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Sony at 60: the milestone products

060506_Son_Walkman.jpg

May 7, 1946 — The company is officially established as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Co. Ltd.) with a capital of ¥190,000.

May 8, 1946 — Sony’s first significant order, for 50 vacuum-tube voltmeters, is received from Japan’s Ministry of Communications.

Feb. 1947 — The company relocates from Tokyo’s Nihonbashi to Shinagawa, which remains the site of Sony’s headquarters today.

July 1950 — Japan’s first magnetic tape recorder, the G-Type (below), is launched.

060506_Son_Gtape.jpg

Jan. 1955 — The TR-52 transistor radio is produced in small quantities. It’s nicknamed the “UN Building” for its white grill front and never goes on sale after the company discovers the grill peels off in hot weather.

Aug. 1955 — The TR-55, Japan’s first transistor radio, is launched for ¥18,900. At the time the average monthly wage for an office clerk was ¥16,643.

March 1957 — Sony introduces the world’s smallest transistor radio, the TR-63. Sony claimed it was “pocketable,” but it didn’t actually fit into a standard shirt pocket so salesmen wore special shirts with slightly larger pockets to promote the radio.

Jan. 1958 — Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo changes its name to Sony Corp., a name more easily recognizable overseas. It comes from the Latin “sonus”, from which the word sound comes from, and the English “sonny,” suggesting a young company with energy.

Dec. 1958 — Sony lists on the main section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Feb. 1960 — Sony Corp. of America is formed.

May 1960 — The world’s first transistor television, the TV8-301 (below), is launched. At ¥69,800 it was considered expensive and didn’t work well, but gained Sony a reputation for excellence in transistor engineering.

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Oct. 1962 — Opens a showroom on New York’s 5th Avenue.

July 1963 — Launches the first compact transistor video-tape recorder, the PV-100, for ¥2.5 million.

April 1966 — The “Sony Building” opens in Tokyo’s Ginza district to mark the company’s 20th anniversary. It is still there today, a multi-storey showroom for Sony products.

Nov. 1966 — Sony’s first portable cassette recorder, the The Magazine-matic 100 (TC-100), goes on sale for ¥24,800. Office clerks earned an average monthly wage of ¥31,030 at the time.

Sept. 1970 — Sony lists its shares on the New York Stock Exchange.

July 1979 — The TPS-L2, the first personal headphone stereo Walkman (top), is launched for ¥33,000. The price represents about a week’s wages for an office clerk in Japan.

March 1982 — The SMC-70 personal computer (below) is launched for ¥228,000.

060506_Son_Smc70.jpg

Oct. 1982 — The CDP-101, the world’s first CD player, is launched for ¥168,000. The “101” number was chosen to represent binary ones and zeros.

Jan. 1984 — Sony wins the “Betamax case” in the U.S. Supreme Court and establishes that video cassette recorders do not infringe upon the copyright of broadcasters. The case helped open a new world of home entertainment for consumers.

Nov. 1984 — The D-50 portable CD player, later called the “Discman”, is launched for ¥49,800.

Jan. 1985 — The CCD-V8 8mm “Video 8” camcorder is launched for ¥280,000. It cost more than the office clerks’ ¥212,658 average monthly wage.

Aug. 1988 — The GV-8 portable Video 8 cassette player “Video Walkman” is launched for ¥118,200.

Dec. 1988 — The MVC-C1 Mavica digital still camera is launched for ¥64,000. The camera recorded images onto rigid 2in discs.

Jul. 1989 — The CCD-TR55 Video Hi8 “Handycam” is launched for ¥160,000. The passport-size camcorder became a major hit product for Sony and helped popularize camcorders among the public.

Nov. 1992 — MiniDisc is launched and the MZ-2P MD Walkman goes on sale for ¥59,800 and the MZ-1 MD recording Walkman for ¥79,800.

Nov. 1993 — Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. is established for Sony’s entry into the computer games market

Dec. 1994 — The SCPH-1000 PlayStation is launched. The machine would go on to sell more than 100 million units and establish Sony as a force to be reckoned with in the gaming market.

Oct. 1996 — The DSC-F1 “Cyber-shot” digital camera is introduced for ¥88,000.

March 1997 — The DVP-S7000 DVD player is launched for ¥110,000.

July 1997 — The Vaio PC line is launched with a 266MHz Pentium II-based desktop and 166MHz Pentium-based laptop model.

Sep. 1998 — Memory Stick flash memory cards are launched in 4M byte and 8M byte capacities and go on sale for ¥3,300 and ¥4,400 respectively.

July 1999 — The ERS-110 Aibo entertainment robot goes on sale in a limited quantity of 5,000 for ¥250,000 and sells out within minutes.

March 2000 — The SCPH-10000 PlayStation 2 is launched for ¥39,800.

Sep. 2000 — The monochrome PEG-S300C and color PEG-S500C Clie Palm OS-based PDAs are launched for ¥55,000 and ¥60,000 respectively.

Oct. 2001 — Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB is established.

Feb. 2002 — Sony announces development of Blu-ray Disc format

April 2003 — The BDZ-S77 Blu-ray Disc recorder, the first in the world at the time, goes on sale.

June 2003 — Sony launches the “Qualia” line of premium consumer electronics products. The high-priced gadgets failed to catch consumers’ interest and the line was eventually dropped.

Oct. 2004 — The world’s first consumer-use high-definition camcorder, the HDR-FX1, is introduced for ¥400,000.

Dec. 2004 — The PlayStation Portable goes on sale for ¥20,790.

Oct. 2005 — The Bravia LCD TV line is launched.

(Sources: Official Sony history and the Sony Museum. Average monthly wage data from Japan’s National Personnel Authority.)

Martyn Williams (IDG News Service)

10:28 PM JMLH • Permalink
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