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During the 1980s EPSON was synonymous with dot matrix printers.

Many knew it was a Japanese company but very few knew Epson was also a subsidiary of Seiko, the watch manufacturers. The name Epson derives from the Son of electronic printer (EP-101) - a printer which Seiko developed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.(1)

This printer went into serial production 1968


Commodore Perry, US Navy, was sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan in 1853-1854 and negotiated for that country to open its doors to the western world. Until then Japan was ruled by a Shogun family, which for over 250 years forbade most foreign contact.

From Perry's visit Japan set forth on the road to modernisation. In 1872 the first railway opened and the western time system was adopted. Three years later the first Japanese clock factory began. Other clock factories followed including the K. Hattori Trading Company in 1881. The founder, Kintaro Hattori, established the Seikosha factory in 1892 and began to produce wall clocks. Within 18 months Seikosha employed 90 staff, and by the turn of the century some 400. (Seikosha means something like Precision Manufacturing Company.)

After 100 years in business the company is still owned by the Hattori family with no outside stockholders. Most of the world's supply of "Swiss" watch movements are actually made by Seikosha. In addition, Seikosha operates under three different corporations - sometimes in direct competition and under other brand names.

Diama Seikosha makes watches which are then sold to overseas markets under the brand name "Seiko". Suwa Seikosha developed the quartz watch over an eight-year period and also manufactures electric shavers, spectacle lenses, and ICs, as well as other products. It is also the parent company of Epson Corporation.


Epson was established in 1961 under the name of Shinshu Seiki (Shinshu Precision Manufacturing Company) to provide precision parts for Seiko watches. The company was awarded a contract to make precision timers for the 1964 Olympics and also picked up work to build a printer as well. Thus the EP-101 printer came about, and in 1968 it became one of the first printers for electronic calculators to hit the commercial market. Until the 1980s around 100,000 of these printer mechanisms were being produced each month - about 90% of the world market. (I assume EP means something like Electronic Printer.)

Electronic watches using relatively high current light-emitting diodes first appeared on the market in 1970 and so Shinshu Seiki began researching a low-current alternative. It came up with the liquid-crystal display in 1974 which in turn led to LCD watches.

Epson America was incorporated in 1975 with offices being set up in Torrance, California to distribute Shinshu Seiki products.


Epson's first dot matrix printer, TX-80, was introduced in 1978. However, this didn't attract much attention - except from Commodore which used it as the system printer for its PET computer. (80 from the number of columns it printed per line.)

An improved version, the MX-80, began to be developed later in that same year. The TX-80 took three months to develop. The MX-80 took about two years, was introduced in late 1980, quickly became the best selling printer in the United States, and eventually became the industrial standard for microcomputers. This was despite it being designed not to produce graphics. Within a year the Graftrax version with graphics had hit the streets.


Epson first tried its hand at manufacturing PCs with the QX-10. The first prototypes reaching USA in mid 1982. It bore a close resemblance to an American computer, the General, which was designed in 1978 by Technical Design Labs. TDL couldn't raise the finance needed for production and eventually went out of business. Two of TDL's founders, Chris Rutkowski and Roger Amidon, joined Shinshu Seiki and worked on the preliminary QX-10 design.

Software for the QX-10 was developed by Rising Star Industries. This company was incorporated at the end of 1982 (by Epson?), drawing its name from the Rising Sun of Japan and the Stars and Stripes of USA :-(

Shinshu Seiki changed its name to Epson Corporation about the same time. Also in that year Epson announced the HX-20 computer. Termed a 'briefcase' portable computer, it offered a built-in printer and microcassette data storage system. From 1980 to 1983 Epson America grew from 17 employees to over 260.


1964 - High-precision crystal chronometers and printing timers (Tokyo Olympics)
1968 - Printer mechanism, EP-101
1969 - Quartz watch
1973 - Digital wristwatch
1982 - Notebook computer (HX-20)
- Wristwatch-sized LCD TV
1983 - Battery-powered 3.5" floppy disk drive (SMD 200)
1984 - Full-color LCD TV (ET-10)
1985 - DOS-based PC
- Memory card (SRAM)
- Plastic-packaged oscillator
1988 - Printer manufactured totally by automation
1989 - Single-pass color flatbed scanner
1990 - Wristwatch pager
1992 - Light hardening lens production system
1994 - Desktop color ink jet printer with 720 x 720 dpi resolution (EPSON Stylus Color)
1995 - Smallest, lightest and brightest LCD projector (ELP-3000)
1997 - 1440 dpi high resolution colour inkjets


Go Back Last Updated on October 7, 2002 For suggestions  please mail the editors 



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