Tadao Kashio Biography: History of Casio Computer Company

Tadao Kashio Biography

Tadao Kashio

In this success story, we will share the biography of Tadao Kashio, a Japanese engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur. He was the President of Casio Computer Co., Ltd. The company, headed by Tadao Kashio, became one of the major competitors in the industry of electronic calculators, electronic watches, and personal computers, and it remains one of the global leaders in the market.

Early Life

Tadao Kashio (樫尾忠雄) was born on November 26, 1917, in Kureta-mura (now Nankoku City) in Kōchi Prefecture, Japan, as the second son of the father, Shigeru Kashio, and mother, Kiyono Kashio. Tadao Kashio had three brothers: Kazuo, Toshio, and Yukio. The house where the future inventor grew up was ordinary and did not stand out from other houses in the neighborhood. The only notable distinction was that one of its windows faced a medieval castle where, several centuries before, one of the most prominent Japanese poets, Kobayashi Issa, had stayed.

Until 1923, Tadao’s parents lived in the village cultivating rice fields. In September 1923, after the Great Kanto Earthquake, which devastated Tokyo and killed more than 100,000 people, they moved to the city at the invitation of an uncle to rebuild it from ruins. The Kashios had packed their humble belongings and started pursuing a more leisurely life and kinder fate, hoping their children would get an education.

However, life was not easy by any means. The salary of a construction worker was tiny, and to save some extra money for the eldest son’s education, the father, Shigeru Kashio, cut down the expenses on public transport. Every day, he walked on foot to and from work and spent around five hours on this commute. Taking into account such sacrifices, Tadao could not let his father down. In 1929, he graduated from the lower level of elementary school. In 1931, he graduated from the upper level. Tadao was the best student in the class. Right after school graduation, he got a job at a company that recycled oil cans. Soon, he got a job at a company that produced military medals for soldiers. His manager was impressed with the Tadao’s performance, and soon, he was taken as an apprentice to a lathe operator at the machine tools factory Enomoto. Tadao also showed all his firmness and will to succeed despite everything – he came first to the factory in the morning and was the last one out. His diligence and intelligence had drawn the attention of the factory’s owner, Hiroshi Enomoto, and soon, he encouraged Tadao Kashio to enter Waseda’s Worker’s School (now Waseda University) to deepen his professional knowledge while continuing working at the factory.

Waseda’s Worker’s School (now Waseda University), was a place where Tadao Kashio got his professional knowledge.

First Steps in Career and Marriage

Having finished Waseda’s Worker’s School, Tadao worked at a radio valve plant, where he also showed himself to be a skillful manager and inventor. He worked his fingers to the bones and was so exhausted, depleted, and ill with tuberculosis that he was even found unsuitable for the army, which was a deep shame for a Japanese man of his time. For a long time, Tadao crossed the street at the sight of a person in a uniform – he was too embarrassed to look them in the eyes.

Nevertheless, giving up was not in Tadao Kashio’s nature. He was determined to help his country as much as he could on the homefront so that Japanese soldiers had everything they needed to win the war. He immediately started to put his idea into action. The shells production workshop where Kashio worked at a plant had the highest indices in the amount and the quality of produce. However, it was not enough for the ambitious young man. Tadao dreamt about a more technologically equipped production not limited by any instructions. He could only achieve that at his enterprise.

In the summer of 1942, amidst World War II, the Kashios had their first feast for many years. They had twice as much rice as usual. It was not cheap Chinese rice but real Japanese, with every grain full of the tremendous nurturing power of a peasant who had grown it. Such an extraordinary squander was explained by the fact that at the beginning of the year, Tadao Kashio started his small private production of components for aircraft. With enough professional technical skills, he bought a cheap lathe at the plant where he worked and established relations with potential clients. The lathe was set in the yard of their house in the shed built specifically for this purpose with the minimum necessary equipment. Combined with the determination and firmness of the close-knit family, it was more than enough to begin with.

Producing details for military aircraft, Tadao soon paid back the loan to the bank and earned enough money for the wedding. His mother, Kiyono Kashio, had chosen him a fine bride several years earlier, but they had to wait – it was uncommon to get married penniless in Japan. Finally, in 1943, Tadao Kashio and Shige Noguchi wedded and lived happily ever after.

