Known for products such as the Walkman, Trinitron, Cyber-shot, Handycam, and the majestic PlayStation, Sony undoubtedly has a legitimate claim on being the electronics industry poster boy. For over 7 decades, the company has continued to unleash top-of-the-range products while charging above the market prices. Although it has had its fair share of troubles, we cannot suppress the company’s influence, especially in the electronics industry. Here are some enlightening Sony facts, some of which might be unheard of.
1. Sony Once Unintentionally Created a Camera That Could See Through Clothing
In 1998, Sony believed they had invented a product ahead of its time: the Handycam camcorder. According to the inventors, the camera would help users capture clear pictures in low-light environments through its infrared nightscope feature. It was originally intended for capturing nocturnal wildlife footage.
However, someone discovered that adding a filter that cost less than $7 to the camcorder’s lenses enabled it to see through some types of clothing. When Japan’s Takarajima magazine featured an article on the same, the news spread like wildfire. Sony recalled the products, with over 700,000 pieces already sold.
2. Sony’s First Product Was an Electric Rice Cooker
One of the lesser-known facts about Sony is that the company’s first product was an electric rice cooker; it terribly failed. The product was made by interlocking aluminum electrodes connected to the base of a wooden tub. It wasn’t innovative, for it either overcooked or undercooked rice. Many variables led to its eventual failure.
3. It Was Established in 1946
Sony was co-founded in 1946 by Akio Morita, a Japanese businessman, and Masaru Ibuka, a Japanese electronics industrialist and defense contractor. The company’s original name was Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo – the co-founders used the name for 12 years before eventually renaming it “Sony” in 1958.
4. Type-G Was Sony’s First Tape Recorder
In 1950, Sony produced its first tape recorder: the Type-G Tape Recorder. Although vinyl records were common then, very few people knew about tape recorders and what they did; they were exclusive to government institutions and high-end business entities. Sony then had to educate consumers about the value of their new product to improve their sales.
5. Sony Co-founders Strongly Contemplated Naming the Company TTK
Before eventually settling for “Sony,” the company’s co-founders strongly contemplated naming it TTK, the initials for Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. They were looking for a shorter name that could help expand their brand into the global market; it had to be short and easy to pronounce.
Unfortunately, the railway company, Tokyo Kyuko, already used the initials. “Tokyo Teletech” is another one they strongly considered, but an American company already used it.
6. Sony Turned Down the Chance to Purchase All of Marvel’s Cinematic Rights for $25 Million
In 1998, Sony was offered Marvel’s cinematic rights for $25 million but turned it down. The company instead opted to purchase Spiderman rights only for $10 million. Sony’s executives thought people didn’t care about superheroes save for Spiderman. At the time, superhero movies were not as big as today.
7. The Name “Sony” Is a Mix of Two Words
“Sony” is a combination of two words: the Latin word “Sonus” and the slang “sonny.” Sonus means the origin of sonic and sound. On the other hand, Sonny was slang in the 1950s, which referred to young, innovative, and presentable men, something that the company’s co-founders thought they were.
8. Sony Chorocco Was a Bizarre Invention from the Company
Although Sony has created state-of-the-art electronics over time, they have been on the end of some bizarre inventions, too; the Sony Chorocco is a perfect example. In 1976, the brand released a toy Volkswagen van with built-in speakers. As the music played, the van would circle around the surface of a record. The problem was the Chorocco had terrible audio quality and often scratched the records.
9. Sony and Japan Benefited From the Vietnam War
Even though Sony’s influence had naturally grown, the Vietnam War further catapulted the company and the country (Japan) to a level above. Sony supplied the U.S. Military with bomb parts. This helped popularize “made in Japan” products, which were considered superior quality. The men who fought the war carried Nikon cameras, drank Kirin beer, and rode Honda motorbikes.
10. Sony CDs Were Used to Spread Malware
In the 2000s, Sony was involved in the rootkit scandal, where it was claimed that the company sold CDs full of malware. When a user inserted the affected CD into their Windows computer, it installed an un-removable and highly invasive malware. People complained that they could not make copies of other CDS and suspected their listening history was sent to Sony.
11. The Company Has Acquired Several Other Entities Over Time
Throughout its existence, Sony has been known to aggressively expand its market as it deems necessary. To do so, the company has acquired other major entities over time. They include CBS Records in 1988, Columbia Pictures in 1989, Aniplex in 2006, Gaikai in 2012, and Bungie in 2022.
12. Sony Has a Golden Guinea Pig Figurine at its Headquarters
A golden guinea pig figurine is one of the most interesting things sitting in the Sony archives. Apparently, when Sony was still new in the industry, an article was written describing it as the guinea pig for transistors and that competitors were besting it. The figurine is a reminder of how far Sony has come.
13. Sony Once Hired Its Outspoken Critic Who Later Became the Company’s CEO
When Sony made its initial versions of the tape recorder, a music enthusiast called Norio Ohga heavily criticized them because of their poor sound quality. Ohga’s sound and electrical engineering knowledge saw Sony hire him to improve its products. In 1982, Ohga had risen to the rank of the company’s president; he became its CEO in 1989.
14. North Korea Is the Only Country Without a Sony Authorized Dealer
Sony’s influence is so significant that North Korea is the only country without its authorized dealer. To further put this into perspective, a CEO takes around 8 months to know what companies he has under him. The SEC even exempts the company from telling everyone about transactions less than $100 million; it has more than 1400 subsidiaries.
15. Sony Changed its PSN User Agreement to Require Users Not To Sue it Over Security Breaches
By 2012, massive security breaches on Sony’s PSN platform had been reported, leading to various lawsuits. As a result, the company added a new user agreement preventing users from suing it over future security breaches. However, the rule is irrelevant and not legally binding in most countries.