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Learn about NEC's history

Learn about NEC's more than 120 years of history through the time line.


Legends of NEC (founding era)

Kunihiko Iwadare

A man who put into practice the concept "There are no borders in technology"

Learned advanced overseas technologies and contributed to technology development in Japan

Born in 1857 in Fukuoka prefecture, Kunihiko Iwadare graduated from the department of telegraphic communications at Kobu University – a predecessor of the current faculty of engineering at Tokyo University. He entered the Ministry of Engineering, then moved to the United States to work at Edison Machine Works, a predecessor of General Electric. He is known as one of the few Japanese who worked with Thomas Edison.
Upon returning to Japan, he became the first chief engineer at Osaka Dento, a predecessor of Kansai Electric Power Company. And in 1899, when he was 42, he founded Nippon Electric Company, Limited as a joint venture with Western Electric Company, becoming the president of the first foreign-capital enterprise in Japan.


NEC's Legends (the beginning of proprietary technology development)

Yasujiro Niwa1916-1975

NEC's technology pioneer

Phototelegraphic system developed by Nippon Electric

Yasujiro Niwa and Masatsugu Kobayashi invented a proprietary phototelegraphic equipment that became the foundation of today's fax technology. At that time, the phototelegraphic system had a separate configuration of transmitter and receiver, and used a dedicated communication line.

Since the greatest concern at the time was how to transmit the images of Emperor Hirohito's Accession Ceremony held in November 1928 to newspaper companies to be published and reported to readers across the country as quickly as possible, newspaper companies competed to buy overseas phototelegraphic systems. However, in advance testing these systems did not work well. Therefore, they adopted the phototelegraphy system developed by Niwa and Kobayashi immediately after its development. It was a great success, and the system was put into practical use for the first time in Japan.

At the time, in the advanced field of electrical products, technologies were mainly introduced to Japan from Europe and the United States. However, the field of phototelegraphy was established through domestically-developed technology and this technology contributed greatly to the later development of Japanese fax technology.

(Source: "Ten Japanese Great Inventors" Japan Patent Office)

Among the many achievements of Yasujiro Niwa as a pioneer of NEC's technologies, a particular highlight can be said to be the success of the NE-type phototelegraphic equipment that was used at the Accession Ceremony in 1928.

I joined Nippon Electric in the following year, but at that time, the company already felt that it was opening up a new era with its technology.

I think that this culture came about purely down to Niwa's extraordinary personality and leadership skills. That tradition continues to live on in NEC today.

Koji Kobayashi

© NEC Patent Service, Ltd.

Words passed on to young engineers

Technology is created by people

  • Technology is made up of many elements and requires many ideas from engineers.
  • Like literature and art, people are still fundamental to technology.
  • Engineers must always develop their character.

All-out effort

  • Engineers must always give their all in research, design, and construction.

Supporting from behind the scenes

  • Engineers must give their all, working behind the scenes, for the happiness of mankind.

Cutting-edge and practical domestic-made switching system

• It was urgent to introduce XB into the expanding telephone network

First prototype of city XB switching system (delivered to the telecommunications research laboratory in 1954)

In the late 1940's, customers had to wait for 1 to 2 hours after applying as an express request to call to another city, and normally had to wait for 2 years for a telephone subscription.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation launched the "First Five-Year Telegraph and Telephone Expansion Plan" in 1953, the year after its establishment, and started research and development of domestically produced XB switching systems. The telecommunications research laboratory named NEC as a partner for collaborative research.

The period until the delivery of the first prototype was one year, and initially there were only seven NEC system designers.

The first research prototype was completed in November 1954 and was delivered to the communications research experimental telephone office. In September 1956, after the first and second prototypes, NEC delivered the first domestic SB switching system for telephone officesto the Tochigi Sanwa Telephone Office.

• Bell Laboratories failed, but NEC took a step forward

After that, the XB switching system was put into practical use in 1957. Bell Laboratories in the United States invested several score times the budget as Japan and five times as many researchers but failed in its development.

