the Hidden Realities of Computer Industry in Japan Japanese

1.5 Ability to Understand

About fifteen years ago, I worked with a small software company, where I developed custom software for R & D needs. An academic society decided to develop a three-dimensional CAD system, which was state-of-the-art technology at that time, and a laboratory in the University of Tokyo was in charge of development, perhaps because the associate professor at the laboratory was one of the most advanced researcher in the area. He requested for the developer, and the company I worked with got the contract. Several developers including me, participated in the project at The University of Tokyo.

Normally, a small company like the one I used to work with would not be allowed to participate in such a project, however, the sales stuff at the company used to work as a part-time at a research institute at Ministry Of Industries. The connection was the major factor of the contract. And the associate professor had escaped from the research institute when it was relocated from Tokyo to Tsukuba.

The program was very complicated and large at that time. It required mathematical knowledge and the computer was manufactured in the US and the manuals which I had to read was all written in English. However, since the work hours were not strict, I could decide when to go to work and come home on my own.

By the end of the project, I and another engineer was at the project. Besides our work, although it's about computer, we were interested in analyzing the internals of pocket computers, which began to appear on market at that time. That was a typical hacker's act. Surprisingly, the associate professor got interested in them. The activity resulted in a large amount of publications about pocket computers. This made the manufacturer of the pocket computers to disclose the internals of them.

By the way, the three-dimensional CAD system was complicated and required a large amount of programming. Because the specifications were written by intelligent people or maybe the reader was supposed to be smart enough to understand the meanings, they were written so simply that only people with background knowledge can understand them. Well, if you read the academic papers all day long, it would be natural to think that way. If I could not understand the specifications in spite of my investigations, I will be asking questions. Anyway, his profession is teaching.

I continued developing, however, the project just didn't progressed as I expected. I asked for cooperations from undergraduates and graduate students, but they were limited. So I asked another software company to send an engineer. The company sent an engineer at half the price of the company I worked with. At last the engineer came to work with me.

He could not understand the specifications at all, however hard I tried to explain them to him. I thought he should be dismissed, but I gave him some filing job to do out of my kindness. Instead of doing the job, he said, "I came here as a computer engineer, not a secretary." Well, the more incompetent as he is, the more outrageous words he says.

At last he escaped. The sales stuff of the company that he worked with, who always spoke like an soldier to me, said "I promise to make him finish his job, sir." But the engineer never shown himself again. Well, everyone in the project would have thought, "I will never ask the company again."

Once in a while, the other company offered they accept the job at lower price, but, after the incident, there were not such proposals to me any more. I was requested to stay with the project until the end.

In the middle of the development, I got out of the CAD project, since the project from the parent company of the one I worked with get very busy. But I still go to the laboratory of the associate professor, who is professor now, and see the people who used to be undergraduates or graduate students, who are associate professors now.

I used to do shopping at the university coop, of which I became a investor. The member card is marked as "for university stuff" and as infinite membership. For now, since I still live near the University, I sometimes go to the books corner of the coop and purchase books at discount prices.

All in all, the moral of the story is, you should be able to understand. Understandings are more important than how long you work. With any jobs, you should understand what you do. Without it, you don't know what to do, and you can't achieve anything. This may sound quite usual, but very few people can evaluate it.

Copyright 1996, 1998 Hirofumi Fujiwara. Translated by S.A.
No reproduction or republication without written permission.

the Hidden Realities of Computer Industry in Japan Japanese