SORD Computer Co SORD Computer Corporation
 

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SORD Computer Corporation

The information on this page is based on information at the Toshiba-TOPS history page, an interview with Shiina-san from 1994 and independent information. As with everything else on this site I would value any contributions or corrections.

SORD was founded by Takayohi Shiina in 1970 when he was 26 years old. Initially the company wrote software for the Digital PDP series of microcomputers, but later on in he 1970's branched out into hardware production. The name SORD is a contraction of SOftware/haRDware, reflecting the dual focus of the company.

In 1977 SORD released the M200, one of the first microcomputers in Japan. This was followed by the M100 and various other versions of the M100/M200 series, plus the multi-user M223 and M243 computers.

The SORD M23 followed in 1981 and become one of the most popular SORD computers. It was one of the first to see significant use outside Japan, and was even relatively popular in New Zealand. The M68, a curious dual 8/16 bit computer using both 68000 and Z80A CPUs, was releaased in Japan in 1983.

On the software side, PIPS - Personal (or Pan) Information Processing Sytem was released in 1980. This package was 'not quite' a spreadsheet in the Visicalc/123 sense of the term, and 'not quite' a database, but combined features of both into an easy to understand business package. This was followed by PIPS-II in 1981, PIPS-III in 1982 and a complete rewrite (by a team led by kiwi Peter Hyde) as 4G-PIPS in 1986. I still have a copy of the MSDOS version of 4G-PIPS - it will run on any PC capable of running 16 bit applications, although because it expects all its folders to be off the root directory a little fiddling with SUBST (or running in DosBox) is advisable!

Unfortunately Japanese business culture does not look kindly on the entrepreneur. Shiina-san was approached by a larger Japanese corporation in 1983 and advised to sell. He didn't - and in 1984, on the back of turnover of 35 billion yen and profit of 2 billion yen SORD found itself struggling with suppliers and the banks. SORD was sold to Toshiba in 1985 (Toshiba had no part in the problems from 1983).

Under Toshiba, SORD went on to produce additional hardware such as the M68MX (with no Z80A) and M343SX-II multi-user computer and new versions of PIPS, a series of high performance IBM compatible machines and systems based on Alpha but now SORD (known as Toshiba-TOPS) primarily deals with embedded systems.

When I first prepared this in 2008 Takayoshi Shiina was running Proside Corporation. I had the honour of an email from him when trying to find information for repairing an M68.

Suffice to say that if Hewlett & Packard, or Jobs & Wozniak, or even Gates & Allen had been Japanese then we probably wouldn't have HP, Apple or Microsoft.

More info: Toshiba-TOPS History (translated) From Riches to Rags to Riches, Computing Japan, August 1994 Entry in Wikipedia Japan (translated) Article

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