Pioneering days - the establishment of Sony/Taiyo, and starting the production of the Walkman -
In 1978, Ibuka-san came to the dedication ceremony of our new 'Taiyo-no Ie' sheltered workshop building, together with Soichiro Honda-san. There, they were able to witness first-hand the philosophy of the sheltered workshop: "No one is so disabled as to be unable to work." They observed how the employees really took this philosophy to heart and put it to practice, and how everyone was working with a lively energy. Ibuka-san and Honda-san instantly felt a newfound respect for Dr. Yutaka Nakamura M.D. (the founder of the Taiyo-no Ie' and an orthopedic surgeon) to the extent that in his congratulatory address, Honda-san announced that his company, Honda Motor Company, Limited, would also offer work to the 'Taiyo-no Ie,' just like Sony, and establish a similar company. With Tateishi-san (the founder of Omron), and now Ibuka-san and Honda-san, the 'Taiyo-no Ie' found itself with three powerful allies of unmatched global strength. They were later joined by Mitsubishi Corporation and Fujitsu Limited, and the number of 'friends' of the organization continued to grow.
By September, 1981, three years after the new company's establishment, the number of employees had grown to over seventy and the plant looked like any typical factory. Sony decided to rename the company 'Sony/Taiyo' as a special subsidiary that easily satisfied the legally mandated rate of employment of people with disabilities, and once again, the company embarked on a fresh start. Sony co-founder Morita-san specially made the journey to Oita to mark the occasion. He gave a public address from the Oita Prefectural Office to announce our name change, which coincided with the establishment of another Sony company, 'Sony Oita' (now known as Sony Semiconductor Kyushu Corporation, Oita TEC).
This was a time when we were really beginning to create various products that demonstrated our knowledge and experience in Monozukuri, as well as our elemental work and technology. I particularly remember the difficulty we had with the 'MDR-FM7' headphones built into FM receivers, and "Walkmans." These
products could not be achieved without high frequency technology and advanced elemental work and technology. It took us about three months before we could create a product without faults, and I regularly got home at around 2 a.m. after a long day of trying to find the cause of the problem. On December 1, 1983, Ohsone-san, who was then the manager of Sony's General Audio (GA) division, visited Sony/Taiyo. After looking around the factory, he suddenly asked to borrow the telephone. He made a call and gave the instruction to "Prepare immediately to begin production of the "Walkman" at Sony/Taiyo." I couldn't believe it, but in just two weeks, the "Walkman" production line was ready, and we began churning out the smash hit product "WM-20" from December 19. Ohsone-san said that "if you make the most difficult thing first, then everything afterwards will be easy." It turned out that by the end of the year, we had accumulated more than 400 defective items-in-process. Employees ranked 'Line Leader' or above had to give up their New Year holidays to repair these goods. I can look back on those days and smile now, but it was a time of panic back then.