My reason to come to Taiwan - Asia business impact on Poland

By Jacek Michal Fleks, Class of 2023

Vintage computers and my reason to come to Taiwan.

These days, Taiwan is well known to the world because of the news story of a prominent US politician coming to Taiwan and creating a buzz in international news. For people interested in Asia business, computer market, or biotechnology it was probably also a well-established and important location. But because everyone knows Taiwan now, it prompted me to look back on how I learned for the first time about Taiwan and how it affected my home country of Poland after its opening to the global market for the first time back in the 1990s.

I want to talk briefly about the beginning of consumer electronics and specifically the consoles market in Poland. In 1989 Poland left the communist era behind. Before, there were no such goods as video game consoles, and unavailable at the time were popular computers from the west but also, not much from other parts of the world as well. This means that imports like electronics from Japan and clothes from Asia were completely absent.

My reason to come to Taiwan - Asia business impact on Poland
Attribution: Benzoyl, Wikimedia Commons

By outsourcing chip designs to manufacture in Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world already has enjoyed Famicom or Nintendo Entertainment System or NES for short for a couple of years. Nintendo Japan in the year ‘85 was producing their first console Famicom. It revolutionized the world with a home computer that could display at the time beautiful graphics, exciting new genres like side-scrolling action, and great and responsive controls.

It provided many great experiences to its customers. It was a by-product of the booming Japanese economy and their conquest of foreign markets. In North America and Western Europe, it was known as Nintendo Entertainment System, NES ruled the video game market for 10 years. But other than selling, Nintendo was producing their console - by outsourcing chip designs to manufacture in Taiwan.

Economic Boom

Taiwan/ Republic of China, went through an economic boom thanks to the following of the Japanese post world war model, together with Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, becoming ever so significant economies on the global stage they became known as Asian tiger economies. One of the factors of rapid growth, was the new-technologies oriented policy, that in Taiwan focused on creating the semiconductor industry. While Japan was supplying production of official chips to UMC, where - those schematics became available and later replicated in unauthorized products – clone consoles were released on the domestic market.

Those domestic Taiwanese market bootleg consoles are known today as famiclones. Combination of words Famicom and clone – a copy of the legitimate product. Taiwan other than semiconductors also established plastics manufacturers so because of that the famiclones were a good quality inexpensive product that thrived within the borders of Taiwan.

Communism in Poland

Fot. Jacek Fleks. My own unit of Taiwanese produced HongBaiJi 紅白機

Remember when talking about Poland I mentioned imported Asian clothes? After the fall of communism in Poland, many import-based companies were established. One this sort of company from Poland was looking for clothes to export from Taiwan and bring back to Poland. Businessman while in Taipei stumbled upon a "Micro Genius"(小天才) television game, a Famiclone.

Branded in Poland as “Pegasus”, it quickly became Poland's introduction to the world of video games for all Polish people. At first, it became a great hit while being sold as a gift for communion -a popular in Poland Christian ceremony. Becoming entertainment for all generations, almost a decade-long late introduction to this technology. Today it is a symbol of an era – back to the wild post-communist 1990s when all new trends came to amaze Poles of the time.

But why am I here in Taiwan, talking about all of this? After all, Pegasus was sold in Poland before my birth. Well, it is because I love obsolete electronics. It is my hobby to repair them and study their history, much more than playing video games.

Taiwanese video games are only known to a couple of specific regions where they were distributed including Taiwan, Poland, Hong Kong, and even some western countries like Spain and the UK. It is a niche subject, but it makes me look with nostalgia to an era of rapid economic growth in Poland and the "wild west" of unlicensed products in Taiwan. It felt like even though resources were much more limited, the imagination and ambitions of people involved were boundless.