Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS


On deciding to build the transistor radio: 
"I knew we needed a weapon to break through to the US market, and it had to be something different.  Something that nobody else was making." -- Akio Morita in a 1971 'Time" interview

Akio Morita


Akio Morita, right, with Masaru Ibuka

Akio Morita helped take a small radio repair shop in a bombed-out Tokyo building and turn it into the powerhouse electronics company, the Sony Corporation.  Along with co-founder Masaru Ibuka, Morita is responsible for egging on the amazing growth of the Japanese electronics industry over the last 50 years. 


Morita  was born in Nagoya, Japan, in 1921 the son of sake brewers. In 1946, he helped start Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo KK (the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation) with Ibuka.  They had $375 and space in an abandoned department store, shelled by bombs in the war. The company quickly built Japan's first tape recorder, but it was big and bulky -- not a product destined to propel the company into the limelight.  Then, in the 1950s, Ibuka and Morita got a license from Bell Labs to build transistors.  The Japanese were still hard hit by the war, and couldn't really afford expensive electronics, so Ibuka set his sights on the American market with a brand new idea -- a small, transistorized radio that could fit in your pocket.  As it was, a US company built such a radio first, but more as a gimmick than an actual product.  When Sony, as Morita's company was soon renamed, came out with their radio, it quickly took over the market. 

Morita's business strength was in his ability to study both Western and Eastern cultures and combine the best parts of each.  With this expertise, he was often consulted about US-Japanese trade issues.   In 1993, he collapsed on a tennis court with a brain hemorrhage, and consequently completely removed himself from working at Sony.  He died in Tokyo of pneumonia in October, 1999, at the age of 78.

Copyright 1999, ScienCentral, Inc, and The American Institute of Physics. No portion of this web site may be reproduced without written permission. All Rights Reserved.