NEC

Featured NEC Video Game Consoles

The NEC TurboGrafX game console was another elusive piece of hardware that I never owned at the time of release.

NEC Company Overview

NEC logo

NEC Corporation is a Japanese multinational provider of information technology services and products, with its headquarters in Tokyo. NEC provides information technology and network solutions to business enterprises, communications services providers and to government agencies. The company was known as the Nippon Electric Company, Limited, before rebranding in 1983 as just NEC. Its NEC Semiconductors business unit was one of the worldwide top 20 semiconductor sales leaders before merging it with Renesas Electronics.

Kunihiko Iwadare and Takeshiro Maeda established Nippon Electric Limited Partnership on August 31, 1898 by using facilities that they had bought from Miyoshi Electrical Manufacturing Company. Iwadare acted as the representative partner; Maeda handled company sales. Western Electric, which had an interest in the Japanese phone market, was represented by Walter Tenney Carleton. Carleton was also responsible for the renovation of the Miyoshi facilities. It was agreed that the partnership would be reorganized as a joint-stock company when treaty would allow it. The company started with the production, sales and maintenance of telephones and switches.

The Great Kanto Earthquake struck Japan in 1923. 140,000 people were killed and 3.4 million were left homeless. Four of NEC's factories were destroyed, killing 105 of NEC's engineers and workers. Thirteen of Tokyo's telephone offices were destroyed by fire. Telephone and telegraph service was interrupted by damage to telephone cables. In response, the Ministry of Communications accelerated major programs to install automatic telephone switching systems and enter radio broadcasting. The first automatic switching systems were the Strowger-type model made by Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Co. (ATM) in the United Kingdom. NEC participated in the installation of the automatic switching systems, ultimately becoming the general sales agent for ATM. NEC developed its own Strowger-type automatic switching system in 1924, a first in Japan.

World War II was described by the company as being the blackest days of its history. In 1938 the Mita and Tamagawa plants were placed under military control, with direct supervision by military officers. In 1939, Nippon Electric established a research laboratory in the Tamagawa plant. It became the first Japanese company to successfully test microwave multiplex communications. On December 22, 1941, the enemy property control law was passed. NEC shares owned by International Standard Electric Corporation (ISE), an ITT subsidiary and Western Electric affiliate were seized. Capital and technical relations were abruptly severed. The "Munitions Company Law" was passed in October 1943, placing overall control of NEC plants under military jurisdiction. The Ueno plant was leveled by military attack in March 1945. Fire bombings in April and May heavily damaged the Tamagawa Plant, reducing its capacity by forty percent. The Okayama Plant was totally destroyed by a bombing attack in June of the same year. At the end of the war, NEC's production had been substantially reduced by damage to its facilities, and by material and personnel shortages.

After the war, production was slowly returned to civilian use. NEC re-opened its major plants by the end of January 1946. NEC began transistor research and development in 1950. It started exporting radio-broadcast equipment to Korea under the first major postwar contract in 1951. NEC received the Deming prize for excellence in quality control in 1952. Computer research and development began in 1954. NEC produced the first crossbar switching system in Japan. It was installed at Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (currently Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation; NTT) in 1956.

In 1980, NEC created the first digital signal processor, the NEC µPD7710. NEC Semiconductors (UK) Ltd. was established in 1981, producing VLSIs and LSIs. NEC introduced the 8-bit PC-8800 series personal computer in 1981, followed by the 16-bit PC-9800 series in 1982. In 1983 NEC stock was listed on the Basel, Geneva and Zurich, Switzerland exchanges. NEC changed its English company name to NEC Corporation the same year. NEC Information Systems, Inc. started manufacturing computers and related products in the United States in 1984. NEC also released the V-series processor the same year. In 1986, NEC delivered its SX-2 super computer to the Houston Advanced Research Center, The Woodlands, Tx. In the same year, the NEAX61 digital switching system went in to service.

In 1987 NEC licensed technology from Hudson Soft, a video game manufacturer, to create a video game console called the PC-Engine (later released in 1989 as the TurboGrafX-16 in the North American market). Its successor, the PC-FX, was released in Japan in 1994. NEC USA, Inc. was established in 1989 as a holding company for North American operations.

NEC celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1999. NEC Electronics Corporation was separated from NEC in 2002 as a new semiconductor company. NEC Laboratories America, Inc. (NEC Labs) started in November, 2002 as a merger of NEC Research Institute (NECI) and NEC USA's Computer and Communications Research Laboratory (CCRL). NEC built the Earth Simulator Computer (ESC), the fastest supercomputer in the world from 2002 to 2004, and since produced the NEC N343i in 2006. In 2007, NEC and Nissan Co. Corp. started evaluating a joint venture to produce lithium ion batteries for hybrid and electric cars.



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