About Tadashi Sasaki
Tadashi Sasaki is a communications engineer and manager whose research on vacuum tubes, semiconductors, and liquid crystal display made significant contributions to the development of desktop calculator technology; Sasaki was also involved in the financing of Busicom and the consequent development of the 4004 microprocessor. Sasaki studied science in Japan and in Dresden, Germany; after his graduation in 1938 he worked briefly for the Japanese government's Electro-Technical Laboratory and then went to work on communications technology at Kawanishi Kogyo. After Kawanishi Kogyo was absorbed by the Fujitsu Corporation in 1963, Sasaki went to Sharp where he worked on desktop calculator technology, pushing for single-carrier devices and LCD research. In 1971, Sasaki went back to Japan and began research on crystal display; by 1973 Sharp produced LCD's commercially.
The interview begins with Sasaki's early education and his developing interest in science and technology. Briefly describing his experiences at the Electro-Technical Laboratory, at Kawanishi Kogyo, and at various research centers in the United States (including his discussions with Bardeen about miniaturization of vacuum tubes), Sasaki focuses on his beginning semiconductor research at Kawanishi Kogyo with funding from MITI. Sasaki discusses Kawanishi Kogyo's absorption by Fujitsu in 1963 and the implications this had for engineers who functioned as corporate managers. The interview moves to a treatment of Sasaki's work at Sharp on single-carrier devices and LCD for desktop calculators, and includes a fairly detailed treatment of his role in the development of his role in the development of the microprocessor. He describes how he financed Busicom in order to produce the four-division chip, the 4004, and outlines the various cooperative efforts included in this development. Sasaki describes the changing cycles of technological research and development and the importance companies must assign to consumer needs and attitudes; he emphasizes the importance of miniaturization for commercial products. More broadly, Sasaki suggests that the future of research and development will lie in collaborative and cooperative work rather than in vertical integration. The interview concludes with Sasaki's description of an ideal "T-type" engineer/manager, one with special depths of knowledge but also with a wider range of management skills and an ability to see the larger picture.
About the Interview
TADASHI SASAKI: An Interview Conducted by William Aspray, Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, May 25, 1994
Interview #211 for the Center for the History of Electrical Engineering, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Tadashi Sasaki, an oral history conducted in 1994 by William Aspray, IEEE History Center, Piscataway, NJ, USA.
Interview: Tadashi Sasaki
Interviewer: William Aspray
Place: Sharp, Tokyo, Japan
Date: May 25, 1994
[NOTE: Mr.Sasaki's comments are translated. At many points, the interpreter summarizes rather than giving an exact translation. Occasional elaborations are given by Dr. Yuzo Takahashi.]
Background, Education and War
Could you begin today by telling me something about when and where you were born and what your parents did?
He was born in Taiwan in 1915, but he doesn't remember how it happened, or his father or mother. But his permanent record shows he was born in Hamada City, Simane Prefecture. He has investigated when he was in Taiwan, and he couldn't find any paper for proof that he was born in Taiwan. Therefore, generally speaking, he says to people that his birthplace is Taiwan, and his home place is Japan. He supposes that he was born in Japan, and his mother took him to Taiwan, but that this is only imagination. You may know the name of the president of Taiwan, which is Li. The Li president is a friend of one of his friends. Anyway, just before he came to the university in 1935, he returned to Japan.
As a boy, were you interested in science and engineering topics?
His original wish was to study modern Japanese literature: Shiki Masaoka. But for example somebody told him that he had to go into engineering. Therefore this is the reason why he started his life as a scientist. He is speaking about the educational system in Japan at that time. He was recommended by his teacher to be a scientist. He took the second science course, special expression, which is to be a scientist. This course includes a language course in German. This is why later he went to Dresden in Germany. He was awarded the title of the Honorary Professor of Dresden University. He graduated in 1938 and joined the government Electro technical Laboratory. Shortly after that he joined Fujitsu Corporation [Kawanishi Kogyo, which was later absorbed by Fujitsu] in 1938. At that time electron tubes were the main interest of the company. He was sent by the company to Dresden, and he studied under Professor Barkhausen. There was also Spangeberg, who was the professor of Strassbourg University, and he was under him.
