Milestone-Proposal:FURUNO


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Docket #:2021-01

This proposal has been submitted for review.


To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes


Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1948: ‘1948’ is the year when the fishfinder of Fig. 1 was commercialized for the first time by Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.

Title of the proposed milestone:

Commercialization of the fishfinder, 1948.

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

A fishfinder was commercialized for the first time by Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. in 1948, which reformed the fishery industry in Japan and contributed remarkably to the development of protein resources. This fishfinder was realized by improving an echo sounder so that it could catch clearly the weak echo signals reflected from fish schools by enhancing the ability of its built-in amplifier.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Kansai Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Kansai Section
Senior Officer Name: Yutaka Hata

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Kansai Section
Senior Officer Name: Yutaka Hata

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Kansai Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Yutaka Hata

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Isao Shirakawa
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. : Address: 9-52 Ashihara-cho, Nishinomiya, 662-8580 Japan; GPS coordinates: N 34.741282, E 135.354547

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The entrance hall of Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.

Are the original buildings extant?

The original building is extant and belongs to Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.

Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be displayed at the entrance hall of Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The plaque will be displayed in a showcase at the entrance hall of Furuno Electric Co., Ltd., which can be accessible to the public.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Mr. Yukio Furuno, President of Furuno Electric Co., Ltd.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

The major historical significance of the fishfinder is outlined in what follows.

1. Historical background of the commercialization of fishfinders.

The history of technical approaches to detecting fish schools can be traced back to the 1920s, and a great deal of effort had since been made to search for fish schools [1-6]. Meanwhile, in the World War II almost all cities in Japan were reduced to ruins, until the Japanese were forced to suffer from food shortage so severely that the development of food resources grew to be one of the most urgent issues in postwar Japan. In the midst of such straitened circumstances, Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. timely commercialized a fishfinder for the first time in 1948, which contributed greatly to the drastic increase of fish catches [7, 8].

2. History of the commercialization of fishfinders.

The commercialization of a fishfinder was initiated by Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. in May 1948. The story of their efforts to commercialize the fishfinder is overviewed in what follows [8].

Just after the World War II Mr. Kiyotaka Furuno found that an echo sounder used for plumbing the sea, sent so strong ultrasonic signals that any echo signal reflected from fish schools was too weak to detect their existence. Hence, he determined to improve the built-in amplifier of an echo sounder so that the weak echo signals reflected from fish schools could be clearly caught. After several attempts he was convinced that a certain increase in amplification of the built-in amplifier would enable the echo sounder to catch echo signals reflected from fish schools. Hence, he put a great deal of effort into prototyping a fishfinder by augmenting the amplification of the built-in amplifier of an echo sounder.

Following this prototyped fishfinder, his younger brother Mr. Kiyokata Furuno embarked on the commercialization of the fishfinder, and through several trials he successfully assembled a new fishfinder for commercial use, which achieved his objective of adopting the fishfinder in actual fishing.

At this stage, however, to promote the forthcoming spread of fishfinders, there remained the necessity of confirming the technical feasibility of a fishfinder. Thus, the Furuno brothers investigated the intensities of the reflected echo signals necessary for plumbing the sea as well as those for detecting fish schools, resulting in the chart of signal intensities shown in Fig. 2 [9], from which they saw that the fish schools of codfishes and sardines could be detected by enhancing the amplification of the built-in amplifier by 0-40 dB in comparison with the case of plumbing the sea. Eventually, they determined to open a new business of commercializing the fishfinder dedicatedly for detecting fish schools, and established Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. in December 1948.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Furuno’s business on the fishfinder was faced with a number of obstacles, which were overcome as outlined below [8].

1. Obstacles to the business commencement.

Just after the establishment of Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. the first obstacle falling on their business was fishermen’s insufficient understanding on the fishfinder. In fact, most fishermen had been used so much to the so-called 'seat-of-the-pants' operations that they were not acquainted enough with the basic utility of a fishfinder. For example, it was very hard for them to distinguish strictly between the ultrasonic echo signals reflected from fish schools and the noises caused by the bubbling on the bottom surface of a fishing boat. Hence, the Furuno brothers soon edited a booklet on behavior of fish schools, and by using this they endeavored earnestly to inform fishermen how to utilize the fishfinder for detecting fish schools in actual fishing.

2. Obstacles to the operation of fishfinders.

The transmission characteristic of a fishfinder in early stages was so sensitive that it inevitably suffered from different noises caused by the engine, pump, fishing lamp, as well as the bubbling on the bottom surface of a fishing boat. Especially, the noises due to the bubbling on the bottom surface disturbed the pictures on the fishfinder so seriously that the Furuno brothers were obliged to stick a protruding vibrator into the bottom plate to avoid the bubbling on the bottom surface.

3. Obstacles to the inboard settlement of fishfinders.

Apart from the echo sounder intended for plumbing the sea by reflected echo signals, the fishfinder was for detecting fish schools by much weaker reflected echo signals. Thus, the Furuno brothers first tried to measure the intensities of the reflected echo signals necessary for plumbing the sea as well as those for detecting fish schools, and then noticed that as compared with the former, the latter could be caught by raising the amplification by 0-40 dB, as can be seen from Fig. 2. Seeing that the fishing practice included the activities of simultaneous search for different sizes of fishes, the Furuno brothers should have arranged for an inboard settlement of several fishfinders, each for a distinct size of fishes. In fact, Fig. 3 illustrates an existing inboard monitor panel provided in a bridge, in which three fishfinders are incorporated among all fourteen monitors.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

There are a number of distinctive features in Furuno’s business on the fishfinder, as summarized below [8].