Although the basic technology for XB switching systems was not invented in Japan, the switching system was developed in Japan for the first time using domestic technology, such as systems, circuits, and parts, etc. At that time, NEC had reached a high level of performance in the world, and the company developed an XB switching system for export based on this product. This gave great results in the export business, and this history was passed on to the next generation of electronic switching systems.

© NEC Patent Service, Ltd.


NEC's first commercial computer NEAC-1102

• Highly accurate scientific and technological calculations unlike any other product in the world

NEC's first commercial computer. (Tohoku University computer project and NEC collaborative development) A high-reliability, long-life "Parametron element" born in Japan, was adopted. The system could switch between floating-point and fixed-point arithmetic based on commands and featured a large capacity of 1,024 words of storage.

"With the birth of Parametron practical computers, it is significant that not only filter development, but also the subsequent new technologies in the company and the technical calculations necessary for developing new products become dramatically easier"
("C&C is Japanese wisdom" Koji Kobayashi)

• "Let me work on computers"
Direct appeal to Koji Kobayashi (at the time Tamagawa Manufacturing Director)

Yoshi Watabe

In the spring of 1954, Watabe, who was in his first year since joining the company, was ordered to design a filter at the Tamagawa Plant Transmission Technology Division. Spending all my time on vast numerical calculations, I was keenly aware of the necessity of computers and appealed directly to Koji Kobayashi (May 1955). After that, I joined the laboratory's computer research group. During the day I devoted myself to circuit design work, and at night I studied in study groups with the other lab staff.

In April 1957, the topic of joint development with Tohoku University came up, and Tohoku University fully accepted Watabe's designs and succeeded in the development of the NEAC-1102 in March 1958. After that, the improved NEAC-1103 (completed in 1960) was set up inside the company as a dedicated circuit design computer. Six years after my initial idea, the passionate thought that I dedicated my whole twenties to came to fruition.

© NEC Patent Service, Ltd.


Microwave/satellite communications that started from the Tamagawa athletic field

World's first proprietary technology exported to 140 countries

Masasuke Morita

Commonly seen today at events and major incidents, satellite relays were realized thanks to NEC technology. Masasuke Morita consecutively commercialized the oscillation amplification common method (received the 1958 Imperial Invention Prize) and the high-sensitivity receiver method (despite receiving serious criticism as being fake, he received the Director General of Science and Technology Agency Award in 1966. Developed with Sukehiro Ito.) This method later became highly successful for out-of-line communications and satellite communications, and its share in satellite communication earth stations became about 50%. The share for maritime satellite coastal stations is over 60%, making it the world's No. 1 method in this field.

"It is best for our young engineers to come up with new technologies and revitalize the company"

Four young engineers gathered at a lunch break one day in 1949 in a corner of the athletic field at the Tamagawa Plant. Masasuke Morita and Takeshi Kawahashi of radio, Hiroyune Nagafune of semiconductors, and Masamichi Kenmoku of vacuum tubes. Morita said, "I'm studying radio relay of TV using microwaves. I am convinced that this will be an important technology for both Japan and the company in the future. So I would like to ask for your cooperation," and using their lunch breaks everyday for about a year and a half, they carried out research while exchanging information. Later, this led to a great breakthrough.

© NEC Patent Service, Ltd.


The world's first 144-bit n-channel MOS memory

Taking on the challenge of technology that industry had been neglecting

The fact that NEC was in charge of memory at a large project of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry in 1966 is the beginning of the development of high-speed n-channel MOS type memory. At that time, p-channel was a global trend, and in the semiconductor industry including Intel, the common opinion was that "n-channel cannot be technically mass-produced." With this background, the NEC memory development team established innovative insulation technology and completed a 144-bit n-channel MOS type memory in 1968. The results were announced at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in 1969. The venue was packed up to the aisles for the highly popular presentation. After that, n-channel became the global standard.

