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Sake, Second World and US occupation forces. History of the company Sony

Japan is a technologically advanced country. In every way. Today it seems that it has been this way throughout its existence. Indirect confirmation of this is: in ancient temples there are no wires, which means that even then in the Land of the Rising Sun there was Wi-Fi … Of course, this is not so, but for some reason, few people doubt the achievements of local scientists, engineers and representatives of other professions practically in all spheres.


  • Real “soniboi” Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita
  • Japan – the country of fakes and low-quality goods
  • Radio repair and work for a rice bowl
  • The Birth of Totsuko
  • The first Japanese magnetic tape recorder
  • Transistor revolution
  • Why Sony

Real “soniboi” Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita

One of the most familiar Japanese companies in Belarus is Sony. In the list of the largest enterprises in the world according to the Forbes version, it occupies the 86th line of the rating, yielding to a pair of other local IT-giants: NTT and SoftBank. Founded Sony was more than 72 years ago – in 1946, immediately after the Second World War. But we were not interested in the company itself, but in the people, thanks to whom it appeared. Figuratively speaking, “from the ashes” – so they say in Sony itself.

At the source of the company were two people: Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita. Prior to the meeting in the 40s of the last century, they had little in common: they fought on the same side and were interested in exact sciences. Who of them was the “first” in Sony (when it was called Tokyo Tshushin Kyogu), there is no unanimity, they are often called co-founders.

The history of the Morita family has been traced back to ancient times. According to the records from the principality of Ovari, in 1665 the family business was the preparation of sake, and Morita was engaged in this business for the next centuries. Over time, the range widened, incomes grew, Cusaemon XI (each subsequent head of the business was named Cusaemon) entered into a partnership agreement that resulted in the creation of the company Ryoshoku Liquor, which exists to this day.

Akio Morita was born in 1921. The young Cusaemon XV had to do the same things that his ancestors did for 14 generations after the older ones retired. But the war began. According to sources – in 1941. The prolonged conflict between Japan and China is not mentioned, although it was he who influenced the economy of the country, which took the path of militarization.

From the youth, Akio was not too keen to engage in sake: he was interested in science – physics and mathematics, as well as working with sound. Here the role of the young Japanese mother’s love of classical music played. The passion was so strong that it influenced Morita’s progress at school: he was so busy assembling an amateur radio transmitter that he almost forgot about his studies.

Japan – the country of fakes and low-quality goods

Then the future co-founder of Sony took himself in hand, showing high results, which opened the way to a prestigious educational institution. At the Imperial University of Osaka, he became an assistant professor, performing tasks for the Japanese Navy – at this time the World War II was in full swing. In 1944, Akio Morita graduated from the university and went to serve in the army. About a year before the end of the war, he met with Masaru Ibuka, who was then part of the military research committee. Their joint project was the development of thermal guidance systems and night vision.

Tokyo in March 1945. Photo by: Japan Times

For a short while the Japanese dispersed, Masaru Ibuka returned to the ruined Tokyo. His way of life, by the way, is described much more modestly. Of notable milestones – in 1933, when he was 25 years old, a young man received a degree in engineering from the University of Waseda. Later, in 1937, at the exhibition “Art and Technology in Modern Life” in Paris, he was awarded a prize for his invention – an advanced information transmission system. Experience Masaru recruited, working in various research companies. Among other things, he was the head of Japan Precision Instruments Company, who carried out military orders long before the start of World War II.

Ibuka settled in Tokyo first, opening here the company Tokyo Tsushin Kenkyujo. The name can be translated as the Tokyo Telecommunications Research Institute. The office was located in one of the premises of the bombed building of the store, which, by the way, was closed only in 1999. The goal was set: to restore Japan after the war and get rid of the glory of “a country of low-quality goods and fakes.” Masaru paid his salary out of his own pocket, he had only enough money to “live”, but hardly anyone even thought about complaining.

Radio repair and work for a rice bowl

The company was engaged in repair of radio receivers and release of special adapters for them – it allowed to catch any radio frequencies. The demand was great, and Ibuka attracted the attention of the press. It was not fate that brought together two Japanese again, but an article in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. In it they told about Masaru’s enterprise – that’s how Morita learned about the accomplishments of a colleague. Correspondence began, and very soon Akio arrived in Tokyo.

The work was boiling, for her the company’s employees received not only monetary compensation, but also rice. Yes, with provisions then it was tight, and nothing was shameful in getting an edible bonus. After the war, industrial energy consumers were few, but it was produced enough. Apparently, this was one of the reasons for the rapid restoration of the country. And also played into the hands of “start-ups” like the one that organized Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita.

The very same rice cooker

One of the company’s first products was an electric rice cooker. The unit worked disgustingly: more often the rice turned out to be undercooked or overcooked. But mistakes are stopped only by losers. Moreover, there were also successful products (the best selling pillow with electric heating).