Yes, in Dresden. He has translated the book written by Barkhausen with the title Electron Tubes. The majority of electrical engineering study in Japan is strong current, i.e. power engineering. The minority specialized in communications. Professor Kato at Kyoto University and Professor Hoshiai at Tokyo University were the main teachers in this area. By the way, Professor Hoshiai is a mentor of Professor Okamura, who is a teacher of Professor Okoshi, chairman of the IEEJ Committee on the History of Electrical Engineering. He worked for the Electrotechnical Laboratory at the Ministry of Telecommunications. He got a position at the Electrotechnical Laboratory at the Ministry of Telecommunications. His initial intention was to do work on electrical circuits. But he was assigned to develop telephone apparatus. The telephone apparatus was named after its order of development in time [i.e. chronologically numbered]. This is number four. It's a very famous one and a very good apparatus.
Then he was assigned to make a study of vacuum tubes. He moved to Kawanisi Kogyo, a vacuum tube company located at Kobe, next to Osaka. They manufactured airplanes. One of its divisions was a vacuum tube manufacturer. Therefore, he learned at that time an integrated set of material, not only about vacuum tubes, but also about materials, mechanical and chemical issues, and the construction of the airplane. He learned here the vertical integration of technology. He thought that this was a precious experience. It was a rather rare engineer at that time in Japan. He appreciated the experience. He developed radar. The United States B-29 had not only radar but anti-radar. He was commanded to develop anti-radar. This took him again to Germany. He traveled on the Siberian Express. In Germany, he studied anti-radar technology at Wurzburg. The Wurzburg radar was very famous in Japan.
Yes, it's well known.
He also studied another telecommunications system utilizing the current, not through a wire, but through earth. Here he studied the Wurzburg Laus technology. This is a retrieval technology used to discriminate the real signal of an airplane, which was mixed with the white noise due to radar chaff. This technology helped him in his development after World War II. The earth communications was very effective. Some special Chinese gunners could shoot out the antennas built in the Japanese trenches. Earth communication was helpful for communication without an antenna. The scientific technology was very helpful. He stresses that he learned much in Germany.
After the World War, it was a help to find the underground lines. He had to have such a basic knowledge. It was very useful in applications. He was investigated by Colonel Comus. Colonel Comus was very famous, one of the officers of the Occupation Forces. He was commanded to improve the telephone wire communications system because it was so important. Comus told him that U.S. forces bombed bridges and roads severely, but did not bomb the telephone lines much. At the end of 1946 he was sent to Western Electric in Allentown, Pennsylvania to study the vacuum tube repeater. After that he went to RCA to learn to manufacture vacuum tubes for the repeater units. He also went to Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey.
Miniaturization and Seminconductors
The next year, in 1947, he had several occasions to have discussions with Dr. Bardeen to pursue the miniaturization of vacuum tubes. He discussed the concept of the limits of the miniaturization with Dr. Bardeen. The figure of merit of the vacuum tube is mutual conductance, or transconductance. Mutual conductance tends to be increased if the distance from cathode to grid is reduced. But the cathode surface is not flat. Because of the insel or "hills," there is a limit to improvement of the mutual effect. This is named Insel conductance. Insel means "island" in German. This was formulated by Spangenberg. In 1947 he was still in the United States and made a cooperative experiment with Spangenberg at Stanford to analyze the field between the cathode, grid and plate, using the field mapping method. Do you know this?
No, I don't.
Using a rubber membrane.
[The general manager of the newly founded department of Sasaki's present company who has just entered the room and the conversation was explaining that their approach to the matter of how to improve the vacuum tube is quite different from Dr. Sasaki's. He was surprised at the way it was solved. Sasaki's approach and Bardeen's approach were quite different. He has explained the new interest stressing of conductive polymers and semiconductors. He wants to say a few words about new unified organization. Actually, yesterday we had the first stockholders' meeting. So it's really new. This laboratory is quite a new concept. It's a virtual laboratory. So this laboratory's activities are based on the networking among different sectors. He mentioned at this moment we have several universities and industrial organizations in the United States and England and so on. We want to expand that kind of networking into Asian countries, too. For a while we focus on the several materials that fuse. One is, for example, we focus on polymers, the function of including the conductive polymers and things like that. And he has several ideas on the future structure of devices based on these polymers, say p-n junctions.]
