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The Myth of Japan's Technological Superiority - PART 1: MOT to Bust Fetishism

Left: Hollerith Tabulating Machine
Right: Wiring Panel embedded in it

I fell in love with the computer in 1963. It's been 46 years since then, but my love affair with her is still going on. Sometimes I fantasize that on the last day of my life, I will collapse onto the keyboard while my finger keeps hitting "M."

In the early days of the computer age, people were fetishizing hardware in part because the computer was actually a "precious metal mine" of gold, platinum, silver, palladium, rhodium and tantalum.

Another reason for the hardware fetishism was that although people were gradually realizing that "the computer without software is nothing but a box," they still found it difficult to distinguish software from hardware. In the tabulating machine, the precursor of the "electronic data processing" system invented by Herman Hollerith (photo on the left) they were one and the same thing. Before the arrival of the IC-powered machines, most business computing was performed by the tabulators. They processed particular jobs, such as summarizing census results using firmware which was then called the "wiring panel." (Photo on the right.)

In those days, huge machines run on thousands of vacuum tubes were sweating from internally generated heat. But they were soon to be supplanted by far smaller and much more powerful ones. Hardware prices per byte were dramatically coming down. Yet the same old hardware fetishism lingered on even after the emergence of Microsoft as the leader of the IT industry. The software giant artfully hooked us all on software without really getting emancipated from hardware fetshism.

Today there still is something that makes the vast majority of people look away from a third element which by far outweighs hardware and software. I call it human-ware.
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