Epson’s Origin Story

Our dedication to excellence, though rooted in the past, always looks to the future

Epson’s Origin Story

With the huge success of Marvel and DC comic-book inspired movies the ‘origin story’ has entered our lexicon. An origin story is the idea that superheroes are born out of exceptional circumstances – either by being exposed to mutating elements like the Hulk or Spiderman, or a life changing event like Batman.

While these superheroes and their exploits may be fantastical, the idea of the origin story is not. Many remarkable people who have achieved great things for their communities can date their moment of inspiration to a specific event or experience. Take for example the apocryphal story of Sir Isaac Newton discovering gravity when an apple fell on his head as he rested beneath a tree.

In this, Epson is no different. The path for our company, which has existed for over 70 years and now employs 67,000 in 90 countries around the world, was forged in the cauldron of elite international competition that was the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Patriotic challenge leads to scientific innovation

It was to be an Olympics like no other.

It was the first Olympics held in Asia; the first to be televised internationally and the first to be televised in colour. Not only did Tokyo host 5,151 athletes representing 93 nations, but the eyes of the world were literally on Japan. A staggering 70% of the world’s viewing public watched as Emperor Showa declared the games open.

And as a result, it was not only the athletes who felt the pressure to excel. Pivotal to success of the games was the precision timing required to determine winners and establish world records.  ‘Seiko’, the Japanese watch-maker to whom Epson’s predecessor company supplied watches was given the responsibility for making sure everything ran ‘like clockwork’.

This was an era in which Swiss watchmaking dominated the market, so the importance to Seiko of demonstrating its ability to deliver precision timing and reliability cannot be under-estimated. More importantly though, our success or failure was also a matter of national pride.

And we rose to it in style.

At every event accurate times flashed up on giant electronic screens bearing the brand SEIKO – an innovation in 1964 which we are still familiar with today. To facilitate this communication, Seiko knew that results needed to be collated and disseminated immediately. In response to this technical challenge our watch-makers were asked to invent a printing timer. This was the first printer that we ever made.

Four years of further research allowed us to miniaturise it and the EP-101 (Electronic Printer – 101) was born.

Market Development: the right product at the right time

The palm-sized EP-101, boasted simplicity of structure that made it both durable and easy to use. This archetypal printer conquered the electronic desktop calculator market and went on to gain use in a wide variety of applications.

It was powered by a highly efficient, long-lived miniature motor that was based on one originally developed for quartz watches. The motor was designed to be sufficiently energy efficient to run off a battery (It consumed a mere one twentieth the power required by any previous electric printer). In addition to the motor, our engineers used their expertise in watch making in the selection of materials, manufacturing technologies and other precision processing technologies to create a printer that was vaunted for its reliability.

From the moment of its release, the EP-101 drew widespread attention because it dovetailed with the printing needs of the electronic desktop calculator manufacturers of the day. The electronic desktop calculator was just starting to make inroads into offices, where it was replacing the abacus. At Epson we recognised the potential of miniature printers and marshalled together the printer manufacturing technologies we had accumulated during the development of the printing timer.

This miniature printer was the key that opened the door to the world market for Epson. Once through it, we would unfold our business across the information industry.

Choosing a brand name

In 1975, the Epson brand was formally established. It was a rite of passage; a significant moment in our growing process.

Epson is a combination of EP-101 and son – as the products that followed became the children or ‘sons’ of the extremely successful EP-101, which marked the beginning of our business expansion. The EP-101 created a sensation around the world.

The journey continues

Our dedication to excellence, though rooted in the past, always looks to the future. The same is true of our on-going determination to meet new and often seemingly impossible challenges. 

We at Epson will to continue to push the boundaries of science, the better to develop innovative products to serve our customers and improve the world.  It’s what superheroes are made for.

What’s your origin story, how does your business tell the story of its conception? And how does it affect how your customers feel about you?  Heritage is an important brand characteristic, and a company’s provenance can be a factor in the customer’s perception of your company, so how is your history influencing your present?