At the TRON Association, for two days last September 5 an 6, 1996, we met with a five-person Chinese delegation led by Liu Ch'i Yuan, assistant general manager of China National Computer Software & Technology Service Corporation (CS&S), and held a Sino-Japanese exchange meeting.
The spread of ITRON (a real-time multitasking operating system for embedded use in machines) into home appliances and office equipment in Japan is progressing. From the last fiscal year, we have been putting effort into activities to spread the specification overseas; we have annually set up a booth at the Embedded Systems Conference in the U.S., where we have presented lectures. In addition, in October 1995, we held an ITRON exchange meeting and conducted seminars jointly with CS&S, whom we met with on this occasion, in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.
Single-chip microcontrollers are used in great numbers for embedded systems in Japan, but the situation in China is that programmable MPUs such as the 8086, 6805, and Z80 are used as the base, uses seem to be limited to those for industrial purposes, and applications in home appliances are something that will take place in the future. It was just the right time to promote the standardization of software in China.
As for CTRON (an operating system interface specification for telecommunications and data processing), this year , we held a seminars jointly again with CS&S in Beijing and Shanghai to which we invited key people of the Chinese telecommunications industry.
In China, the rate for the dissemination of telephones is one-tenth of that for Japan (1994 data), and there are investment plans to increase this roughly three times by the year 2000--China is in a period in which it is necessary to further disseminate telecommunications services.
All day Thursday, September 5 , 1996, and on the morning of Friday, September 6, 1996, the Chinese inspection group took field trips to firms that are the driving force behind the CTRON business. No matter which company they were at, there was a lively exchange of questions and answers, which showed the deep enthusiasm of the Chinese inspection group's interest in the TRON Project.
The Chinese inspection group visited the telecommunications division in Totsuka Ward of Yokohama City, and after listening to how the CTRON business is being handled, they observed a demonstration of AMN5003 and AMN5001 CTRON-specification products.
The Chinese inspection group visited NTT's multimedia research center in Musashino, where after receiving an explanation of combined experiments on VI&P (Visual Intelligent and Personal), new high-level telecommunications services that NTT is pushing forward with research on, they viewed demonstrations and exhibits of items of these experiments, such as a high-presence multimedia teleconference system using broad band ISDN and a system for connecting to high-speed databases using communication satellites.
The Chinese inspection group visited the Headquarters Annex in Shibaura, Minato Ward, Tokyo. After receiving an explanation on how Oki is tackling the CTRON business and an outline of OKITRON, they viewed a demonstration of an OKITRON-LL dual processor system and an exhibit of the OKITRON-LL and the OKITRON-S.
From the Japanese side, beginning with Vice Chairman Sudo (Oki Electric), Managing Director Hirota, Project Promotional Committee Chairman Sakamura, CTRON Technical Committee Chairman Wasano (ATR), ITRON Technical Committee Chairman Tamaru (Toshiba), 22 people from 9 companies responded.
We explained the characteristics of BTRON, in particular the multilingual functions of BTRON. Because BTRON is the only OS that can handle Japanese and Chinese mixed together, we showed them a side-by-side translation demonstration making use of those features, which drew considerable interest from the Chinese delegation. Next, we explained the compactness and high speed of BTRON. If one wishes to run Japanese-language applications with [Microsoft Corp.'s] Windows 95, 32 megabytes or more of memory and a Pentium CPU are required. The circumstances are the same for the Chinese version also. On the other hand, the BTRON-specification "1B/V2" OS can operate at practical speed with just 6 megabytes of memory and a 16-MHz i386 CPU. This difference is especially important in a country such as China where there is an insufficient number of personal computers. That is to say, the Chinese delegation's interest seemed to have increased in the BTRON-specification OS on the point that it is possible to use cheap computers with low specifications when attempting to increase the number of personal computers on a limited budget.
There was a rather high-level technical question and answer session concerning the database specifications, the possibility of connecting with the Internet, how the BTRON outer kernel and manager types are implemented, and so on. It seemed like they had studied a lot about the microkernel system that is employed in BTRON. Overall, they seemed to have a stronger interest in how to implement the OS and development methods rather than the operation method of the machine or the standardization of data formats. At their second visit in November, again it came about that we gave explanations in detail.
As the first step to introducing CTRON, we related the fact that it is possible to provide as source code the winning entry of the CTRON-based OS contest (free software).
We explained the fact that the ITRON share is high even worldwide, the state of activities to enlighten people and spread ITRON overseas, and so on. We related the fact that for ITRON also it is possible to obtain free software written at the University of Tokyo via Internet access.
The Chinese side stated that they expect TRON to become an open international standard, and they expressed their intention to cooperate. It was agreed to conclude a "Letter of Intent to Cooperate with the TRON Project" for the purpose of mutually cooperating on the TRON Project from now on. [The text of the Letter is as follows:]
As we hold in recognition that the Chinese characters Japan and China commonly put to private use represent ancient Eastern civilization, and as we recognize that utilizing modern information processing technology in this field is also connected to making Eastern civilization, which is being reconsidered anew in the present world, bloom afresh, it has become the common basis of agreement that the TRON Project is the road to realizing these things.
The Chinese side shall understand the TRON Project more and select and expand areas in which Japan can cooperate. The Chinese side is showing a positive attitude in establishing at an appropriate time an association similar to Japan's TRON Association, and in establishing a cooperative organization called, for example, the "TRON Research Center" or the "TRON Development Center."
This Letter of Intention was concluded as of the date October 11, 1996.
The above announcement from the TRON Association appeared on page 105 of Vol. 42 of TRONWARE.