He mentioned first Bardeen's approach and method. That is, Bardeen embedded the grid into the cathode. The cathode is made of the barium oxide, which is a semiconductor. Sasaki's method is just to make the distance between the grid and the cathode closer and closer. Bardeen made a jump. He put the grid into the cathode. That's what Sasaki didn't realize. On Christmas Eve, for the first time, Sasaki heard about Bardeen's transistor, from Bardeen directly, that he had made what they call the point-contact transistor. At the time Sasaki realized that this is a very big breakthrough. Immediately afterwards he went back to Japan and started semiconductor research at Kawanishi Kogyo Society. He applied for MITI funding. Then MITI started to support the project. When he started that semiconductor research, he had one research staff member. His name was Dr. Leo Esaki, now president of Tsukuba University. He studied the emission centers inside the cathode prior to beginning this semiconducting research. When they started semiconductor research, he asked Esaki to study its molten characteristics and so on so as to make very good crystalline semiconductors. Dr. Esaki learned how to put the doping, or impurities, into the semiconductors in a rather systematic way. That's the occasion when Esaki found the negative resistance.
He had several other research staff. They studied the different methods to make good semiconductor devices, but finally they adopted Esaki's method. However, he has one memory of the new effect, which is rather different from Esaki's, that is, a twisted junction. They found the similar negative resistance effect to what Sasaki found. In 1953 or something like that, Esaki gave a paper on negative resistance. However, what he tried to handle was actually the United States' attitudes. They were more active and more enthusiastic about the findings. Later on, the Sony Corporation started to study semiconductor devices and transistors. Esaki was headhunted by Sony Corporation later on. However, at Kobe Kogyo — at that time it was called Kawinishi Kogyo then after World War II it was called Kobe Kogyo — at Kobe Kogyo he had several more research staff. Kobe Kogyo still did a lot of research on these although he was gone.
Kawnashi was integrated into Kobe Kogyo. It changed its name after the war to Kobe Kogyo. Kawnashi Kogyo manufactured airplanes. They changed their name to Kobe Kogyo, and Kobe Kogyo was absorbed eventually by Fujitsu. Mr. Takao was the president of Kobe Kogyo. He's known to be the winner of the Silver Medal when he graduated from Kyoto University. He is a splendid engineer. He invested too much money in research rather than development. Therefore, in 1963, Kobe Kogyo was absorbed by Fujitsu. Then he got the idea or belief that engineers or scientists should change their mind when they become the top management of a company. That's what he believes now.
There is another famous story. That is again the acquisition story. Japan Radio was sold to a textile company. Then Japan Radio was then regarded as a technology-oriented company, like Kobe Kogyo. So these two were top-notch technology-oriented companies and at almost the same time absorbed by some other companies. So he said again the engineers are technology-based. The management should change his or her mind. Kobe Kogyo has the tradition of inventing many things. Some examples I could mention include ultra acoustic radars to search for fish. What they call the TEN radio, which was the first car radio. And things like that. So always they invent the first something. However, they are too much technology-oriented, so immediately Kogyo was caught up by Matsushita or some other commercial technology-oriented companies. That is always the story.
Sharp has the same rival relationship with Matsushita. Sharp made the radio and TV and so on first. Immediately, Matsushitia started to produce similar goods. So Matsushita is called Maneshita; it's a Japanese word, but the "mane" means "imitation." It's a phonetic joke. However, Matsushita might have changed its policy. They produce the first-generation goods these days.
