Vol.21 : Sony Founder Masaru Ibuka's New Year's Dream Comes True

The Launch of Sony's TV Business

Transistor TV manufacturing line
Prototype Number 1 (April 1959) Prototype Number 1 (April
TV8-301 (launched May 1960) TV8-301 (launched May 1960)

At the beginning of 1959, Sony founder (and President at the time) Masaru Ibuka spoke about his New Year's dream for a transistor TV in a magazine interview. Japan's first transistor radio had gone on sale only four years earlier. The next target was a transistor TV.

Ibuka spoke of it as a dream, but in fact things were already taking shape behind the scenes. Steady progress had already been made toward realizing that dream. Transistors with enough display power to be useful for TVs were comparably more difficult to create than transistors for radios, but Sony had perfected these special transistors the year before, in 1958, and work on developing a transistor TV was already underway.

Development accelerated sharply from the beginning of 1959. The first prototype was completed in April and numerous improvements and design studies were carried out. On December 25, Ibuka's New Year's dream came true with the announcement of Sony's first TV---the world's first direct-view TV. When it went on sale in May 1960, the TV8-301 8-inch portable transistor TV launched Sony's TV business.

As it happened, a group of market researchers representing US TV manufacturers visited Japan when the transistor TV was under development. Ibuka asked them whether they thought small TVs would sell or not. To a man, they said they would fail.

Looking back on this later, Ibuka said that it was common practice in the US to plan new products on the basis of market research, but it was also possible to carry out market research for the first time by actually putting something on the market. Since then, he said, he believed new products always involved market creation, too. "I'm now firmly convinced that brand new products must always create new markets."

Two years later in 1962, the TV5-303---which was even smaller than the TV8-301---became a huge hit in the US.