7 May 1946: Tech giant Sony is founded

Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka © Getty images
Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka set up shop in a department store

World War II left Japan in ruins, but it still had plenty of talented scientists and engineers. One of these was Masaru Ibuka, who had worked in the research division of the Japanese Navy during the war. There, he met fellow scientist Akio Morita, who came from a wealthy family. In 1946 the duo set up the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation, operating out of a department store.

A lack of resources and the need to generate cash flow meant it initially focused on basic consumer products, such as a heated cushion, sold under a fictitious name to protect the new firm from complaints. But the firm would quickly switch to more sophisticated products, selling the first Japanese tape recorder, the G-Type, in 1950.

In 1952 it became the first firm to license the transistor developed by Bell Labs, giving it an advantage over its competitors. By the mid-1950s it was using “Sony” as a brand for its goods and adopted this as the company name in 1958.

By 1960, Sony had opened US offices and was selling the first portable television. However, its most famous product was the iconic Walkman portable cassette player, which first hit the market in 1979. Despite many similar clones appearing, more than 220 million units were sold until the line was discontinued in December 2012. The PlayStation games console was another big hit, with an estimated 350 million units shipped to date from four generations of the product.

Today Sony is a conglomerate with ¥7.77trn (£42bn) in revenue from a wide range of sources, the largest of which is mobile phones. It has a market capitalisation of ¥4.2trn and employs more than 140,000 people – a far cry from the 20 who were there when it was formally incorporated 69 years ago.

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