On May 7, 1946, Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita founded Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Laboratory), a company dedicated to reconstructing and elevating post-war Japan’s culture through technological advancement. In 1958 the company changed its name to Sony.
With a staff of 20, little cash, little scientific equipment and scarce supplies, the company that would become Sony slowly began amassing the money and resources it needed to realize the goals detailed in its founding prospectus. It built capital by selling slipshod cloth heating pads (under another company name), while engineers scavenged steel from the ruins of Tokyo to create record pickups. The company was sifting through the ashes of its city in order to help revitalize it.
In 1950 Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo produced the Type G, Japan’s first tape recorder. In 1955 the company produced Japan’s first transistor radio. 1958 brought the TR-63, at the time the world’s smallest transistor radio, which would become Sony’s first full-fledged export model.
The Sony brand started showing up on products in 1955, after customers in the West had trouble pronouncing both Tokyo Tshushin Kogyo and its shortened form, Totsuko. From Sony’s corporate info page:
The Origins of the SONY Brand
The Sony name was created by combining “SONUS,” the original Latin for “SONIC,” meaning sound, with “SONNY,” denoting small size, or a youthful boy. It was chosen for its simple pronunciation that is the same in any language.
In January of 1958 the company known widely as “Totsuko, makers of Sony” officially became Sony Corporation.
Since then Sony Corporation has made some neat stuff. The first portable transistor television. The Walkman, a portable cassette player folks were convinced would not sell because it had no record function. Betamax tape, which wasn’t great but certain regions really dug it. Sony made a robot dog.
And of course, Sony made the PlayStation, which many of you would rather be playing right now instead of reading this, and I can dig it. To many of us Sony is the company that has put several video game consoles in our living rooms and published some of the greatest video games of all time.
If you’re interested in reading more about Sony’s 70 year history, the company website has 25 chapters’ worth. It’s a fascinating read, so much so that this post is about an hour late. Stupid sexy Sony history.
And if you’d rather not read it all, the takeaway is this: Sony is a company that was formed on a set of honorable principles and noble goals. Did it set people on fire with faulty heating pads? Possibly, but that possibility is far outweighed by the good the company did. It pushed on through, achieved its goals and made sure we all got to play Jumping Flash.
Happy 70th anniversary, Totsuko.