Description - We Were Burning by Bob Johnstone
Are the Japanese faceless clones who march in lockstep to the drums beaten by big business and the bureaucrats of MITI, Japan's miracle-working ministry of international trade and industry? Can Japanese workers, and by extrapolation their entire society, be characterized by deference to authority, devotion to group solidarity, and management by consensus? In We Were Burning, investigative journalist Bob Johnstone demolishes this misleading stereotype by introducing us to a new and very different kind of Japanese worker-a dynamic, iconoclastic, risk-taking entrepreneur.Johnstone has tracked down Japan's invisible entrepreneurs and persuaded them to tell their stories. He presents here a wealth of new material, including interviews with key players past and present, which lifts the veil that has hitherto obscured the entrepreneurial nature of Japanese companies like Canon, Casio, Seiko, Sharp, and Yamaha.Japanese entrepreneurs, working in the consumer electronics industry during the 1960s and 70s, took unheralded American inventions such as microchip cameras, liquid crystal displays, semiconductor lasers, and sound chips to create products that have become indispensable, including digital calculators and watches, synthesizers, camcorders, and compact disc players.
Johnstone follows a dozen micro-electronic technologies from the U.S. labs where they originated to their eventual appearance in the form of Japanese products, shedding new light on the transnational nature of twentieth-century innovation, and on why technologies take root and flourish in some places and not in others.At this time of Asian financial crisis and the bursting of Japan's bubble economy, many are tempted to dismiss Japan's future as an economic power. We Were Burning serves as a timely warning that to write off Japan,and its invisible entrepreneurs,would be a big mistake.
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(203mm x 137mm x 32mm)
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
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US Kirkus Review »
"Made in Japan" was once the mark of an inferior knockoff; now only an incurable chauvinist would draw that inference. How that change came about is one of the great stories of modern industry. Johnstone, who covered Japanese technology for New Scientist and Wired, begins by debunking the myth that Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) orchestrated that country's rise to dominance in electronics. In fact, MITI's bureaucratic foot-dragging kept Sony from becoming the first company to market a transistor radio (in 1954). Instead, it was a succession of brilliant entrepreneurs, most of whom are unknown in the West, who drove the Japanese electronics industry to its position of preeminence. They were helped, ironically, by the post-WWII disarmament pacts, which meant that their best and brightest engineers were concentrating on consumer products, not military projects. At the same time, the fledgling transistor technology was one in which Japan could compete on an equal footing with bigger, more developed nations - especially after antitrust legislation forced AT&T and other American companies to license their patents to Japanese manufacturers. A generation of visionaries arose. Among them were Morita Akio, one of the co-founders of Sony; Sasaki Tadashi, whose passion for miniaturization led to the first hand-held calculators; Yamazaki Yoshio, who helped perfect Seiko's liquid crystal display watch; and Kuwano Yukinori, whose unofficial research into amorphous materials made possible the solar-powered calculator. Johnstone gives chapter-length profiles of these and other scientists and entrepreneurs, bringing these largely unknown figures to life. Many of them at first had trouble overcoming the pressures for conformity and subordination to authority so central to Japanese culture. But their example has paved the way for others, and Johnstone confidently predicts that their successes are only the beginning of a long legacy. Johnstone has a sharp eye for drama and a knack for making technical details understandable; this book is a welcome addition and corrective to the Western-dominated histories of recent technology. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Bob Johnstone
Bob Johnstone is a freelance journalist who has written about science and technology for fifteen years. He has served as Japan correspondent for New Scientist, technology correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review, and has been a contributing editor and writer for Wired. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991 and was the recipient of an Abe Foundation Program grant.