Casio Computer Company

The end of World War II brought drastic changes to the family’s life of Kashios. American bombers destroyed their house, well-operating production crashed, and military goods stopped being ordered. Tadao’s brothers, who had returned from the army, could not find jobs. All of a sudden, Tadao was offered an extremely cheap milling machine. With the help of such equipment, lots of helpful household things could be produced, such as frying pans, primus stoves, and heaters, and they were in extreme demand during those poor after-war times. The problem was that the milling machine was at a warehouse 186 miles (300 km) from Tokyo, and it was impossible to find any transportation back then. The head of the family, Tadao’s father, was the one to solve the problem, having demonstrated a heroic self-sacrifice again. He managed to borrow a two-wheel cart somewhere, and having attached it to a bicycle, he transported that milling machine that weighed around 1100 lbs (500 kg) up the road. The whole process took him several weeks, but in the end, all efforts were well-remunerated.

In April 1946, Tadao Kashio established a company, Kashio Seisakujo (“Casio Computer Company”), which produced various simple mechanisms. Tadao Kashio offered his brother, Toshio Kashio, the chance to join his company, and he agreed. Toshio gained some electrical knowledge at the Ministry of Communications (now NTT) and decided to leave the place to pursue innovations. A mini-plant was located in the yard of their house, and Tadao and Toshio got to work. They produced elementary things such as a yubiwa pipe, a finger ring holding a cigarette, and devices for baking corn biscuits.

The market of Japan ruined by war was first and foremost oriented at cheap goods since none of the potential consumers had any money. The yubiwa pipe soldered onto the cigarette holder gave a smoker double savings: it allowed people to smoke while working, and it allowed smoking the cigarette, which did not yet have a filter, to the end without burning the fingers. However, the main advantage of the Kashio brothers’ cigarette holder was that it made it possible to smoke in a traditional Japanese bathhouse, sentō. The cigarette smoked through the holder did not soak in the wet fingers of a Japanese worker exhausted by a 10-hour working day, which was precisely the pleasure they needed. Thus, the cigarette holders with rings were trendy and sold well.

The money earned with the help of the milling machine allowed the Kashio family to survive in the post-war years and start planning the future. By then, Tadao Kashio had already seen how the calculator worked, and all his thoughts were closely linked to it.

Pioneering an All-Electric Calculator

In 1949, Tadao attended a Business Show in Ginza, Tokyo, organized in one of Tokyo’s theaters. On stage, there was a speed counting competition between an American soldier equipped with a huge electric calculator and a Japanese accountant with the classical bone abacus at his disposal. The audience watched the show with sinking hearts, openly supporting the soldier; the desire to become a nation was not only famous for its Samurai feats but also for the technical and scientific progress achievements that prevailed in Japan at that time.

After the show, Tadao Kashio was inflamed by the idea of mass production of calculators. In January 1950, he offered his brother, Toshio Kashio, to start developing the original model of an all-electric compact calculator. It was not enough for the Kashio brothers to have their manufacture. They wanted to pursue an innovative idea.

Mechanical gears operated most calculators at those times, and none used electronic circuits like modern gadgets. Calculators that were used in Japan were hand-operated calculators, which were conducted by gears and a hand crank. Although electric calculators equipped with a small motor to turn the gears had been actively used in other countries, they could not be produced in Japan because they needed exceptional quality materials and high-level engineers to manufacture them.

Electric calculators performed calculations much faster than hand-operated ones. They were pretty noisy since the gears turned at a high speed. Toshio Kashio found a solution to eliminate all that noise and wanted to use electrical circuits instead of mechanical parts. Soon, the world saw a prototype calculator without gears developed by Toshio Kashio. Its main peculiarity consists of an inductance coil called a solenoid.

The Kashio family worked hard during the day to earn some money for this project realization, and at night, the family worked on improving their electric calculator. The task was complicated by not having any financial opportunity to hire external specialists for some work. Tadao Kashio delegated all the technical parts of the project to his brother, Toshio Kashio.

In 1954, after testing dozens of prototypes, they finally developed Japan’s first electric calculator. They presented their device to Bunshodo Corporation, which sells office supplies, including calculators. However, Bunshodo Corporation was unsatisfied with their product and told them it was outdated during development. It lacked the so-called multiplication function: having done one calculation, the result had to be reset to be multiplied by another number. However, such nuisances did not put Tadao Kashio off. He took a loan from a bank and continued his work.