A development leader's enthusiasm triggered the decision to start development

Yasuo Matsukura, a development leader at that time, when even every calculator was a p-channel device, said, "The high-capacity high-speed data era will come. I want to do n-channel memory development," making an appeal to the Director of the Integrated Circuits Division, Mr. Ouchi. Ouchi was told by the other project members, "We can't decide national research objectives such as adopting MOS memory based on personal hobbies." However, the data issued by Matsukura was that the speed of n-channel was about three times higher than that of p-channel, which was advantageous for high speed.

Ouchi was moved by the enthusiasm of Matsukura and others, and decided to develop high-speed n-channel memory as a MITI project.

© NEC Patent Service, Ltd.


NEC's Legends (C&C era)

Koji Kobayashi1907-1996

Advocated the C&C concept in 1977

"By the beginning of the 21st century, C&C will spread so that "We will be able to talk face-to-face with anyone, anytime, anywhere"... By that time, all technologies - communications, computers and television - will be and should be integrated to meet such needs. To that end, it is important to support developing countries so that they can participate in such a global communications system."

Chairman Koji Kobayashi announced the epoch-making concept "C&C" (The Integration of Computers & Communications) in the United States in his keynote lecture at Intelcom 77 held in Atlanta on October 10, 1977. Based on this speech, NEC made a major transformation from a company that simply made communications equipment and computers to a leader of the information and communications industry in Japan.


Sales strategy of microcomputers linked to No. 1 PC market share

Released first domestic microcomputer training kit "TK-80"

Kazuya Watabe

Atsuyoshi Ouchi

The microcomputer sales department led by Kazuya Watabe released the training kit "TK - 80" in August 1976 in order to help users understand microcomputers and develop new markets, and the support center "Bit-INN" was opened in Akihabara.

"Bit-INN" was a great success day after day and the "TK-80" became a hit product with over 60,000 units sold in 2 years.

This rise in user's enthusiasm led to the release of NEC's first personal computer "PC-8001" in May 1979. With the "PC-8001," NEC gained the No. 1 PC market share in Japan and became the leader in the personal computer business at a stroke.

This enthusiasm is genuine.

Since there was a view within the company that it was a taboo for the device division to sell the training kit as a finished product, it was decided to sell it in parts based on the idea of Director Atsuyoshi Ouchi.

As a result, "Bit-INN" was opened to provide user support, and the microcomputer sales staff worked in shifts to provide daily service.
"Bit-INN" offered customer service without interruption even on New Year's Eve. Everyone was trying to use the microcomputer as a personal computer. Reservations for the "PC-8001," which had been commercialized to respond to the user needs that were keenly felt by the staff at "Bit-INN," which acted as a shop for testing sales of new products, flooded in from the beginning.

© NEC Patent Service, Ltd.


"Computonik"- the world's fastest supercomputer that amazed the US

Earth Simulator was proposed in 1997 as a way to predict climate change on a global scale. The performance level required to realize it was absurd – 1,000 times higher than that of other supercomputers at the time. But NEC employed 1,000 people cumulatively and utilized the full technological power of the NEC Group to achieve targeted performance. Earth Simulator began operation in March 2002 as initially planned. It was the clear winner in the TOP500 supercomputer performance ranking in June 2002 and stayed on top for two and a half years.


The first challenge of its kind in the history of spaceflight

The primary goal of the Hayabusa mission was to verify technology

Hayabusa, dubbed the "asteroid explorer," was also an engineering test spacecraft. It was developed and produced with the goal of demonstrating the technology necessary at each step in Hayabusa's journey from the propulsion by and long-distance continuous operation of the ion engine to the reentry into the atmosphere of the capsule containing the sample obtained from asteroid Itokawa, and the recovery of the capsule once it returned to the Earth. An engineer from NEC who worked on Hayabusa as the project manager reflects back on his experience as follows.

“In a sense, obtaining and returning with a sample was a huge ‘bonus’ given that the goal was purely to demonstrate technology. Demonstrating technology requires that you take on challenges. We took on the challenge of a planned touchdown, which only Hayabusa could accomplish, and what we gained from taking on the challenge was more important than anything."

What NEC gained from a”mass of challenges”

Hayabusa2 successfully touches down on asteroid Ryugu
(Illustration: Akihiro Ikeshita)

The Hayabusa’s explorer faced many difficulties during its journey ,But many aspects of the project were discovered for the first time by actually attempting the challenge.

