Every Wednesday, Yahoo invites you to learn more about the company. Little secrets, anecdotes, unusual stories, don’t miss the opportunity to impress your friends. In this 91st edition, zoom in on the Japanese tech and entertainment giant: Sony.
1 – The company was born on the ruins of World War II
1946 Japan is healing its wounds barely a year after the end of World War II. Two men who served in the Imperial Japanese Navy appear deeply marked by the world’s conflict. After the war, Akio Morita, a 25-year-old physicist, and Masaru Ibuka, an engineer thirteen years his senior, joined forces to found their company Tokyo Tsushin Kenkyujo (TTK).
A symbol of the horror of war: the warehouse where they set up their offices is half destroyed by bombs. The start is far from idyllic. Their rice cooker and their electric blanket, conceived to be launched by the company, did not meet with the expected success. The first stroke of genius came in the mid-1950s, when two partners developed the small Sony TR-55 transistor radio, which was released to the market in 1955. This device was a great commercial success and helped to strengthen the reputation of the TTC. To go international, Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka decided to give their company a less Japanese sound. Tokyo Tsushin Kenkyujo was renamed Sony in 1958.
It’s not a Japanese word, but an abbreviation of two words: sonus, the Latin root for “sound” and “sonic,” and “sunny,” an adjective commonly used in the United States in the 1950s to describe dynamic boys (“Sunny Boy” ) A concept that fits perfectly with the image they want to give to their company, which will eventually become a powerful multinational company.
2 – Sony Walkman, “product of the 20th century”
Among the inventions that have revolutionized our daily lives, the Walkman player occupies a special place. For Sony co-founder Akio Morita, this is nothing more and nothing less than a “product of the 20th century.” In 1979, more than a decade after the successful launch of the first CRT color televisions, a Japanese group reinvented the way we listen to music with the Walkman.
The famous cassette player was born thanks to Akio Morita, then the CEO of Sony, who despaired that he would not be able to listen to music while playing golf. He then calls his engineers and asks them to design a lightweight and practical device that he can take with him everywhere, especially in the fields. The Walkman quickly became a social phenomenon. The word even entered Petit Larousse in 1981. Available in over 300 models, the Walkman has sold over 200 million copies worldwide.
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Dramatic turn of events in 2004: Sony admits it didn’t invent the Walkman. This concept was invented seven years earlier, in 1972, and patented in 1977 by German Andreas Pavel. After years of struggle, a Japanese group paid him several million euros in compensation to put an end to this endless legal marathon.
In 2010, the Walkman became obsolete, and electronics giant Sony announced that it would be discontinued. End of an era for millions of people.
3. If the PlayStation exists, then thanks to … Nintendo
Rivals for a long time, Sony and Nintendo once worked hand in hand. In June 1991, two Japanese firms are to present to the world in Las Vegas a joint project they have been working on for three years: the PlayStation. Unless at the last moment, Nintendo fired Sony in order to cooperate with Philips. What was supposed to be an alliance between two of Japan’s largest corporations turns into trench warfare. Caught off guard, Sony turned to another of its compatriot Sega with a request to release this game console. The answer is short: “Sony doesn’t know anything about video games, they don’t know how to make consoles or make video games. Why should we partner with Sony and help them?”
The company takes the hit, but still decides to release the PlayStation without anyone’s help in 1994. What’s next? Everyone knows her. The console stands up to its competitors, the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn. Even today, the Playstation 2, released in 2000, remains the best-selling game console of all time with 155 million units sold worldwide. Still hard to find, the PlayStation 5 (released in 2020) has sold over 20 million units worldwide. At this rate, PlayStation 5 sales will surpass those of PlayStation 4 in the second quarter of 2023.
Today, the video game division is considered the most profitable for the company. For a company that “knows nothing” in this sector, this is a resounding feat.
4 – Sony had to remove the cameras that were seen under clothes
“Sony deprives voyeurs of the video camera that shows everything,” headlined Le Monde in 1998. That same year, the Japanese giant accidentally released a device that allows people to see filmed objects under their clothes. The demonstration is made on Japanese television. “Equipped with an infrared system that allows you to shoot in the dark, they can also be used during the day with a special filter. From now on, they show their underwear and even their anatomy if they are in swimsuits. Bath,” says Le. Mond. “Sony appears to have ignored the ‘perverted’ features of its camera, which has already sold 870,000 copies in Japan and abroad since its launch in March,” the French newspaper adds. As soon as Sony realized the special features of this camera, 700,000 camcorders were immediately recalled.
5. North Korea hacked Sony over a movie
Sony Pictures, a Hollywood film production and distribution studio, was the victim of a horrific hack in 2014. “The FBI has sufficient evidence to conclude that the North Korean government is responsible for these actions,” the FBI said. Hackers have stolen internal email, confidential information, medical files, and the script for the next James Bond. The latter said in an anonymous message that everyone who watches this film will face a “bitter fate.” Faced with the threat of a terrorist attack from the cybercriminal group The Keepers of Peace (literally, Keepers of Peace), Sony simply canceled the release of The Interview That Kills, a comedy that satirizes North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.