During the development of a new model, the Kashio brothers discovered that not only did the basic capabilities of their device become out of date, but the principle of work also became out of date. Thus, they had to change the project and switch to a more modern relay system. Soon, both younger brothers, Kazuo and Yukio, joined the Kashio Seisakujo team. Each of them had their area of responsibility: Tadao and Kazuo were responsible for the production, Toshio generated new ideas, and Yukio, who had studied mechanical engineering at university, drew the drafts.

In 1956, the Kashio family were close to designing a calculator that would allow them to apply multiplication function. The majority of calculating machines were devices that used electricity to make internal pinions move. To create a more miniature electric calculator and mass produce it, the Tashio Kashio decided to redesign it completely. The Kashio brothers had to apply relay schemes used at the telephone stations’ switchgear, eliminate the solenoid elements, and reduce the number of relays from several thousand to 341. They also designed their relay that could not be affected by dust. As a result, a new calculator did not rely on such mechanical elements as gears and had 10 number keys, just like modern pocket devices.

At the end of 1956, Tadao Kashio and his brothers decided to present the invention in Sapporo. However, when loading the calculator on a plane at the Haneda Airport, the calculator exceeds the allowable pickup size. Airport officials asked the Kashio brothers to detach the top part of the calculator. They tried explaining that it could damage it, but they still had to remove the top part. Upon arrival in Sapporo, they put the calculator back together, but it stopped working. After futile attempts to repair it, they realized it would be impossible. Therefore, they had to present their product on the slides.

Upon returning home, a Uchida Yoko Co., Ltd representative contacted them. He asked Tadao Kashio to come to their office and demonstrate the work of their innovative device. They learned about it from the branch manager, who had seen the presentation in Sapporo. Uchida Yoko was already familiar with Kashio Seisakujo, so they were confident in its reputation. After the presentation, Uchida Yoko offered to sign a contract for the exclusive dealership.

In June 1957, the first model 14-A was launched into production, marking the establishment of Casio Computer Co., Ltd (the name “Casio” is an Englishized pronunciation of the Kashio family name).

A new calculator weighed 140 kg (308 lbs) and was 1080mm wide, 780mm high, and 445mm deep, which was a massive breakthrough. Its name, Casio 14-A, meant that the calculator operated with fourteen-digit numbers and was the first in its generation. The selling price of the calculator was ¥485,000 (US$11,318.59 in today’s money; the exchange rate was fixed at ¥360 per US$1 between 1949 and 1971). Better technical characteristics of the Casio relay calculator compared to the foreign ones made selling it for higher prices possible. Success was inevitable – the Japanese preferred domestic products over imported ones, such as rice or machinery.

Casio 14-A is the first Casio relay calculator.

Creating a universal and super-accurate time relay calculator coincided with the general economic surge of the Land of the Rising Sun, and new orders flooded onto Casio Computer Co., Ltd.

Ups, Downs, and Casio Philosophy

In 1960, Tadao Kashio became the President of the company. The production was extended, a new plant was built in Yamato-machi, Kitatama-gun (now Higashi Yamato City), and the employees were educated at a technical college specially opened for these purposes. Soon, Casio Computer released the TUC Compuwriter, an automatic form output device connected to an electric typewriter, and the AL-1 calculator designed for scientific purposes. TUC Compuwriter is an automatic document-generating device that allows the programming of spreadsheets in connection with a typewriter and relay computer. The productive work of the company could not be stopped even by the worsening of its President’s old tuberculosis.

Tadao Kashio did his best to fill his enterprise with a genuine Japanese spirit. At that time, it meant no less than working for the benefit of Japan. The dream of creating a Great Japanese Empire had collapsed, and the only way for the Japanese to realize their patriotism was to expand their economics peacefully to the markets of the countries that had defeated them during World War II. Whatever the size or the status of the company where a Japanese worked, he ought to have been proud of it, regarding its success as his own and its failure as a personal tragedy.

