The multinational conglomerate Hitachi, Ltd. traces its history back to Namihei Odaira, a 19th-century pioneering electrical engineer. In Japan, during the Meiji Era of the late 1800s, with the move from a feudal society to an industrialized nation-state, the country wanted to take its place among the nations of the world with modern scientific technology. Because most electrical machinery was imported into Japan from other countries, Odaira wanted to develop home-grown technology “for the advancement of Japanese industry.”
Hitachi and Electrical Power Supply
Hitachi produced in Japan the first transistor-based computer for business use in 1959. Following this breakthrough, Hitachi advanced its railway seat reservation service, larger computer systems, and electronic switching equipment. Hitachi developed Japan’s first supercomputer in 1983, renowned worldwide; the New York Times announced it:
Hitachi Ltd. says it will put its new supercomputer on display by the end of September…. Supercomputers, which generally cost $10 million or more, are designed for the highspeed processing of huge mathematical calculations, such as those used in scientific research.
Hitachi in the Late 20th Century
Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) was founded in the US in 1989 when Hitachi partnered with Electronic Data Systems (EDS) to acquire National Advanced Systems (NAS) from National Semiconductor. HDS sold both IBM-compatible mainframes and storage systems in the US market. In the ’90s, with the decline of the mainframe market, HDS bought out EDS and dedicated itself to enterprise-scale storage systems. At the same time, HDS became more of a global company beyond the US. Greater involvement from Hitachi Japan introduced the Hitachi Culture based on Wa, Makoto, and Kaitakushi Seishin… Harmony, Sincerity, and Pioneering Spirit.
I recall in the late ’80s and early ’90s, when I was working for a Silicon Valley computer company, that “made-in-Japan” was no longer a term of derision; it now meant the highest-quality electronic components, and at that time, was the only place to obtain premium DRAM chips for microcomputer manufacturing.
Hitachi in the 21st Century
Following the acquisition of several technology companies, most notably Pentaho big data and analytics, the company reformed itself as Hitachi Vantara in 2017. Since then, the company has expanded its focus. In addition to its enterprise-scale storage systems of Virtual Storage Platform and Hitachi Content Platform — for object store archiving and multi-cloud integration — Hitachi Vantara also includes AI and Machine Learning technologies to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to empower smart spaces, government, and retail.
Looking Forward for Hitachi
As Hitachi Vantara has transformed from US-only to global, from mainframe to storage, from hardware to software and services, it has taken its place as a leader in innovation on the international stage.
Factoids: Hitachi provides:
- 98% of Operating Room ultrasound machines by OEM agreement
- Parts for almost every automaker
- 33% of the parts for Nissan’s Leaf car
- Sensors for many self-driving cars
Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
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