Networking in Japan
By Yoshi Mikami
From Four Corners, Journal of S.M.I.L.E.
Society for Microcomputing in Life and Education
(Hillel Weintraub, National President, S.M.I.L.E.)
Volume 6, No. 3 (Spring, 1988)
When I returned from the U.S. two years ago with an IBM PC Junior among my belongings, I went through the typical process of buying a 120-100 volt step-down transformer, finding modular telephone plugs, judging whether I am allowed to use a Hayes modem, and so on. I then wrote down my experience in a short thesis called "Bringing an IBM PC to Japan and Learning Japanese Telecommunications." It fell in the capable hands of Shumpei Kumon and was distributed for educational use to the board of directors of the organization which approve the appropriateness of all equipment for attachment to Japan's telecommunications networks.
Savoring the taste of this minor success, I went ahead, with the help of my friends, to do two projects in 1986-87, which may be of interest to you. One concerns with PC-based networking and the other, human networking.
In the early summer of 1986, I came across upon a public domain software called Colossus, or Collie for short. It runs on the IBM PC and JX personal computers as bulletin board system (BBS) host program. It accepts Japanese as well as English messgaes, and also has a unique function called Net Mail, which allows sending and receiving messages to/from other Collie host systems. Fido is the name of the other BBS host program which pioneered the Net Mail function, but it cannot handle Japanese text.
THe PC based BBS systems are great because they are mostly run by the hobbyists and therefore free to use, but are horrible because there are at least two thousand independent systems in Japan, none of which is connected to other systems. I encouraged the IBM PC and JX users to set ｕｐ Collie systems and, in 1986, established a loose Fido/Collie network from Yokohama to Kyoto and Hiroshima. Additional nodes in Morioka, Utsunomiya, Tokyo and Nagoya were added in 1987. It is interesting to note that two Collie systems are operational at the educational institutions: St. Mary's International School, Tokyo, and Nagoya University of Commerce, near Nagoya.
Now that we have the nationwide networks such as TWICS/BeeLINE Nikkei MIX firmly established in Japan, some doubt the viability of all these PC-based bulletin board systems. Nobody doubt, however, the educational merits for the students of running such systems, responding to their users' requests, surviving the intimidations of some of their users, etc.
The other project I did was to set up user groups in Japan. The PC user helping others in trouble is a worldwide phenomenon. But nowhere, other than in U.S., has this phenomenon been successfully institutionalized for useful purposes. The use of personal computer is so varied in its applications that the traditional top down/bottom up approach (manufacturer to users) and the more recent centralized/decentralized approach (manufacturer via dealers and VARs to users) cannot solve many user problems and must be supplemented by a third approach: the user directly helping other users.
Towards the end of 1987, there are five user groups in Japan whose primary interests are the IBM PC, 5550 or JX. There are two in Tokyo,, one in Nagoya and two in the Kansai region of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. The user group meetings are where the PC users go to get to know other users, to provide voluntary help toward solving other users' problems, to learn new ways of doing things, and to obtain copies of public domain software.
My involvement was to support the new user groups in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya. For example, the users at the educational institutions, such as the Computer Coordinators of the international schools, participate in the new user group in Tokyo. This group is also experimenting a bilingual approach, using sumultaneous translation equipment regularly, for the first time in Japan at this grassroots level, and issuing a bilingual newsletter.
I believethe two kinds of networking efforts as mentioned above, one technical and the other human, will be of greater importance in order for us all to better utilize this new tool called the personal computer.
(This is a summary of the speech given at the IBM JX Conference of Computer Coordinators of International Schools, held at the American School in Japan, Chofu, Tokyo, on November 6, 1987.)
B.A., 1964, International Christian University, Tokyo. M.S.I.A., 1971, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, U.S.A. Worked as systems engineer for IBM Japan, Ltd., in Yokohama and Kobe 1965-67. Was involved 1971-85 in the market requirements and business asessment work of the display terminal projects in IBM's Communication Products Division, in: Fujisawa and Yamato, Japan; and Raleigh, NC, Kingston, NY, and White Plains, NY, U.S.A. Curently, product planning manager of Office Systems Software Development, at IBM's Tokyo Programming Center, Kawasaki, Japan. Use of computers for educational and networking purposes is his personal pursuit. Lives in Fujisawa City, with his wife, two children and a dog.
By Toshi Mikami (三上吉彦)
The Organizing Committee, Taipei
On May 21, 1991
By Honlin Lue (呂陳蒼林)
The Organizing Committee
On June 8, 1991
The BBS Environment in Japan
By Shuichi Fujita (藤田秀一)
Sysop, B&B Shimokitazawa (6:730/11)
Submitted on June 2, 1991
By Toshiyuki Omi (大美俊之)
On June 8, 1991
Our BBS conference is coming to and end soon. Representing the visitors from overseas, I would like to thank you for the hospitality of the Taiwan people, especially the organizing committee members in Taipei. You have done a wonderful job ofreserving a conference room, setting up the agenda, gathering the abstracts and printing them, making a simultaneous translation, and letting us sing songs! The exhibit of computer communication books and magazines was excellent. It was a very professional job, for our amateur BBS conference.
This year, more countries and regions have joined our conference. Those who didi not have a chance to talk are invited to do so during the dinner time.
Honlin Lue talked in his opening speech about the origin of the Asian BBS Sysops' Conference, and the first Asian, the second Asian and the third Asian. The first Asian was myself, the second Asian was Honlin himself, and the third Asian is sitting there, smiling. Actually, this conference became possible because of the many people who worked together in different Asian countries to prepare for it at the grass roots level and who came to Taipei to participate in it. We will continue to kee this grass roots spirit, although our future conference format may become more organized.
In Japan, DOS/V (pronounced "DOS/Vee") has lately been a big topic. I welcome this approach, like Taiwan's ETen and others, of offering the Asian language fonts by software and making the Japanese personal computers back to the mainstream of the world's personal computers. I cannot wait till I can load all Japanese, Chinese and Korean fonts on my notebook PC, and travel through Asia to access the local bulletin board systems!
Japan has in the meantime spawned excellent public domain software progress: H. Yoshizaki's LHa (formerly called LHarc), which is the most popularly used archiving program in Japan, creating *.LZH files; A. Idei's FD, a disk file management program; "Teddy" Matsumoto's DIET, which, like LZEXE. is a very handy program for notebook PC, uarchiving the archived programs directly into the computer memory to execute; etc. I would like to see these and other public domain software programs from the Asian countries introduced in this kind of conference.
And where are the BBS users? What do they want and what do they expect from the amateur BBS Sysops? This year, some of the Japanese visitors participated in this conference purely from the user point. At the next conference, why don't we listen to the BBS users?
Personally I would like to see this conference continue in Taipei because I will be coming back to COMPUTEX Taipei every June. However, I realize that it is about time we should have the next conference in a country outside of Taiwan, in order to increase the awareness of all Asians. Frankly, I would be excited to visit Seoul, Hongkong , or Shanghai oe wherever, during a major computer show to attend the BBS conference!
So, until we see you all again, Tsai-Chien (再見)!