Sharp and Desktop Calculators
Then he spoke of something he got started in 1962. In that year Sumlock Computer ("Comptometer") Corporation in England started to sell a desktop computer labeled Mark IV. That was quite important here. In 1962 or 1963, the company exported their goods into Japan, and they were a big hit commercially. However, in Japan most companies still struggled to make calculators with vacuum tubes. He had already realized that, in the future, vacuum tubes should be replaced by semiconductor devices. In 1963 Kobe Kogyo was merged into Fujitsu. At that time Sasaki was one of the board member additions. So he quit the company. He moved from Kobe Kogyo to Sharp in 1964. However, two years before that, Sharp and Kobe Kogyo had quite close ties. The Sharp Corporation had purchased electronic components from Kobe Kogyo. During that time the Sharp Corporation had been quite interested in calculators. However, Sharp had the resources only for electrical appliances, not computers. Before he moved, he had asked Sharp Corporation to train the people for the future computing business. Then he sent several engineers or researchers into the university. When he moved to Sharp Corporation, things were very, very changed, and some researchers had come back from the university to Sharp. So he has some good support for research. Their people had a shortage of research money. So he had considered what he had to do in the future. Then he came over to Sharp and he started.
What's meant here by computer? Calculator? Do you mean desk-adding machines? Or do you mean full-featured, full-sized computers with stored-program capability?
Desktop calculators. I should say one thing before he starts. When he moved to Sharp Corporation, what he did first was the calculator that had transistors in it, the first in the world. After he studied computers, he thought the computer could be regarded as a part of a great human being. So far as the function of the computer is concerned, in the future the computer should be miniaturized more and more to fit into the human body. His point is that in the future the computer should be used not only in the offices, but in individual homes because at that time the people had to use what they called Tiger calculator computer. That was, mechanically operated. However, it's too complicated, too slow, and too tedious. So what he thought is that even housewives calculate something and they need some small, compact computers, then Sharp is essentially an electrical appliance manufacturer. So Sharp should be in a good position and should start making tiny computers, that is, ones more tiny than desktop calculators. So there were three points to consider in order to get into customer goods. One is low cost. Second point, no defects or no malfunctions while operating. The third point is making things simple.
Yes, simple problems. Not simple product but simple functions. There were many problems and many solutions. They wanted to be involved with the most basic calculations. It's human interface, I guess. To attain to the three goals, at that time Sharp had used the p-type transistor. For a typical calculator, they had used 4000 p-type transistors. However, after attending several conferences in the United States, he learned things should be changed. Especially in the United States, there had been a change from SSI to MSI — that is just in-scale. Then for that purpose the PMOS should replace the p-type transistors. If it can be done, then the number of components in the transistor is reduced to maybe one twentieth to 200. He had claimed that the Japanese manufacturers should utilize the MOS material because of an observation he made.
At that time the Sharp Corporation had hired many, many young girls for the assembly operations, for production. Sharp Corporation had built many dormitories for several-person occupancy. They also built housing complexes for married couples. Then he realized that what is more efficient and cost efficient is singles' dormitories; they are much better than couples' dormitory, because, in the case of the single's dormitory, you don't have to think up any design. It's very simple, and you don't have to worry about any separations between them. Then he put that idea into semiconductor devices. People have used the p-n junction, and they had to put some insulator with it. It's no good for the future miniaturization of devices. So what he claimed then is to utilize the single type of transistor structure. That was before people had started to adopt the P-type MOS. As of 1964 they had the production using just the bipolar transistors. However, he saw the future. He claimed again that they had to use single-carrier devices. At that time in the United States, there was one proposal. There was a report on the surface-barrier transistor structure — either p or n in the single-carrier. He again claimed that that's the future structure. However, at the time in Japan nobody tried to understand or listened to him. Some of the reasons that were considered then, one is the surface; when you utilize surface conduction, then you need to be very careful of the surface treatment, things like that.
MOS and Liquid Crystal Display
Since 1966, Sharp started to change. It introduced the p-type IC, PMOS. That was the year when integration started at Sharp. A report made by Fairchild Company engineers was quite helpful to them because Fairchild people had shown how to deal with this kind of MOS. For example, he mentioned two things. One is how to avoid the oils from hands or dirt. The second one is the space-charge layer. They discussed the aluminum foil and discharge of things like static charge.
