Sony is a multinational conglomerate based in Tokyo, Japan, with businesses in electronics, games, music, movies, and finance. They are known for the success of their Walkman and PlayStation product lines, but the first product the company that would later be renamed Sony ever put out was a colossal failure.
It all began in 1946 after World War II in an electronics shop in a department store in Tokyo owned by Masaru Ibuka. He started by repairing radios in his own small factory and found success fulfilling this post-war need. Akio Morita, a friend of Ibuka, soon joined him, and they called their new company Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo, also known as the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation.
There was a severe food shortage in the country at the time, and the company began to develop a product that could be used by people in their daily lives. It was an electric rice cooker. The cooker was a wooden tub that had aluminum electrodes at the bottom. The problem was the rice cooker didn’t cook rice very well. It either under-cooked or over-cooked the rice and was dependent on the type of rice used and the weight of the water. It was a huge flop.
Even though the pair failed with their first real product, it didn’t slow them down. They later succeeded with a vacuum-tube voltmeter that was sold to the government. The new company next came up with an even more successful product, an electrically heated cushion. The company grew more with the production of magnetic tape and tape recorders, and they began to produce radios.
This resulted in the men changing the original name of their company. They wanted a name that would be easy to pronounce in any language, was short, and easy to remember. They eventually came up with Sony and changed the name of the company in 1958. Sony came from the Latin word “sonus,” which means sonic or sound, and the English phrase “sonny boys,” which at the time stood for smart and energetic young men.
Sony has had plenty of other products that have and haven’t performed well, but what might have happened to the company if they had succeeded with their first product. We could have ended up with a company known for making kitchen appliances instead of high-tech electronics.