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Jerry Pournelle

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

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I was an invited speaker at the Nikkei Business Publications World PC Expo at the Nippon Convention Center just outside Tokyo (in  the Prefecture of Chibo) in September, 1999. This is the largest PC show in Asia.




I had not been back to Japan since the Korean War, so I had a lot to learn. This is a series of photographic impressions.

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First day: Setup on the show floor. I like to watch setups, although this time I wasn't going to get any conversation...

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More setup. As you can see, the big names are here.

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It's neat to find your picture on a poster board, even if it is a bit hidden...


The next day we took a very long train ride, from Chibo to the Toshiba Works in Tokyo but way over to the other side of the city. This took a couple of hours each way. We returned to the BYTE offices.


 Click to go to What Is This Place? page
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But first, a Japanese crow. I like crows. This one lives on the convention center grounds.

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Some things don't change: civil servant works crews are large no matter what the job. That odd building in the background is part of the St. Francis Hotel, but I don't know its purpose.

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You see these everywhere: bicycles and motorcycles parked under bridges. It's in theory illegal. The astonishing thing is that few of them are locked, and their owners worry more about tickets than theft.

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On the train. You see three piece suits on these trains, as well as working people. The older men don't remove their jackets. The next step up is taxis, but those are slower as well as expensive. The step after that is the chauffeured limo.

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Everyone rides trains. Schoolgirls wear uniforms; when I was in Japan in the 50's boys wore a kind of blue uniform, but no more: if there is a dress code for boys I couldn't discern it.

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Just outside the station at the Umo Works factory village. As far as I could tell, not one of those bicycles was locked, although the cheapest decent bicycle I saw for sale was about $50. It was outside a store, unwatched, and it wasn't locked either.

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The designers of a new Libretto show off their wares. Except for the very top executives who wear black suits, most officials, managers, and engineers wear the company uniform. Hats are color coded. There are probably subtle codes on the uniforms too.

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The new Libretto. Alas it's not sold in the US but Eric has an article in the current (November 1) byte.com that tells you how you may be able to buy one. I like it a lot. Wish I had one.

Alas, I wasn't permitted photographs on the assembly line floor.

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An odd picture a bit out of sequence: but this is a thoroughly middle class apartment. Even in very expensive neighborhoods you see wash hung out to dry. Note that the hooks and such are actually built in; hanging out laundry is expected unless you're really upper class.

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A dramatic sunset just as we were catching the train back to Tokyo


A few words about the Ume Toshiba plant. The assembly lines are highly automated, and rather short: five to eleven people assemble an entire system. They all wear uniforms and hair nets and hats. There is a lot of automated test equipment as well as assembly stuff. People work efficiently. There are warning signs showing how large a cigarette smoke particle is compared to a disk drive, but there are also smoking areas not too far from the assembly areas: with huge hoods over them, and a sucking sound that would scare me enough that I wouldn't want to stand under one for fear of being sucked up through the roof.

This plant assembles laptops and disk drives, and the disk drives are done in commercial quantities in an ultra clean room that of course I never got inside (although there are glass observation windows). I was struck by the absence of security and administrative people in this plant, and by how hard the assembly line people work.

The main purpose of the plant is not to produce laptops, but to research production methods for producing laptops. The assembly line technology and experience is then exported to places where labor is cheaper, like the Philippines, and New Mexico, USA...

Now for a party at NIKKEI BYTE

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Mr. Shigeru Ishi, or Ishi-san Shigeru as it would be said in Japan. He is the editor of Nikkei Byte, and those are the Nikkei Byte editorial offices.

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The server room. It looks JUST like Byte Peterborough used to look...

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The welcoming party at a local Japanese restaurant. I say local: we walked about 2 blocks. Everything was excellent.

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A sight you will not normally see in a US restaurant. The cat is very interested in any leftovers. She lives there.

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One more look at the Nikkei Byte editorial offices. It sure looked like Byte Peterborough

And more on the show and environs.


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Ishi-san presents a BYTE show award. These awards are a Big Deal in Japan. Note the style of presentation and acceptance.

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Every booth has a half dozen or more attractive young ladies dressed in ways that vary from traditional Japanese to conservative party dresses to costumes appropriate for the Mustang Ranch. This is one of the more attractive if sedate designs.

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It's a BIG show. This is one of five halls.

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A vary big show...

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I couldn't resist this one

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This is the gymnasium part of my hotel; the hotel is the tower to the left.

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A view out my hotel window. In the next report we'll take a walk down to that beach you see. I'm facing south. That's Tokyo Bay, but the east side; Tokyo is on the west side.

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Another view out my hotel window. The park is meticulously maintained.

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Looking down on the gymnasium window. 

This page has got long enough that I will continue the report on another; we'll go for a walk along the beach and up a canal walkway. Part III will go back to the show itself.