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To Sony, the Transistor Inventor
  • To Sony, the Transistor Inventor

  • 1959. Walter Brattain casts a paternal eye over his baby. On the left is Iwama-san, who started development on the transistor TV the previous year.
Kazuo Iwama, Sony's fourth President. It's now 25 years since Iwama-san passed away while he was still president. Iwama-san's contributions to the development of the transistor ensure that whenever people hear his name, they naturally think of the transistor.

The transistor was invented in 1948 by Drs. Shockley, Bardeen and Brattain of Bell Laboratories. Four years later, parent company Western Electric announced it would make available the patent rights for the transistor. Ibuka-san, who foresaw the potential of this unknown component, took the decision to manufacture a transistor radio and signed a contract with Western Electric. And, although Western Electric licensed the patent, Sony had to find its own way for development and manufacturing.

In 1954, the 35-year old Iwama-san, who was a board director at the time, volunteered to lead the transistor radio research development team and left for the US. He visited Western Electric's factory and sent back dozens of pages of written observations, what today is known as the Iwama Report. After many trials and tribulations, Sony launched Japan's first transistor radio in 1955. The transistor radio paved the way for germanium to silicon and from radio to TV.

Later the three Bell doctors visited Sony. Demonstrating to the inventors that Sony continued to push the boundaries of the transistor must have boosted the sprits of everyone at Sony. Iwama-san in particular must have been proud to show his research results to Dr. Brattain and Dr. Shockely. When Dr. Brattain visited Sony in 1990 he said: "The semiconductor's history is long but still has an exciting future. I am grateful to Sony for finding applications for the transistor and launching countless products."

  • 1963, William Shockley pays a visit. Iwama-san looks so proud!
    The previous year, Iwama-san invented the micro TV.

  • John Bardeen chats with Ibuka-san. They were both born in 1908.
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