He next tells the story up to 1968. For those two years the integration had been speeded up. Then finally they were going to PMOS LSI. However, at the moment when he developed the 4-tip structure for the pocket calculator, then he started to worry about the future of the structure of the computers and chips for calculators. There are two points: One is a battery problem. When you decrease the number of chips, people want to use it a long time, so you might need a lot of battery volume to drive the single-chip calculator. The second point is that the PMOS has slow speed for calculations, so they cannot put in too much memory. Therefore for the future tiny and high-speed calculator, PMOS might not be a good candidate. They had to think of a different structure. The final decision was the adoption of CMOS to reduce the power consumption and increase the speed. At the time, however, the people were just thinking of the power consumption, of the display. They didn't worry about the power consumption of the MOS part. However, he argued that in the future MOS should replace CMOS. Then they started to do research on CMOS. His activity finally led to the liquid crystal display. He compared the power consumption between CMOS and the display. The display had a much bigger portion of the power consumption, so he tried to seek a different technology for the display. He went to RCA Corporation. At the time RCA had already started to sell liquid crystal displays. For that tiny calculator, what was later called hand-held, he asked RCA if they wanted to produce a lower power-consumption display.
Before he went to RCA, Sharp and other companies had utilized the green digital, light-emitting device, the Digitron. That was just before the liquid crystals. It was good, but because of the power consumption he tried to find another display device. When he went to RCA Corporation, he met Dr. [Bernard] Vonderschmitt, who was the general manager. However, Dr. Vonderschmitt didn't quite understand what Mr. Sasaki tried to explain. So Mr. Sasaki gave up that discussion. He went back to Japan and started research on the new display — a good crystal display. That was 1971. It's quite unusual that the consumer goods company would try to make electronics components.
Could you elaborate on the attitude of the RCA manager? What was the difficulty?
Mr. Sasaki proposed at the time that Sharp send its systems engineers of its products into an RCA plant. Cooperation should be made, he said. However, RCA said no without saying much about why. But actually he got one point from that story, together with two other stories. He claimed that the attitude of top managers is very, very important. At RCA, Vonderschmitt thought that the liquid crystal display is too costly. At the time it was in an initial stage of production, so everything was expensive. Vonderschmitt thought that that kind of display should be used for industrial versions, but not for consumer goods. That's the reason why.
Microprocessors and Busicom
Mr. Sasaki mentioned two other examples: One is the microprocessor and Robert Noyce. Intel accepted his proposal to make a microprocessor. The second example is the semiconductor laser. He proposed the production of it to Fairchild. Fairchild said no, so Sharp started to produce semiconductor lasers and then liquid crystals. In the case of the semiconductor laser, the guy who he met was Dr. Corrigan, who was quite a well-known researcher. Later on he invented the gate array device. However, there was great cost again, and Mr. Sasaki was interested in low-cost devices. Corrigan said he did not want to make such low-cost stuff. No consumer goods. But Bob Noyce's decision was quite right. At first Mr. Sasaki proposed the low-cost devices. Bob Noyce said, "Well, let me think on that." Then Noyce asked Mr. Sasaki to provide some research money for it. That's the story.
The year was 1971 when he thought that he'd try to build the manufacturing plant for the liquid crystal display. Sharp started to produce these displays commercially in 1973. If RCA had decided to work for Sharp, maybe there would be no Sharp Corporation today.
Sasaki tells another story on the microprocessor. It takes us back to 1964, 1966, and 1968. Every other year, there was a revolutionary change in the number of chips required to make a calculator. In 1968 there were four chips; and in 1970, two chips. In 1968 the four-chip calculator was at its peak. So in that year Mr. Sasaki started to think of two years ahead. He needed a two-chip machine. This was the way he actually thought at that time. In 1968, he started to discuss what's coming after one chip. In 1971 or 1972, the one-chip machine would come out. So afterwards, what would happen? That's what he was interested in 1968. He actually made his policy on this two-year cycle whenever he planned to build a new plant. After the two years ends, all the property should be amortized.
That's very fast.
He explained about the brainstorming meetings, consisting of over ten engineers and circuit designers. The majority opinion was just to increase the chip size.
Increase the number of transistors on the chip?