Tadao’s company was no exception to such a philosophy. The employees worked their fingers to the bones, considering the company’s success as their primary life purpose. The people who worked in the engineering department were just as zealous, and the head of the company was no different. For instance, Tadao’s brother and restless inventor, Tashio Kashio, contrived to use multi-colored wires so that his workers could recognize them more easily while assembling nodes. For Tadao, it was the first manifestation of concern for his employees, not just the know-how adopted worldwide.

Mr. Kashio’s care for his workers went far beyond those multi-colored wires. He ordered clean water from mountain sources for the employees to drink; they were provided free lunches with accurately measured optimal amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Excellent sports grounds were built right next to the plant.

Ironically, sports activities had almost ruined the company. The Kashio brothers got so involved in golf that they neglected their work, which led to the stagnation of new technology development. Sharp Corporation immediately used the situation and launched the production of new-generation all-electronic calculators, not based on relay technology but on newly invented transistors. Consequently, the demand for Casio Computer’s relay calculators dropped heavily.

The Era of Electronic Calculators

The company went into recession. Many workers wore mourning clothes as a symbol of difficult times. Nevertheless, in technical labs, the development of fundamentally new kinds of calculating machines went in full swing.

The company’s engineers tested a transistor model prototype model, and in September 1965, Casio Computer unveiled a product named 001, a desktop electronic calculator with onboard memory. It began a new era when calculators became compact enough to fit the tabletop. At the same time, the term “electronic calculator” became commonly used. With time, the calculators got smaller and could be seen in more and more offices worldwide. In two years in the USA, the first Casio electronic programmable calculator appeared, produced in America under the Commodore brand. Tadao’s plan turned out to be correct: by the beginning of the 70s, the reputation of Casio Computer had been wholly reestablished.

Notwithstanding, creating goods did not mean selling them. The competitors occupied the domestic market, which is why Tadao Kashio decided to start the promotion of innovations abroad, in the largest cities of America and Europe. For that purpose, Casio Computer opened brand shops in various countries, with employees chosen and educated following the specifics of each location.

In 1970, Casio Computer entered the IPO market and was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. On the first day of trades, the share price jumped up ¥150 from the offering price to ¥630. Casio Computer’s shares were trading as high as ¥640 before closing at ¥630. In total, 810,000 shares were traded. In 1973, Casio Computer was listed on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, and in 1979, on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Nevertheless, calculators were so expensive that ordinary people could not afford them. That is why the Casio Computer Co’s President set a task to his employees to create such a device, which would be affordable for individual consumers and could be used as the personal pocket calculator. In August 1972, the company achieved the results and released the Casio Mini – the world’s first personal calculator with a price tag of ¥12,800 ($231.60 in today’s money). In order to sell it, Casio Computer launched powerful TV commercial campaign. That helped to attract the attention of potential buyers. Soon, the Casio Mini took over the world market, and calculators became a part of everyday life. Ten months after the product release, Casio Computer sold one million devices.

When Tadao’s only son turned five years old, Casio Computer’s President followed the advice of his wife and daughters not to spoil the boy, indulging all his whims to grow a decent successor. Although Japanese traditional upbringing orders not to limit the child in anything until the age of 7, avoiding any kinds of bans and prohibitions, Tadao Kashio had swerved from those traditions being very strict and demanding to his heir. Later in his autobiography, Tadao wrote that he had never regretted that decision and was always grateful to his wife for such strong advice.

Kashio’s attitude to his company’s management was that of an authentic Japanese: the company must be managed by a clan, but each family member must be more suitable for the position than any other company employee. For that, everyone must be educated and brought up accordingly. The main thing for prosperity is the ability to analyze one’s experience and avoid repeating the same mistakes. Constant hard work is the basis for commercial success; accomplishments do not interest the consumer; present-day achievements are the only thing that matters.

For all those reasons, several design departments were created at Casio Computer, each responsible for developing products that were expected to be in demand at various times – within one year, three years, five years, etc. For the same reasons, Kashio considerably broadened the assortment of produced goods.

Casio Watches

Casio Computer Co., LTD used digital technology developed during calculator creation to master the then-fashionable direction of electronic components miniaturization. This allowed Casio to break through to a new market segment and master the watches industry.

Due to the very reliable reputation of their goods, Switzerland had for centuries remained a leading manufacturer of watches. However, at the end of the 1960s, the top European watch-making companies made a fatal error of declaring that producing electronic watches was beneath their dignity.

