The Museum attracts many Computer Fun
♣ Visit Report of the Science Museum 理科大「近代科学資料館」訪問記
The TUS Science Museum is well known of the collection of the leading calculator and computing instruments in Japan. The museum was established in 1980s adjoining Tokyo University of Science in Iidabashi, Tokyo. I have visited this museum in April with my friend to explore the roots of computing machines in Japan. This is a visiting report of the museum describing my impression at that time.
See TUS Science Museum HP: URL: https://www.tus.ac.jp/info/setubi/museum/
♣ Outlooks of the Museum
The Museum is by no means a big facility, but the exhibition is rich and diverse in the arithmetic devices ranging from ancient primitive calculators to the modern computers. These are arranged well in order by historical facts with exact information. The impressive thing when I visit was that the person to guide us was the TUS undergraduate
students. It looks a good attempt for students to mobilize their knowledge for that purpose even in the educational point of view. The museum also runs the “Mathematics Classroom” by students for visitors who are fond of geometry, algebra, and other mathematical related subjects.
♣ Brief View of the Exhibition
The first corner was the exhibition of counting utensils in the prehistoric year. It includes the numeral collections, such as the various primordial counting tools using simple stone and wood, ancient “Sangi” (Sticks for calculation) arithmetic tools, and others. In the following corner, the exhibition of “Soroban” (abacus) from ancient to present time with the global scale was found in order. For example, it displays the tools, from the primitive “Abacus” using simple balls, the “Abacus” in the medieval year, to the modern type of abacuses which hold double column with four lower piece units. Of these exhibits, the most attractive collections might be the historical abacuses of China in the diverse styles, the medieval Japanese abacuses which had been widely used in the merchants.
With observing these tools, we could understand well how the “Act of Calculating Things” was so important to the economic life of humans, and to fulfill this inclination people have done enormous efforts improving the way of calculations and exploring many arithmetic approaches.
♣ Calculators in the Ancient Times
In the parallel exhibition of the abacus, it shows the many types of calculation tools which have cultivated from the early times to the modern ages in the world. Among them, the museum displays a number of mechanical calculators, slide rules, arithmometers, and other mechanical counting tools. Impressively it exhibited a replica of the precious 17th century “Leibniz computer” on the glass box.
Japan’s arithmetic tools are also found in the displays such as “Sangi” which had been use in the “Wasan” (Japanese mathematical theory), slide rules of produced by Japanese maker “Henmi”, Patent Yazu Arithmometer which invented by Ryoichi Yabe in 1903. These facts mean that, Japanese engineers have been actively engaging in the improvement of arithmetic devices in order to apply to the science and industrial technology, while learning much from European computing technology
♣ Development of Japanese Mechanical Calculator
After the War in Japan, Japanese “abacus” was widely used among people as the most popular calculation tools for a long time, but the mechanical type of computing devices were beginning to be employed since the 1950s. In the calculator corner of the museum a number of mechanical calculators were displayed, such as the successive models of Tiger-type calculators (produced by Japanese maker Tiger) in the broad ranges. Besides, the numerous exhibitions of the mechanical calculator of foreign models were shown as well. It would be also valuable to understand the difference features of calculators by countries.
♣ Evolution of Automatic Mechanic Calculators
When becoming modern industrial period, the motorized electric mechanical computing
machines have appeared and gradually expanded. Among them, “Monroe calculator” was the most famous and popular in the world. But the machines were said to be so expensive that only limited people could access them. It said to cost several hundreds of thousands of yen at that time.
On the other hand, in Japan, Casio began to be developing electric computing machines that installed an electric relay switch, this valuable initial model “Casio 14-A” was also exhibited there.
♣ “Dentaku” appeared in the market
In the 1970s, with applying semiconductor technology, the electronic computing machines, so called small sized “Dentaku”, have been emerged in the business field. Around this period, the electric manufacturers such as Toshiba and Panasonic have started to produce many tabletop electronic computers in responding the offices’ strong needs.
Under these business environment, electric maker Casio and Sharp have been competitively reducing the size and price of the machines along with upgrading capability (It was called “Dentaku War” in Japan). As a result, the calculator was beginning to replace the “Soroban” (abacus) to the “Dentaku” in the arithmetic works in many scenes. Then the multiform of calculator has deployed in the market from the initial relatively big and heavy calculators to the handy card sized light calculators during this period. It can be said that the exhibition of the museum mirrors the transformation of calculator technology which has been evolved along with the course of time.
♣ Advancement of Main Frame Computers
On the other hand, the radical technology change has happened in the main computer itself in this period. It showed the significant evolve of systems from simple function work to sophisticate information management in the parallel movement of calculator. Of course, for the complex scientific calculations, the only large mainframe computers had been used in the engineering field because of necessity to handle huge mathematical formula and numbers.
The bulky computers were not displayed much in the museum caused by the constraints of space, but it still exhibited the several computers like Univac 120 system with using vacuum tubes in the 1950s, and Fujitsu’s “Facom201” parametron computer in the corner. It would be a good educational exhibition to acquaint with the first stage of computer systems.
Also the unique analog computer of the restoration models, which had been deployed in the Osaka University to calculate the integral formula for the aircraft development, was displayed as well.
♣ From Main Computer to PC
However, the computer systems have been downsizing so fast from the large main frame machine to the light PC type computer in 1980s and 1990s. This changing situation was well reflected in the museum exhibition by their rich collection. The museum displayed a lot of PCs, such as IBM’s initial PCs, Apple’s Macintosh PC model, and many others including NEC’s PC-98, Toshiba’s laptop PC “Dynabook” and so on.
You can refer to the Japanese PC by the IPSJ Web Computer Museum too :
♣ What’s Japanese unique “Wa-Pro”
On the other hand, Japanese PC had to manage the Kanji character in the operation in the first stage. Then, Japanese PC makers have invented the unique Kanji conversion systems. They were called “Wa-Pro” (Japanese word processor) and were becoming quite popular in 1980s among business people in Japan. There were a lot of collections of them placed in the PC corner. It was nostalgic devices for me because I had experience to use these models on the daily basis.
♣ Transformation of IT Media
The evolution of recording media for computer was also interesting exhibition.
The recording tools of data, from the paper punch cards,
cassette tape, memory card to the IC memory tip, were particularly impressive because the technological change was embodies in these materials.
♣ Display of Phonographs
In addition, there was a great display in the other room too. The exhibition widely covered the phonographic instruments, like gramophone players in the old days, voice recording tools and video in 1960s, Sony’s initial model of Walkman, Apples iPhone and others. These collections were quite impressive too.
♣ Charm Points of the TUS Science Museum
In this way, TUS Science Museum demonstrates the fertile collection of arithmetic equipment and computers for all. Besides, it also shows huge stocks of various information tools and goods which is essential in our modern industrial life. I believe that many visors could surely appreciate these collections to be viewed by their own eyes. In the meantime, the Science Museum is frequently organizing the special exhibition from time to time for attracting visitors beside the regular exhibition.
So this time of visit gave me a valuable experience to look over these computing goods and to familiarize their development history. It is a really recommendable museum to visit not only for Japanese, but also for many foreigners to familiarize development process of Japanese computing industries. You can refer to : :(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP8P2wKCujM)