Right. He criticized this opinion. According to him, that kind of idea is just based on the Japanese university education. But there was one lady at the time in that brainstorming meeting. She graduated from Nara Women's College. She was a software engineering researcher. What she claimed, which was refused by other engineers, was that after a single chip we should think of the fractional numbers. Because at the time the hand-held calculator had four parts: ROM, ROM, RAM, shift registers (S-R), and CPU. What she suggested is to divide the one chip into four parts and connect them to each other, with buffers to bypass. That's a very good idea, Mr. Sasaki said. However, at the time it was criticized by the majority of the members. When they concluded that brainstorming meeting, Sasaki made his judgment based on the majority. He has now admitted that that was a mistake. After that series of meetings, the shops started the produce what he calls COS, Components on Silicon. That continues up until now. During that time, Rockwell — now Rockwell International — had been quite supportive of Sharp Corporation. Exclusively, Rockwell sold their devices to Sharp Corporation. It was a $30 million contract. Rockwell's stock prices were going up. So Rockwell got benefits, too. During that period, the Sharp and Rockwell relationship was quite mature and they were very important partners to each other.
In 1968, Robert Noyce and Dr. Graham came to visit the Nara offices of the Sharp Corporation. Right before that time, Bob Noyce and Graham were kicked out of Fairchild. They started a kind of garage business at Mountain View. They asked Mr. Sasaki to give them some business on devices. Mr. Sasaki asked Rockwell Corporation to share, just a tiny portion, with Bob Noyce and Graham. But Rockwell said no; the Sharp and Rockwell relationship is exclusive, they noted. At the time Sasaki's friend, Mr. Kojima, who graduated from Kyoto University after Mr. Sasaki had a company called Japan Business Computer. Mr. Sasaki put 40 million yen into “Busicom” to develop a new device, in cooperation with Bob Noyce. That was the chip based on the idea created by that lady on the four division-type chip. The first model was the 4004. The model 4004 is said to be the first microprocessor in the world. That garage business was created by three men: Bob Noyce, Graham, and Dr. Gordon Moore is the other founder.
Can I ask a point of clarification? I interviewed Dr. Shima, who was then with Busicom, last week. Did I understand you correctly to say that you put the money into Busicom for this work on the chip with Intel?
Very clear. The truth is that Busicom paid 40 million yen to Intel. And Mr. Sasaki, behind the scenes, asked Busicom to pay. Then Sasaki gave the four-division chip idea to Busicom and Intel.
Dr. Shima, whom you met last week, was hunted by Mr. Kojima, who was the president. At other times Dr. Shima was in Ricoh Company.
Dr. Shima is a good engineer, but he had some bad times at Ricoh. However, he is a very good engineer on electronic calculators and things like that. Shima moved to Busicom, and Mr. Kojima sent him into Intel. Dr. Faggin was the head of the research group at Intel, and worked together with Dr. Shima and Dr. Ungermann. Later on, those three guys moved out of Intel to establish Zilog Company.
There are two or three reasons behind these events. One is, before this program occurred, Mr. Sasaki had utilized the patents made by Bob Noyce while he was in Fairchild, for planar-type semiconductor devices. Mr. Sasaki is a person who has respect for the benefit that he got, whether or not it's big. He felt a definite obligation to Bob Noyce, to help him in some sense. The second reason is the alumni relationship. Mr. Kojima, then the president of Busicom, and Mr. Sasaki were alumni from the same university, Kyoto University. At that time Busicom was not in good shape. Mr. Kojima had no technology background. So Kojima frequently asked Sasaki to give advice for Busicom's business. It was this kind of friendship.
[I should add one thing to what he said. I have only one or two years of relationship with Mr. Sasaki, so I didn't know the details before then. However, I have heard many stories about what he had done before. I believe he is a person who always tries to do his best to help small-size or medium-size companies in their growth or whenever they are in bad shape.]