At first, digital watches were an expensive, fashionable, brand-new accessory. However, soon, it became apparent that they could be mass-produced at a meager cost, which was a considerable advantage over traditional mechanical watches. European manufacturers, who initially were naive enough to believe that people would still be choosing the elegance and reliability of conventional chronometers, quickly gave the pas to the rapidly growing Chinese and Japanese companies that produced affordable digital watches.

By 1970, Asian companies had greatly expanded their affordable watches production and started aggressively developing goods of higher quality. European manufacturers produced 97% of expensive watches (costing $400 or more). However, they had utterly lost the cheap watches market (priced at $70 and less) and half of the medium price watches market.

Tadao Kashio was one of the “invaders” who had ruined the watch monopoly of conservative and self-assured Europeans, creating a wide variety of innovative wristwatches, which gained enormous popularity with people worldwide. Having tons of commercial experience in the field, a famous brand name, and the opportunity for capital attraction, Tadao Kashio decisively intruded into the new market. He took the risk, but he had prepared for it. The release of Casio watches, available in the total price range from cheap disposable to luxurious status ones, consolidated the company’s success. Casio Computer Co., Ltd was one of the first to produce quartz watches. It was also one of the first manufacturers of eyes that could display the time in many different time zones and of watches with temperature, atmospheric pressure, altitude, and even Positioning System displays. Global Casio watches became the company’s symbol, as recognizable as a calculator.

In November 1974, Tadao Kashio unveiled the CASIOTRON to the public. This first electronic wristwatch displayed accurate time and an entirely automatic calendar, including month lengths and leap years. The watch model was based on Casio’s motto: “Time is a continuous process of addition.”

In 1980, Casio Computer Co., Ltd started to apply digital technologies to fundamentally new concepts. In January 1980, the company released Casiotone-201, an electronic musical keyboard that played sounds generated electronically. Besides, the company produced a wide range of electronic devices such as pocket LCD TV sets, Japanese word processors, home videophones, car navigation systems, radios, printing machines, pagers, electronic notebooks, and many other pioneer devices that have improved people’s lives.

Secret of Success

Tadao Kashio was the founder of a successful enterprise and its longstanding head for 28 years. After his retirement in 1988, his brother Toshio Kashio took over the reins of power. Two other brothers, Kazuo and Yukio, were therefore promoted to higher positions. As of May 13, 2015, Kazuo Kashio holds the position of President and CEO at Casio Group; Yukio Kashio serves as the Chairman of Casio Micronics Co., Ltd and as Representative Director of Casio America, Inc. Tadao Kashio continued to work at his company as a consultant until his very death. He died at 75 in Tokyo Central Hospital on March 5, 1993. The cause of death was respiratory failure.

Tadao Kashio’s success story is a genuinely Japanese phenomenon based not on reckless luck and fate trying but on thorough work and personal austerity. These two unique qualities of Tadao Kashio turned his company into one of the world’s leaders in high technology, praised by business analysts for innovative management and aggressive but efficient marketing and pricing. Tadao Kashio himself, as an authentic Japanese man, explained his success through his life-long service to society. At the end of his life, he liked to repeat, “If you want to be happy, give all your strength to the other people’s happiness, as my father did.”

Casio Computer Co., Ltd continues to keep up with scientific and technological progress. The company, which employs around eleven thousand people worldwide, produces various unique goods such as compact organizers, powerful pocket computers with a complete set of office applications, digital cameras, high-speed printing systems, watches G-Shock and Wave Ceptor ranges), miniature digital cameras and temperature and depth indicators, and many other devices. As of 2014, Casio Computer Co., Ltd consolidated net sales reached ¥321.7 ($2.699) billion. Casio’s world headquarters is located in Shibuya, Tokyo. As of 2022, revenue was ¥252.3 billion ($1.70 billion).

As Tadao Kashio would always say, it is not Casio if it is not entirely original. This idea remains the fundamental basis for the company’s new developments. Casio has always been an ardent follower of implementing fresh ideas and innovative technologies into new devices that fill our everyday lives with new possibilities. Tadao Kashio’s life story shows that all his accomplishments were thanks to his hard work, perseverance, and a well-organized team of professionals. We hope you enjoyed exploring Tadao Kashio’s biography and the history of Casio Computer Co., Ltd.

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