The rise of Japan’s Casio Computer Company, which has continued to develop and flourish for well over six decades, epitomises the nation’s own ‘economic miracle’ which began in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Focusing on consumer electronics, Casio now ranks as one of Japan’s major electronics companies, with its watches synonymous with quality and many of its products competing in the market as brand leaders.
Casio’s roots go back to 1946 when Tadao Kashio, an engineer, established a company manufacturing a ‘yubiwa pipe’. This cigarette-smoking device incorporated a metal finger-ring, allowing smokers a ‘hands-free’ method of efficiently smoking an entire cigarette. With a shortage of cigarettes in post-war Japan, the yubiwa pipe rapidly became a popular smoking accessory. Spurred on by his success, Tadao and his brother Toshio – who had devised the yubiwa – next developed the first fully electronic calculator. Though this was a groundbreaking achievement, the most innovative element was its new ten-key calculation pad, replacing the older and more cumbersome multi-digit version, which remains the standard format today.
The Casio Company
Casio was established as a company in 1957 in order to market the new calculator. As product development continued, the company began to adopt emerging technologies in their own designs. By 1972, this process culminated in the development of a new Casio personal calculator. This popular ‘mini’ calculator played a significant role in the move towards miniaturisation in consumer electronics. The 1974 release of the ‘Casiotron’ – computerised Casio watches – signalled the start of the company’s diversification strategy. By the 1980s, the company was branching out into cutting-edge music technologies; first with music keyboards; then digital synthesisers, used by leading musicians, which exploited the new MIDI technology for connecting music devices.
In another bold technological advance, Casio introduced their first G-Shock watch in 1983. Designed by Casio engineer, Kikuo Ibe, the DW-5000C embodied the legendary ‘triple-ten’ concept: a 10-year battery, 10 bar water-resistance, and a 10m fall shock-resistance rating. The DW-5000C featured a quartz mechanism shielded by ten layers of heavy-duty protection including an outer urethane-rubber moulding, a steel case, a tough mineral glass watch crystal and a stainless steel rear casing.
Its outer function buttons were connected by cables to the watch module ‘floating’ in a protective cradle, creating a robust image which took the military, sport and outdoor adventure worlds by storm. This first G-Shock was light and water resistant with timer and stopwatch functions – features most G-Shocks still have in common.
Casio technology today
Modern Casio watches now exploit atomic clock synchronicity and solar power features, and several models are NASA-approved for astronauts. Though many G-Shocks are collector’s items, and others have attained ‘fashion icon’ status, the brand remains resolutely popular with mountaineers, police, combat troops, and similar professionals who value its reputation for durability and reliability.
Now, in the 21st century, Casio’s philosophy of creative innovation still endures. Their diverse products still challenge and transcend technological barriers, delivering new consumer devices designed to enhance consumer experience and create new cultures.
Image by MIKI Yoshihito, used under Creative Comms license
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