Casio, a Brief History of the Electronic Calculator
Casio has become a household name for pioneering some of the most useful products such as the all-electronic calculator and the digital watch. Both of which we take for granted in the 21st century.
A young and talented lathe operator apprentice by name of Kashio Tadao began his studies at Waseda Koshu Gakka (now Waseda University) in Tokyo, Japan. Gaining experience working in a factory (whilst studying) making general everyday items such as pots, pans and bicycle generator lamps, Tadao made the decision to establish his own business (Kashio Seisakujo) subcontracting making microscope parts and gears in 1946.
Tadoa had a younger brother Toshio, who was creatively gifted with extensive electrical knowledge. Tadoa from an early age admired the pioneering efforts of Edison, who invented the light bulb, and always told his family that he wanted to become an inventor.
At this time, Tadio was a naturally gifted technician at the Ministry of Communications. He decided to leave his job at the Ministry of Communications to pursue his dream, the more ability testing and challenging job of an inventor. Toshio joined Tadoa at Kashio Seisakujo and began utilizing his natural inventiveness, trying several innovative ideas. One of which was the ring mounted cigarette holder (Yubiwa Pipe), which provided a means of smoking a cigarette down to the nub whilst doing work.
We must remember that commodities in postwar Japan where in short supply. This meant that Toshio had a potential market for his new innovation. Tadoa manufactured the holder on a lathe and the father of the two brothers marketed the product. Orders began coming in for the pipe and the product was a success.
The capital created by the Yubiwa Pipe was to be invested in Electricity calculator a new innovation. Whilst at a business show held in Ginza, Tokyo, following the success of the Yubiwa Pipe, the brothers spotted a potential gap in the market for an all-electronic calculator. At that time, most calculators were mechanically employed by gears and required manual operation with the use of a hand crank.
Moreover, some advanced electronic calculators overseas still functioned with the use of an electric motor which made noise as the gears rotated at speed. Toshio’s idea was to engineer an all-electronic circuit based calculator using a solenoid which would resolve a lot of the problems that came with the current mechanically based inventions. He wanted to make his own calculator.
Whilst working at Kashio Seisakujo on the sub contract work, Tadoa and Toshio heavily invested there evening time developing the calculator. Basic prototypes were shown to people and the feedback received helped resolve many problems. This was then iterated back into the prototypes. After a number of refined prototypes, Tadoa and Toshio finally developed Japans first electric calculator in 1954.
However, there were complications when the brothers approached the Bunshodo Corporation, a company specializing in office supplies. The Bunshodo Corporation criticized the invention, outlining the lack of multiplication functionality. The current calculator could not do continuos multiplication where the result of an initial multiplication can be multiplied by another value. The brothers went back to design, bringing there two other brothers Kazuo and Yukio to the development team. Yukio who was a mechanical engineering student aided the team by designing the plans and Tadoa and Kazuo did the production.
In 1956, six years of design, development and ironing out problems and bugs, the team were close to adding continuos multiplication to their innovation. However, Toshio decided to make a big design change that would make the calculator completely electronic. The current solenoid solution they had based their original idea on was to be swapped out with electronic relays. This had a number of benefits, one of which made mass production of the product more feasible. Indeed, the disadvantage of relays was that they were easily susceptible to fine particles and dust. Computer systems which use relays, at that time usually took up an entire room and had their own air filtering system of some sort. This presented a whole new problem domain to the project.