1. Unique business start of the fishfinder.

Just after the World War II Mr. Kiyotaka Furuno happened to find an echo sounder among a pile of army-surplus commodities, which attracted strongly his interest, since it employed ultrasonic waves. In addition, he firmly believed that by modifying the built-in amplifier of an echo sounder, a new device intended dedicatedly for detecting fish schools would be possibly derived. Thus, he soon proceeded to prototype a fishfinder by enhancing the ability of the built-in amplifier of an echo sounder.

Following this prototyped fishfinder, his younger brother Mr. Kiyokata Furuno started to assemble a new fishfinder on a commercial basis, until in May 1948 he successfully accomplished a fishfinder to be employed in actual fishing. Eventually, by virtue of this the Furuno brothers established Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. in December 1948.

2. Technical efforts to avoid noises.

The success of Furuno’s business on the fishfinder can be traced back to their original intention of incorporating ultrasonic technologies into the fishery industry. The remarkable breakthrough in assembling a fishfinder was attributed to the tenacious endeavors constantly made by the Furuno brothers. Their great achievement consisted in pioneering a novel fishfinder dedicatedly for detecting fish schools, avoiding the noises caused by the engine, pump, fishing lamp, bubbling on the bottom surface, etc. of a fishing boat. It should be stressed here that the noises due to the bubbling on the bottom surface disturbed the pictures on the fishfinder so seriously that the Furuno brothers were forced to endeavor to stick a protruding vibrator into the bottom plate to avoid the bubbling on the bottom surface.

3. Utility of fishfinders and scanning sonars.

To cope with the steep ascent of business demands for fishfinders, the Furuno brothers had to enhance further the ability of inspecting the activities of fish schools under a fishing boat. In fact, the Furuno brothers focused their attention on the following subjects; (i) how to develop man-machine interfaces for LCDs (liquid crystal displays) of fishfinders, (ii) how to devise a new apparatus of ‘scanning sonar’ of Fig. 4, which was intended for inspecting the horizontal activities of fish schools, and (iii) how to acquire the characteristic information of the ecology of fish schools including sea-bottom soils by means of the fishfinder of Fig. 5. Thus, they successfully carried out rigorous inspections of the behavioral features as well as the marine ecology of fish schools by making the best use of those fishfinders, scanning sonars, and other marine electronics products, which were incorporated in the monitor panel as shown in Fig. 3.

4. Furuno’s achievements.

In recognition of Furuno’s business on fishfinders, scanning sonars, and other marine electronics products, Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. has won the NMEA (National Marine Electronics Association) Awards, which have been commended since 1971 by voting of American dealers in the marine industry. Specifically, Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. has received the Product of Excellence Awards of NMEA seven times in the last ten years in the fishfinder category [10].

Finally, it should be noted that the application range of fishfinders was divided into two; one was industry-oriented, and the other sports-oriented; for each of which the share of Furuno Electric Co., Ltd. had not been exactly examined, where, however, it should be added that as for the total of fishfinders Furuno’s share in Japan proved to be 63% as of 2019 [11], although Furuno had been devoted consistently to the industry-oriented fishfinders.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

[1] O. Sund, “Echo sounding in fishery research”, Letter to the Editor, Nature, p. 953, June 1935.

[2] A. L. Tester, “Use of the echo sounder to locate herring in British Columbia Waters”, Bull. Fisheries Research Board of Canada, no. LXIII, pp. 3-21, 1943.

[3] D. Eddy, “Electronic fish-finder”, Reader’s Digest, pp. 105-110, Sep. 1949.

[4] J. Saneyoshi, “Ultrasonic echo sounders and fish finders”, J. IEICE., vol. 34, no. 11, pp. 636-641, Nov. 1951 (in Japanese).

[5] K. Kikuchi, “History and prospects of applied supersonic waves”, ibid., vol. 52, no. 9, pp. 1076-1086, Sep. 1969 (in Japanese).

[6] M. Hirano, “Memoirs-The drawn of fish-finder”, J. Acoustical Society of Japan, vol. 42, no. 11, pp. 877-883, Nov. 1986 (in Japanese).

[7] J. Fujiwara, “Advance of echo sounder technology from the genesis to today”, ibid., vol. 43, no. 9, pp. 706-707, Sep. 1987 (in Japanese).

[8] Y. Nishimori, “Development of the fish finder”, Comm. Rpt. HEE-14-013, IEE Japan, pp. 1-4, Nov. 2014 (in Japanese).

[9] Y. Nishimori, “Technological subjects and solution strategies for practical use of fishfinders”, private communication. Dec. 2020 (in Japanese).

[10] National Marine Electronics Association, <https://www.nmea.org/content/INDUSTRY/Awards>.

[11] Shipbuilding and Ship Machinery Division, Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (ed.), “Year book of current production statistics ship machinery and equipment 2019”, Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism, p. 23, 2019 (in Japanese).

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to ieee-history@ieee.org. Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.


Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to ieee-history@ieee.org with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).