He mentions several reasons. He says that although he gave the idea for the division chip to Busicom, he first tried to persuade Sharp Corporation and Rockwell Corporation. Otherwise, it's no good for business morale. He asked Rockwell to make the four-division chip. However, at that time Rockwell had a big success with the p-type devices, especially the PBS4 or PP54. Whenever you have a success, of course you don't want to change your production line, so Rockwell did not want to get into producing the four-division chip. This is the reason why he gave the idea to Busicom. Busicom's Mr. Kojima had no background in p-type MOS and things like that so it was easier to get them into n-type MOS. That's the beginning of microprocessing. Mr. Sasaki said he respected Bob Noyce because Bob Noyce talked about his success in the development of the microprocessor. Whenever he talked about it, he said he developed it. He never said he invented it. Mr. Sasaki himself also cannot say he invented the microprocessor idea because that was the idea of the lady.
Do you remember the lady's name?
He forgot. She's already married and changed her name. Although, Bob Noyce had a great role in the development, the largest role that of Dr. Faggin. Whenever he visited Faggin, he talked with him about the development. That friendship has continued so far. For example, when Zilog was established, Sharp financially supported the formation.
I didn't know that.
In Japan Sharp was the largest licensee to Zilog, and so Sharp had ties to [unintelligible word]. For example, Mr. Ungermann visited him to see some new plant for his bosses. Mr.Sasaki passed on Mr. Shima's stuff. According to Mr. Sasaki, Mr. Shima was too young to be saying much about his working relationship with Intel. Since Rockwell rejected Mr. Sasaki's proposal for a four-division chip, Rockwell was now behind Intel in the marketplace. Rockwell was too stuck to its own success with PP54 at the time. On the other hand, Intel had no familiarity with the p-type, so they worked enthusiastically on the n-type. This is how Intel made its current position. As for the whole story behind who is the winner and who is the loser, you'd better ask Dr. Faggin.
Mr. Sasaki said, when you think of the most important technological inventions, it takes twenty years to make it to the top. He mentioned three topics so far: the liquid crystal, microprocessor, and semiconductor laser. All three showed the same trend. As he mentioned, Sharp started liquid crystal research in 1971 to 1973. Twenty years have passed, and Sharp is in a good position. The microprocessor is the same. About the semiconductor laser, he wants to say one more thing: we should think of the consumers' needs or attitudes. That's very important. In the case of semiconductor lasers, Hitachi, Mitsubishi and Philips manufacture them and have established a kind of standard. However, a very important part of the technology developed by Sharp Corporation twenty years ago is now the mainstream. It’s a connection pin.
[Before I mention what he said about the future, I should say some last words on the previous paragraph. This concerns the life cycle of R&D. He mentioned that it is necessary for twenty years to pass, but nowadays, maybe ten years or less — maybe even only two or three years is necessary. The R&D cycle has been decreased linearly. That's why he seeks a new type of R&D. The ICML [International Center for Materials Research] that we established recently is a kind of model case.]
Dr. Sasaki is interested in the future of calculator processors. They have now become very tiny and close to the human body. Essentially, he believes processors should be embedded into the brain. That's the origin of them. It's not to be in the near future, but he said it might be in the distant future. But he believes the calculator or processor should be in the human body, in the brain. He wants to put memory into, for example, aged persons.
For example, in the case of memories, when you put this kind of foreign device into human bodies, the most important requirement is that the materials should be fitted into the human body's materials. That's important. That is one of the reasons why he asked me to study polymers, which are fitted into human bodies. So polymer-based memories and some other internal devices should become very important. My institute has plans to develop a new kind of polymer device: materials that can be fitted into the human body, that's the device of the future. In his opinion, the current trend in micro-fabrication should be ended around the year 2020. By that time we should develop new materials to replace circuits.
Several of the major current topics in the institute is the next generation type of liquid crystal. He believes the present liquid crystal material is no good for the future. It's passive. In the future it should be self-emitting materials. He said even the squid can be made by itself. So one of our topics concerns that point.
Vertical Integration vs. "Kysoso"
I just have a couple more questions. Yesterday I spent the day talking with people at Sony. One of the themes that came out in the conversations was the importance of vertical integration in the company, especially their ability to manufacture their own semiconductors in a way that fit into their consumers' products. In Sharp's history they weren't manufacturing them all the time, just a little piece of the time. Can you talk about the importance of this kind of vertical integration?