The Birth of Totsuko

1946 is usually called the year of foundation of Sony. Then, however, the company wore another name – Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Totsuko). On the development of the company, which at that time had about 20 employees, Akio took a loan of $ 500 in equivalent (taking into account inflation, today it is about $ 7 thousand). At that time he was 25 years old, Masaru – 38.

Photo: Sony

The companies had to compete in the resurgent market – gradually the production was returning to large-scale production, pressure from the United States was declining. Ibuka and Morita made a move with the knight, deciding to release something breakthrough and new. Today, these technologies call the word “innovations” that have filled with nausea. But they still needed to be developed.

Totsuko started developing a device for recording sound on a wire. This was sent considerable effort, but then the visit to the headquarters of the US occupation forces (the Americans were some of the largest clients of Totsuko) changed everything. One of the employees of the educational mission gave the Japanese listen to the recording from the tape recorder. “This is what you need. There is potential for this in the consumer market, “Masaru said, admiring the sound quality.

This building housed one of the first productions of the future Sony

The first Japanese magnetic tape recorder

To persuade others and get financial support, the Japanese asked the Americans to take the device (as some sources say) and organized a dinner party in a good restaurant. It was attended by an “investor” in the person of Shodzaburo Tatikava, who once helped with a failed rice cooker. It was a fairly impressive sum for those times, however, after hearing the tape recording, the rich partner decided that it was worth it.

In 1949, engineers developed a magnetic tape for recording, and a year later released the first Japanese recordable tape recorder. At the same time, there was very little information about the new technology (including methods of depositing a magnetic layer on a flexible surface), and Totsuko had to invent everything from scratch, making many mistakes. Morita, who was in charge of the company for public relations and marketing, organized a massive advertising campaign. However, success could not be called loud. One of the reasons was the very high price, as well as the specialization of the apparatus for recording voice, but not music. However, the device has found wide application in educational institutions.

Be that as it may, thanks to the G-type recording recorder (after more advanced models have come out), it has become easier for companies to attract investments – many have learned about it.

H-type tape recorder, 1951 year

Transistor revolution

However, on one tape recorder you will not go far. Radio then remained a popular product, except that existing technologies are outdated. Masaru Ibuka went to the US, where he intended to hold a meeting with representatives of Bell Labs, under whose wing in 1948 transistors were developed. Initially, the Japanese, recalling the crystal detectors from the early receivers, were skeptical of the invention of the Americans, finding it hopeless. The first trip to the States ended with nothing, since it was not so easy to establish contact.

In 1953 Akio Morita left for the ocean, and soon an agreement with Western Electric (at that time the parent company of Bell Labs) was achieved. He was fostered by the indulgences in the requirements of the Ministry of Foreign Trade of Japan (the “war echoes” still sounded in the country, limiting some activities), and inspiration after the Japanese office visit by Philips – at first a small company that became successful far beyond its small country.

Regency TR-1

Totsuko soon joined the joint venture with Texas Instruments and Regency Electronics, and in 1955 the light saw the first transistor radio receiver Regency TR-1. It was followed by the first Japanese device of this type – TR-55, and in 1957 the future Sony began exporting TR-63. It was the smallest transistor radio in the world. In addition, they say, cute.

Export TR-63. Photo: iFixit

Why Sony

In 1958, Totsuko changed its name to the familiar Sony Corporation. It comes from the Latin sonus (“sound, sound”) and the American slang word 1950’s sonny (“boy”, now often translated as “son”). In addition, in Japan, then, the borrowed word sonny boy was used, which was designated smart and representative young people. Ibuka and Morita referred to themselves as such. Also, such options as Sony Electronic Industries and Sony Teletech were voiced.

Document confirming the foundation of the company

At the same time, the time of becoming has come to an end. After a couple of years, Sony entered the American market, opening the Sony Corporation of America, and in 1962 became the first Japanese company to issue shares in the US (they started trading on the NYSE in 1970). Then there was movement only forward. The success of Sony was significantly contributed by the States, where in 1963 with the whole family moved to Morita. Life was a success.

Walkman TPS-L2 player, 1979

Today Sony is a huge corporation whose activities are difficult to list. She really was a pioneer in many ways. Every decade was marked for the company as another breakthrough and a new product: it was the first transistor TV, portable players, video tape recorders, optical storage systems, computers, mobile phones, cameras, gaming systems, robots. The enterprise has tried itself in the film industry, medicine and transport. To date, it is no longer a small company of 20 people, and a corporation with a market capitalization under $ 70 billion.

The Trinitron line of television, 1987

As for its founders, Masaru Ibuka died at the age of 89 in 1997, Akio Morita passed away two years later when he was 78 years old.

Photo: Sony

List of sources: Akio Morita Library , The Telegraph , Sony , Britannica ( 1 , 2 , 3 ), Encyclopedia , Biography , Famous Entrepreneurs , Agile Writer , Forbes .

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