Sony’s History - Through The Eyes of the Company’s Leaders

Sony was founded in 1946 by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita. The two complemented each other with a unique blend of product innovation and marketing savvy, and formed a company that would eventually grow into a more than $60 billion global organization.

In 1950, in post-war Japan, Ibuka and Morita created Sony’s first hardware device, a tape player/recorder called the G-TYPE recorder. Materials were in such high demand that the first tapes were made of paper with hand painted magnetic material applied by Sony’s first engineers.

Ibuka was a practical visionary who could foretell what products and technologies could be applied to everyday life. He inspired in his engineers a spirit of innovation and pushed them to reach beyond their own expectations. Ibuka also fostered an exciting working atmosphere and an open-minded corporate culture. In the founding prospectus, he wrote of his wish to build a company whose employees gained satisfaction and pleasure from their work and his desire to create a fun, dynamic workplace.

Through Ibuka’s persistence, the magnetic tape recorder evolved from the G-TYPE recorder into the Model P (for "Portable"), which became the company’s first profitable product.

In 1953, the company earned licensing rights to the transistor from Western Electric. Ibuka urged his engineers to improve production methods with the goal of creating a consumer product, the transistor radio. In 1955, the TR-55, Japan’s first transistor radio was launched. And, in 1957, Sony released the world’s first pocket transistor radio, establishing a market leadership position for the company.

Akio Morita was a true marketing pioneer who was instrumental in making Sony a household name all over the world. He was determined to establish the Sony brand. In fact, he turned down an order of 100,000 radios from Bulova because they wanted the radios to carry Bulova’s name. Morita responded to Bulova saying, "Fifty years from now, I promise you that our name will be just as famous as your company name today." His words could not have been more prophetic.

And it was after Morita’s first trip to the United States that he suggested to Ibuka that the company name be changed from Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo to one that was easily pronounceable and recognizable. The company name "Sony" was created by combining two words. One is "sonus" in Latin, which is the root of such words as "sound" and "sonic." The other is "sonny" meaning little son. The words were used to show that Sony is a very small group of young people who have the energy and passion toward unlimited creation.

Video innovation was also a priority for Sony engineers. The road towards building a high quality color television set was quite a struggle, but on October 15, 1967, a new cathode-ray tube was completed. The new color television was named Trinitron® - derived from the word "trinity," meaning the union of three, and "tron" from electron tube. Since its introduction in 1968, the Trinitron television has set the standard for picture quality and design.

As a proponent of global localization, Morita familiarized himself with local economies and set up manufacturing plants all over the world.

When Sony constructed a Trinitron® color television assembly plant in San Diego, California, in 1972, it became the first Japanese-based consumer electronics manufacturing facility in the United States.

Further, without Morita, the world would never have known the Walkman® personal stereo. His excitement and faith in the product’s future success was the true driving force behind its existence.

At first, the Walkman was poorly received by retailers. Eight out of ten Sony dealers were convinced that a cassette player without a recording mechanism had no real future. However, the product’s compact size and excellent sound quality attracted consumers and, ultimately, ignited the personal audio revolution.

Kazuo Iwama was a detail-oriented person, admired for his scientific knowledge and discipline. He was made president of Sony in 1976, and became thoroughly involved in developing the "charged coupled device" or CCD which paved the way for the camcorder and digital still camera. While he was president, Sony launched the Betamax® video cassette recorder. His tenure ended with his passing away in 1982, but not before the launch of the compact disc player – another Sony innovation that