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IBM Kanji System

IBM Kanji System was announced in 1971 to support Japanese language processing on the IBM System/360 computers. It was later enhanced by the support of IBM System/34, IBM 5550 and DOS/V.


IBM Kanji System became available in a series of staged announcements. Its initial technical demonstration was done at Expo '70 in Osaka, and official announcement was made in 1971, including:[1]

The Kanji Keypunch was able to punch up to 2950 kinds of Kanji characters, using the left hand to select one of the 15 shift keys and the right hand to select one of the 240 Kanji characters for each shift. Until that time, only English alphanumeric and Japanese half-width Katakana characters were processed on IBM mainframes, but now it established the basis for handling up to about 10,000 Japanese characters used in the daily life.

The IBM Kanji System was further enhanced in September, 1979, to include:[2]


  • Offline input/output
    • IBM 5924 T01 Kanji Keypunch (IBM 029 Key Punch with 12-shift key Kanji keyboard) - RPQ
  • Online terminals
    • IBM 3270 Subsystem
      • IBM 3274 model 52C Control Unit with Kanji processing functions
      • IBM 3278 model 52 Display (IBM 3278 Display with 12-shift key Kanji keyboard)
      • IBM 3273 model 52 Inkjet Printer
  • Online printer

Kanji support software

IBM Kanji System was planned, designed and implemented mainly by Double-byte Technical Coordination Organization (DTCO) and development departments in IBM Fujisawa Laboratory, assisted by IBM Endicott Lab (IBM 029), Poughkeepsie Lab (OS/VS), Kingston Lab (IBM 3270), Santa Teresa Lab (IMS), Hursley Lab (CICS), Boeblingen Lab (DOS/VSE) and other locations as well as related vendors.[3]

These announcements were followed by other announcements:

Competition and cooperation

At that time, Japan's major mainframe companies were developing their own Japanese processing systems independently and at the same time cooperating to establish a Japanese character code industry standard (JIS X 0208). Some of these systems are:

  • JEF (Japanese processing Extended Facility) by Fujitsu
  • JIPS (Japanese Information Processing System) by NEC
  • KEIS (Kanji processing Extended Information System) by Hitachi

Effect to the support of other languages

Similar supports became later available for Korean, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese languages.


  1. ^ Kurt Hensch, Toshiaki Igi, Masumi Iwao, Akira Oda and Toru Takeshita. "IBM History of Far Eastern Languages in Computing, in 3 Parts" in IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Volume 27 Number 1 ( January - March, 2005 )
  2. ^ K. Hensch, Research and Development in IBM, History of Far Eastern Languages in Computing, 2nd private edition, Roehm TYPOfactory GmbH, Sindelfingen, Germany, 2004. ISBN 3-937267-03-4 (Available from, etc.)
  3. ^ K. Hensch, Research and Development ... Ibid.

See also