"For example, Hayabusa failed at its first attempt at touchdown, but that was because the obstacle sensor detected an unexpected irregular object. We had anticipated various scenarios regarding obstacles, but it wasn’t until Hayabusa got to Itokawa that we learned that our hypothetical scenarios hadn’t been perfect. There were many of these ‘things we only learned once we tried actually doing them’ during the development and operation periods.

With the Hayabusa project, we strove to open up new regions of the unknown, and we found that using the lessons learned in doing so to lead us to our next step was important. This positive outcome has been demonstrably reflected in “Hayabusa2,” the finalized version of the explorer launched in December 2014.


Value Day 2019

NEC is celebrating its 120th birthday and I am truly happy to be able to share this special day with everybody here today.

NEC was founded in 1899, and ever since then, NEC has been contributing the world with its telecommunication and computers technologies. Especially since NEC introduced its “C&C” statement in 1977, NEC has been a truly a global leading company in 1980s and 1990s.

Today, we are celebrating our 120th birthday. This is all because of the contributions of the people who have lived before us, and all our customers and the society who have chosen us, and especially each and every one of you, our employees. I’d like to truly thank everybody who has been supporting NEC.

I am standing right here as the 15th President of NEC, feeling a tremendous responsibility.
My mission as President is not only to meet the short-term budget, or the targets in our mid-term plan. The biggest work I have to perform is to think thoroughly what we have to do to maintain NEC as a strong company through the next 50 or 100 years, and to make actions in a timely manner and appropriately.

We are living in the era of uncertainty, and it’s often said that many companies cannot survive for more than 10 years. Some people may question why we need to talk about 50 or 100 years from now? However, I believe a company can live on, if it can adapt flexibly and quickly to these uncertainties.

The era of Digital Transformation has arrived. Everything is changing. And in any era, it is always technology that drives change. From now on, the ever evolving computer and telecommunication technologies, AI, bio-technology, block-chain, IoT, these various technologies are going to transform society.

Please consider; NEC has all these technologies I’ve just mentioned. We are a company that has the potential to transform society. This means that everybody who works here has the opportunity to transform society. I believe this is really a wonderful thing. So, how can we realize this? The answer is the Code of Values.

1. Look Outward. See the Future.

If you keep looking inward, you cannot find new values. You have to keep looking outward all the time to create new value for your customers.

2. Think Simply. Display Clear Strategy.

This means we should explore things at its core.
If we get rid of all the unnecessary and trivial things, and focus on the essentials, then things will become very simple.

3. Be passionate. Follow through to the End.

This means everybody should have a strong ownership.
NEC does not need any observer at our company.
We need to build a company culture that each one of us thinks by ourselves and act by ourselves.

4. Move Fast. Never Miss an Opportunity.

However great the thing is, if we move slowly, it will not deliver any new value.
Don’t be afraid of failure, and keep challenging.

5. Encourage Openness. Stimulate the Growth of All.

This is what I want all the management to do.

Management should never be arrogant.
Management should never think what they are doing is the only right way, and should never force your subordinates to just do it.
The most important thing is to keep listening to everybody’s opinions, to keep learning, to keep studying, and to be modest.

Needless to say, at the base of these five Code of Values, we have to have the strong ethics and integrity. I believe, if everyone at NEC—our 110,000 employees—behaves like this, we can be a global leading company again.

The important thing is, each one of you works hard, thinks hard, and grow to win with success in mind.
Success is not something given to you, but you should achieve it by yourself. Keeping high ambition and strong passion with a self-help spirit, please aim to win for success in the future.

My ambition right now is to make NEC a strong and robust company that can keep winning. To realize this, I want to build a very strong company culture. I will keep working hard at this with all my effort.

Lastly, I’d like to thank you, everybody, for your hard work and daily effort.
NEC is a company which can grow more. Let’s create a brilliant future for NEC, together with all 110,000 NEC employees’ power.

Thank you very much.