In the past maybe one or two years, he has claimed that in the future, industries, and even R&D, will require what he calls "Kyoso." [Phonetically, Saski’s Kyoso is the same as another Kyoso, a more usual word than Sasaki’s Kyoso. The usual Kyoso means competition, Sasaki’s Kyoso means collaborative creation.] Kyoso is literally collaboration among the organizations that have specific strengths. He believes vertical integration is not the future style. The reason why Sharp has a lot of partnerships is that it should open new product areas rather deeply. How can I say it? He does not want to make everything, but instead sell like a department store. He wants to make a specialty goods store. However, for product A he has a variety of products by now. So that's what he has claimed for Sharp Corporation. He believes that you can do everything means you can do everything in a big sense. I [as translator] should make one comment about the Sony comment. Sony Corporation tried to change its organizational style into a more and more collaborative style, and they changed the organization this year. He believes the horizontal management of [unintelligible] Corporation and things like that — probably in the States there are several words, similar to that. However, the collaboration, Kyoso, is his word for the future. And he believes that all industries, all nations, all organizations should be working towards the world peace.
Let me ask a historical question. If you go back and look at Sharp's history, what were the advantages and disadvantages of not producing the components within house but buying them from outside?
He believes the Sharp Corporation should work only on key technology component areas. Then they can put all their human resources and research resources into specific key areas. So they can work in-depth. That's his theory. In the last paragraph he mentioned that our institute is based on the same idea. We develop specific A material, and then and some university organization develops new stuff. Then we collaborate together and develop something new. Vertical integration is a downsizing. Catastrophe.
Catastrophe theory says vertical integration is downsizing.
In an era when downsizing is occurring, vertical integration is a catastrophic philosophy?
Right. There are several examples. For example, Panasonic, namely Matsushita, and Sanyo, and some other companies have been in bad shape these days because they want to make everything by themselves. And the value of the corporation is based on specific strengths in such-and-such field. If your company makes everything but not top-notch, it means your company has nobody. There are three things that are necessary for the future: The first is trust building between two different organizations or technology centers. The second, if you have already made such trust building, then you need to network between them. The third point is not to imitate. If you find a good technology in some other company, then you just buy it. However, unless you have a specific field that has very real strengths, you lose again.
Mr. Sasaki suggests that if you have time, if you just stay in your own yard, and just put sand in grain by grain, that you make progress. You'll find the maximum height. He says the present big enterprises — not only in Japan but throughout the world — are currently putting sand above the highest height possible.
I have one last topic I'd like to ask you about today. Dr. Takahashi told me I couldn't come away from this interview without asking this question. He says that you have a particular view about the importance of having an engineering background in being a high-level manager in a technology-based company. Could you talk about the importance of that?
Well, it's rather hard to explain. His idea of the engineers or researchers at the highest level is that you need to be a T-type engineer. T-type means here you have special depths. You need this to become a really good manager. However, you need this horizontal spreading knowledge, what he calls the management technology, the management skill. So you need to understand the other areas necessary for general management. You need to be a T-type. If you don't have any in-depth specialty, this is called “Zatsugaku”, a walking dictionary in Japan. It means knowing only the wide range of knowledge, not quite profitable to anybody. But if you have this T, then you are called “Hakugaku”, a man of wisdom in Japanese. What can I call it: Insight or wisdom.
I see. Is it the case that some engineers who rise to executive positions have only the horizontal component?
You need to have a sensor that enables you to understand or see all areas possible. Otherwise you're just like a digging robot, just dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-dig. Suddenly a flood is coming, and you die inside. However, if you have the sensor that you can search the right place and you don't encounter disaster. He says that German companies that are now in recession are just like a digging robot.
Mr. Sasaki has established another lab. He has made many laboratories so far. But before we started the one on materials research, he established one research lab concerning the place for information. This means a lot of things. For example, as a human being you need two important resources if you want to survive. One is food. The other one is information. According to him, there have been several experiments of just providing food without information to a very strong person. Without information, he's lost all mental strength, even physical strengths. So you need information. This lab studies that kind of topic. I should also say he has worked as a staff member, together with some other top-rank people, under the administration of MITI and some other agencies. He has worked on, say, new generation marketing and brain science and some other stuff in a rather public space.
I think we should stop at this point. Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
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