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Originally developed as a tool for scientific and engineering calculation for military problems, the computer quickly gained use during the 1950s for business data processing, such as accounting, payroll, billing and inventory.
Analysts such as Richard Nolan and David Yoffie of Harvard, and David Moschella of IDG, characterize the computer industry as passing through three stages of development. The first was the central computing era, which ran from the 1950s to the early 1980s, during which the mainframe computer and its little brother, the minicomputer, reigned supreme.
The national industry structures of the East Asian countries were also well suited to competing in a global production network, partly due to the presence of leading multinational computer makers. In Japan, these were mostly domestic companies such as Fujitsu, NEC, and Toshiba, while in the Asian NIEs, they were mostly American companies.
Computer production had moved first to Japan in the mainframe era, and then Japan was joined by the Asian newly industrialized economies (NIEs) as the PC industry went global. To a large extent, the global production system for PCs was really a U.S./Asian network.
During the 1980s, the computer industry changed from a company- and country-based production structure into a global production system with little regard for company or country boundaries. The agent of change was the introduction of the personal computer, which transformed the way computers were designed, built, sold, and used.