Sony’s recent decision to sell off its PC business may come as much of a surprise to industry analysts, but it’s certainly sad news for fans of the stylish Vaio brand.
Sony’s influence in the consumer electronics market has waned considerably over the past decade, and despite promises by CEO Kazuo Hirai that the company is ready to innovate once more, doubts remain over the company’s future.
However, it wasn’t always like this, and we thought we’d take a quick look back at some of the company’s most influential and best-loved designs from the last 50 years. Not so much a premature memorial, but just a gentle stroll down memory lane.
From the original 3.5-inch floppy disk to the world's first OLED TV, Sony has invented and helped standardize many of the most enduring components of consumer electronics, with many more products such as the Walkman or the PlayStation becoming icons in their own right - as well as best-selling devices.
Take a look:
Sony: The best and worst gadgets since 1950
Sony: The best and worst gadgets since 1950
1/14 Sony Type G; 1950
Founded in 1946 as Tokyo Tsushin Kgoyo by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, Sony's first ever piece of hardware was the Type G tape recorder (pictured), the first of its kind ever sold in Japan. It was so called because it was the standard equipment used by government offices.
2/14 TR-63; 1963
In the early 1950s Sony persuaded Bell Labs to licence them the transistor, launching the a range of portable radios with the TR-55 in 1955. However, its successor, the TR-63 (pictured) is perhaps the most beautiful example of the form and the first "pocketable" radio. It helped propel the fledgling industry from annual sales of 100,000 units in 1955 to 5 million by the end of 1968.
3/14 Trinitron (KV 1310); 1966
The first ever TV in the Trinitron range was launched in 1966, offering the first major development in TV quality for more than a decade. Acclaimed for its bright images (25 per cent brighter than previous technology) Sony sold more than 100 million Trinitron units before the design's patent expired in 1996.
4/14 Betamax (K-60); 1975
Betamax was launched in 1975 as Sony's entry in the videotape format wars. Although many thought that Beta tapes had superior video quality (at least in lab conditions - probably not in the home), the proprietary nature of the technology compared with the free licensing on VHS, gave Sony's competitors the upper hand. Cheaper VHS tapes and more of them led to Sony throwing in the towel in 1988.
5/14 Walkman (TPS-L2); 1979
Although it's predecessor (the robust 1968 TC-50) managed to make its way into space on early Apollo missions, it was the original Walkman, the TPS-L2, that started a personal audio revolution in 1979. Early models featured two headphone jacks to allow for music sharing, while the robust design (thank you skip-proof cassette tapes) allowed for on-the-go listening like never before.
6/14 3.5-inch floppy disk (Apple Macintosh); 1982/4
Unlike with Betamax, Sony were keen to standardize the 3.5-inch floppy disk and worked with a number of companies (including Apple) to achieve this goal in the early 1980s, with the format getting a big boost when it was chosen for the 1984 Apple Macintosh. Sidenote: although some see 'disk' as American and 'disc' as English, in reality the 'k' spelling refers to optical storage (eg CDs) while the 'c' spelling refers to magnetic storage (your hard drive).
7/14 Discman (D-50); 1984
Following the introduction of the world's first CD player (the pricey CDP-101 in 1982), Sony introduced the Walkman's successor, the Discman, in 1984. It was half the price of the CDP-101 but with exactly the same functionality, kickstarting interest not only in using CDs for playing music but prefiguring their adoption as the common medium for data with the introduction of the CD-ROM, standardized in 1989.
8/14 PlayStation; 1994
The introduction of the PlayStation secured the CD-ROM's dominance in the gaming industry, even though the cartridge-based N64 was released the year after. Although it was expected that Nintendo would remain the dominant system, the PS1 became the first console to ship 100 million units, 9 years and 6 months after its launch.
9/14 Vaio (PCG-GT1); 1994 (2000)
Although the first Vaio was a desktop (the 1996 PCV-90, running Windows 95 on a Pentium 200MHz processor) the range has always been known for its portable offerings. While it's true that some were just a little too ambitious (see the PCG-GT1 pictured - it included a video camcorder built into the side) most were stylish (if pricey) offerings, with even Steve Jobs counted among their fanbase.
10/14 Aibo; 1999
Marketed as an 'entertainment robot', the Aibo may not have sold particularly well but it quickly became an iconic desing for Sony. In 2006 (the year that production stopped) Carnegie Mellon University inducted it into the 'Robot Hall of Fame', describing it as "the most sophisticated product ever offered in the consumer robot marketplace".
11/14 PlayStation 2; 2000
Analysts may have doubted that anything could top the PS1's success but the PS2 beat all expectations. The best-selling console of all time (more than 150 million units shipped), production only stopped on the updated slim edition (right) in January last year - one of the longest runs in video game history. More than 3,870 titles were released for the PS2, selling more than 1.5 billion copies in total.
12/14 Blu-Ray; 2006
Seemingly in revenge for Betamax, Sony (and the consortium of companies that supported the high-definition Blu-Ray disc) won the next major format war. Sony launched its first dedicated Blu-Ray player in 2006 and followed this with the Blu-Ray supporting PlayStation 3 that same year. Toshiba - the main backer of rival format HD DVD - bowed out of the game in 2008.
13/14 XEL-1 OLED TV; 2007
The world's first organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV, the XEL-1 was supposed to put re-establish Sony's reputation for innovation in a market dominated by LCD and plasma technology. Although it was the world's thinnest television, the 11-inch TV was soon discontinued.
14/14 PS4; 2013
Although some analysts have suggested that this generation of game consoles could be the last, the impressive sales of the PS4 (and rival Xbox One) have shown that there's still plenty of demand. So far Sony seems ahead in the console wars, shifting 4.2 million units as of December 2013. Despite their current financial troubles, Sony are betting that the gaming industry will be one area they can depend upon, even as their PC business crumbles.
Once a upon a time even Apple used to look to Sony for design tips (iPhone prototypes emerged during patent disputes showing a Sony-inspired handset) and looking at some of the design classics that the company has created, it's not hard to see why.Reuse content