Guess What's Coming to Market in America?

Steven J. Searle

Web Master, TRON Web

In the early 1980s, a lot of people scoffed when Prof. Ken Sakamura of the University of Tokyo proposed the creation of a new "total computer architecture" for the 21st century that would allow all computers throughout human society to be interconnected. In fact, there are still lots of people outside Japan who have never heard of either the TRON Architecture or the TRON Project, which is why English-language news sources are filled with the erroneous claim that "Japan missed the Internet boom." Actually, Japan is the only country in the world where the Internet was not only predicted, but prepared for in the form of a massive technology development project between academia and industry. Not only that, but the TRON Project beat the GNU/Linux movement to the punch in that one of its key concepts was "architectural openness" that prevents any single company from taking control of the TRON Architecture and making a monopoly out of it.

The part of the TRON total architecture that drew the greatest derision from computer authorities and commentators, both within Japan and from abroad, was the BTRON subarchitecture for personal computers, which ironically is the part where Prof. Sakamura let his creativeness run wild during the design process. BTRON was planned as a highly refined human-machine interface (HMI) for a networked world in which people would communicate both with computerized devices ("intelligent objects" based on the ITRON sister subarchitecture) and large-scale computer systems (servers, switching systems, mainframe computers, etc., based on the CTRON sister subarchitecture). As a result, one of the key design principles was mutlitasking in "real time," which dictated that BTRON would be an extremely compact operating system. He also specified a new ergonomic keyboard, a hypertext filing system, aids for the handicapped, and true multilingual capability.

For those members of the foreign press who think that Japan missed the technological boat to the future, I ask you to consider what's in demand today. Isn't it a compact operating system that can be easily incorporated into small handheld devices such as personal digital assistants? Isn't it real-time responsiveness that will allow stock traders to place buy/sell orders immediately and thus avoid trading losses? Isn't it an ergonomic keyboard design to prevent repetitive stress injuries and thus avoid lawsuits? Isn't it hypertext data filing as seen on the World Wide Web? Isn't it aids for the handicapped that are now mandated by law? And isn't it true multilingual capability that will allow libraries throughout the world to digitize their card catalogs and the copyright-expired portions of their collections without any restrictions whatsoever as to what characters they can use in the process?

Since there was initially a lot of derision of the BTRON subarchitecture--mainly because it wasn't compatible with the now forgotten personal computer technology of the mid 1980s; and even interference by the USTR on behalf of Microsoft Corporation to prevent the introduction of BTRON-based technology into Japanese classrooms!--the BTRON architecture took a long time to reach the point where it was developed into something that was worth purchasing by the average individual. However, that point was finally reached on Friday, November 12, 1999, when Personal Media Corporation put on sale its BTRON3-specification operating system B-right/V R2, which goes by the trade name of Cho Kanji, or "Ultra Kanji," in Japan. This operating system has a multilingual character set of about 130,000 characters, including an unabridaged kanji character set that allows Japanese people for the first time to write any word in their language. Thanks to BTRON, the information age has finally arrived in Japan.

However, the TRON Architecture and the BTRON subarchitecture were never intended solely for Japan. Prof. Sakamura hates to hear expressions like the "Rising Sun OS" or the "Made-in-Japan OS" in reference to BTRON. It was his intention from the very beginning to create a personal computer architecture that can be used profitably by people throughout the world. And now, thanks to a new venture firm called Sennet Inc., which has recently established a California-based subsidiary called Global OS Corporation, that dream is about to be realized. That's right--people in the American market are ironically going to be the first to have a chance to purchase the first localized version of BTRON, which will be put on sale in the first quarter of 2000. This BTRON3-specification operating system will be an English-language adoption of B-right/V R2 for IBM-PC/AT compatibles. New software application releases and even a dedicated Internet appliance are scheduled to follow in 2000 and 2001.

Ah, I can hear the cynics saying out loud, "but who needs it?" The answer is any of the following people.

1. People who need a high-performance personal digital assistant
2. People who need a real-time network computer/personal computer
3. People who require a real-time HMI for factory automation
4. People who are engaged in Asian language desktop publishing
5. People who are digitizing Asian language library card catalogs or collections

Yes, thanks to BTRON, the information age may finally arrive in a variety of fields in the U.S., also!