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Blame Elvis for Japan's competitiveness.

Although many experts have focused on the past 15 years as the period of Japan's rise in technological prowess, one archaeologist has found earlier roots by digging deeper into the 20th century. Michael Brian Schiffer of the University of Arizona in Tucson has concluded that Japanese consumer electronics products -- beginning with portable radios -- actually made their first big inroads into U.S. markets during the late 1950s. Their success stems, in part, from the rock-and-roll revolution, not from a superior ability to commercialize technological breakthroughs or to recognize the potential of new products, Schiffer says.

Schiffer came to this conclusion by studying objects from that period, much the same way his colleagues examine artifacts from ancient times, he says. He analyzed industry newsletters, technical journal articles, and service bulletins. He also examined the insides of 200 radios and read material about the role of radio in U.S. culture.

By 1955, a U.S. company had tried and failed to make money with portable transistor radios. Japanese companies marketed shirt-pocket radios three years later. "In that short space [of time], the U.S. underwent a musical revolution," says Schiffer. So Japanese companies sold millions of these tinny-sounding sets, many of which went to teenagers tuning into new rock-only radio stations. "Quite simply, the Japanese had lucked out," he concludes.
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Title Annotation:Elvis Presley, Japanese consumer-product sales influenced by rock-and-roll era in 1950s
Author:Pennisi, Elizabeth
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 28, 1992
Words:219
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