can really feel the  social changes caused by telecommunication and the development of technology.
It is also fascinating we can see the mural paintings that depicts the many scenes NTT- history x12.JPGduring the introduction of telegraph and telephone during the late Edo and Meiji periods at the special exhibition hall. It would be great that several functional models of communication machine are provided at the first floor as well so that beginner visitors are able to testify the principles of telecommunications and the basics of technology.

♣   Telecommunications development and society in the exhibition

NTT- Ilust x05   Exhibits highlights the telecommunications technology and its impact on society through kind commentary on the devices that had emerged in the each era. NTT- history x04.JPG It has passed 150 years after the primitive telecommunication’s equipment was first introduced to Japan in the middle of 19th century. , The advancement of telecommunication and its technologies are remarkable during this time. Their evolution can observe well by seeing the communication devices in the exhibition, such as from NTT- history x07.JPGsimple telegraph tools to extensive telephone services, from manual switch devices to automated exchange machines, from analogue to digitization of communication machines, and advancing microwaves and optical fibers technology, spread of multimedia devices, and so on. This time, I mainly look at the exhibits  from the historical perspectives of development in the Meiji era to the present days and  try to focus it on the impact to society during this period.
First, let’s introduce from the early stories and the appearance of the first equipment

♣   The exhibition of Japan’s first telegraph and telephone

NTT- Ilust x04.JPG Large illustrations are decorated the wall of the basement floor which depicts the memorable scenes when telecommunication NTT- history x14equipment was first introduced in Japan and the situations that the technology was quickly disseminated in the Japanese society. The first picture is illustrating the scene of Edo government officials surrounding a new telegraph device that was brought by American Admiral Perry in 1854.  This is the first critical moment when Japanese knew telegraph machine in history. It is said that from that period the  newly born Meiji government became recognized the importance of telecommunications. And it was in 1868 when the NTT- history x08.JPGNTT- history x03.JPGgovernment took measures to establish telegraph system as an urgent matter.  Then immediately the construction began between Tokyo and Yokohama, and the telegraph service was started in 1880.  The museum exhibits a lot of photographs showing the early stage of devices like Morse Telegraph brought by Perry and the Breguet finger-type telegraph and others that were used in Japan in the initial stage.
NTT- history x13.JPG    As time passed, the telegraph systems had become to be greatly contributing to the modernization of Japanese society and industries as important  tools seen in the  railway development, shipment management, military operation, administrative and corporate communications. In addition, submarine cables made possible to begin overseas communication in the coming years.

NTT- Ilust x10   On the other hand, telephone machine was invented in 1876 by an American engineer Graham Bell.  But it was 1890 when first telephone service started between Tokyo and Yokohama in the Meiji period in Japan. It was said that the service charge was quite expensive at that time. In addition, the procedures of telephone exchanges were performed by the manual NTT- history x06.JPGswitching system by telephone operator.  However, the telephone service that allowed direct voice communication with remote locations was extremely valuable and it was said the applicants had flooded soon. At the museum, the actual “Material No. 1 telephone” and “Magnetic manual exchange board” are on display. It is quite interesting to see the wall illustration that is depicting the spread of telephone networks at the time.

♣  Toward the Japan’s own technology in telecommunications

NTT- Ilust x07.JPG       Since the Meiji era, telephone  and telecommunication service were rapidly expanded in the Japan, but the technology dependence to foreign countries  continued for quite long time. However,  a number of challenges to seek NTT- history x09.JPGNTT- history x10.JPGindependent technologies were being underway even under his circumstances.  In this period,  some notable advancing results were achieved while digesting technology from foreign countries.  For example,  the development of  unloaded transport systems, the improvement of advanced loading cables and loading coils NTT- history x11.JPG(1920), the development of photographic transmission equipment, T-type automatic exchanges, and the radars for military purpose.  At the NTT museum, numerous products are displayed as typical exhibits. You can see there sophisticated loading cables, Fleming’s two-pole vacuum tube, de Forest’s three-pole vacuum tube, and many other examples of telephones.

♣  Telecommunications in the postwar growth period

NTT- Logo x02.JPG         It was the time in 1950s  that real challenge of telecommunication businesses has started in the consumer market .  First, “Denden Public Corporation” (1950),  a NTT’s predecessor, took initiatives in this movement.  It focused on NTT- Phone x10.JPGexpansion of the telephone network and improving services responding strong public demand at that time in Japan.  Among them, the development of domestically produced “No. 4 telephone” device was noticeable. Until that time, from Kawabell type to the No. 3 type phones, all phone devices were just imitations of foreign products. But according to the explanation of the museum, the high-quality telephone products called No.4 NTT phone were first developed by Japanese hands at that time.

♣   Diversification of telecommunication since 1960

NTT- Ilust x06.JPG       After the postwar economic growth period, Japan’s telecommunication system and technology have entered a new development phase NTT- View x06.JPGalong with changing economic situation and quality of social life.  It has brought the broad range of changes in society, such as, the wide distribution of telephones, the evolution of switchboard from mechanical to electronic exchanges, the start of data communication services through computer networks, the emergence of automobiles and mobile phones, the development of various communication technologies, and such.
NTT- Switch x07.JPGNTT- Switch x05.JPG     At the museum, many photographs and real goods are  displayed showing the spread of public telephones, image transmission and facsimile, as well as indicating the start of mobile communication and electronic telephone exchange machines. All of them became essential tools for social life at that time.  For example, D10 type automatic exchanges, various NTT- Phone x08.JPGfunction of telephones like push phones, data communication tools, early stage of phones, facsimile machines, etc.  These items are illustrating the environment that the telecommunications network has deeply penetrated into the social and business world.  It also can detect the fact that technology was rapidly progressing during this period both in world and Japan.

♣   The digital technology and multimedia (since the mid-1980s)

NTT- Ilust x03         Looking at the history of the telecommunications business since the mid-1980s, the technology and service have been further revolutionized and deeply rooted in the society.  The communication tools have also made a major shift fromNTT- Switch x06.JPG the analog to the digital technology.  As a result, various sound, video, and data was possible to transmit simultaneously through various telecommunication networks.  Also, with the fast evolving mobile communications and spread of the Internet, the telecommunication went advancing to the new networking society.   For example, the privatized NTT Co. (since in 1985) has introduced “Optical NTT- Phone x02.JPGtransmission” method for aiming at dramatic increase of transmission capacity.  Mobile communications that started with automobile phones, have significantly expanded during short time.  And, the growing communication wireless networks have brought high speed and huge capacity of telecommunication being comparable to fixed-line networks.  In addition, while the miniaturization of mobileNTT- Phone x03.JPG devices, the  radio wave efficiency are remarkably advanced and the Internet communication network is expanding.  It is during this period  that satellite communication has become active.
At the museum, various optical electronics devices and equipment, multi-functional fixed phones and mobile phones, digital terminals compatible with ISDN, videophones, intranets, user equipment supporting multimedia environments, and engineering NTT- wave x01.JPGtest satellite ETS -Experimental models of VI are extensively displayed.  In the business field, the machines from telex to computer communications, Japanese language OCR, voice synthesis technology, image communication and image information providing system are also exhibited in the museum.


♣   Today’s Internet environment and communication world

NTT- Ilust x16.JPG      With the spread of the Internet, the new communication system is now looked becoming reality in the broader world. Unfortunately exhibits in the museum didn’t much refer to the recent advancement seemingly due to the nature of the historical NTT- Phone x07.JPGmuseum.  Nevertheless, we can detect many achievement and directions that the Japanese telecommunication businesses are engaging in this field.  For example, the introduction and development of OCN, voice communication and video distribution system using the Internet, “i-mode devices” that had previously marked a new era in telecommunication world, and several challenging activities NTT- View x07.JPGsuch as the operation of the IPv6 Internet networks and others.  In terms of communication software, you can observe some facilities reflecting current changes in the telecommunication world, like developments of various system control programs, unique hierarchical architecture of information system, large-scale database, software on the production technology, etc.
    Currently major NTT- Phone x06.JPGcommunication services have shifted from fixed-line telephone networks to wireless communication services, and even the basic platform of mobile communication have shifted from 3G or 4G to the 5G generation. In this situation, we are curious how NTT will cultivate the future telecommunications business by taking advantage of the vast technological assets that have been accumulated until now.

After visit

NTT- Ilust x15.JPG   The telecommunications industry has now entered a new era of intense global competitions and changes. In the world of mobile devices, overseas manufacturers are leading the way in this field.  Europe and the United States are now NTT- wave x02.JPGincreasingly dominant in international communication businesses. Many countries are also intensifying competition in satellite communications too. Under these circumstances, it is  very much interesting what direction of development will go in the telecommunication business in Japan in terms of the business and technology.   The NTT Museum has clarified the history of technological developments in Japan and visualized the implication regarding communication NTT- fiber x02.JPGtechnology in our social daily life.  Although some difficulties to understand the technology background of machines and devices, but I could recognize to some extent about social significance of telecommunication world through observing the exhibition .
In the era of advancing mobile and Internet today, I felt that “History Museum”’ gave me a precious chance to adventure into the telecommunication world and was possible to acknowledge the NTT’s previous technology development footsteps.




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