Sunday, June 05, 2011


Toshiba was founded by the merging of two companies in 1939. One, Tanaka Seisakusho (Tanaka Engineering Works), was Japan's first manufacturer of telegraph equipment and was established by Hisashige Tanaka in 1875. . In 1904, its name was changed to Shibaura Seisakusho (Shibaura Engineering Works). Through the first part of the 20th century Shibaura Engineering Works became a major manufacturer of heavy electrical machinery as Japan modernized during the Meiji Era and became a world industrial power.

The second company, Hakunetsusha, was established in 1890 and was Japan's first producer of incandescent electric lamps. It diversified into the manufacture of other consumer products and in 1899 was renamed Tokyo Denki (Tokyo Electric). The merger in 1939 of Shibaura Seisakusho and Tokyo Denki created a new company called Tokyo Shibaura Denki (Tokyo Shibaura Electric) ( 浦 電気). It was soon nicknamed Toshiba, but it was not until 1978 that the company was officially renamed Toshiba Corporation.

The group expanded strongly, both by internal growth and by acquisitions, buying heavy engineering and primary industry firms in the 1940s and 1950s and then spinning off subsidiaries in the 1970s and beyond. Groups created include Toshiba EMI (1960), Toshiba International Corporation (1970's) Toshiba Electrical Equipment (1974), Toshiba Chemical (1974), Toshiba Lighting and Technology (1989), Toshiba America Information Systems (1989) and Toshiba Carrier Corporation (1999).

Toshiba is responsible for a number of Japanese firsts, including radar (1942), the TAC digital computer (1954), transistor television and microwave oven (1959), color video phone (1971), Japanese word processor (1978), MRI system (1982), laptop personal computer (1986), NAND EEPROM (1991), DVD (1995), the Libretto sub-notebook personal computer (1996) and HD DVD (2005). In 1977, Toshiba merged with the Brazilian company Semp (Sociedade Eletromercantil Paulista), forming Semp Toshiba.

In 1987, Tocibai Machine, a subsidiary of Toshiba, was accused of illegally selling CNC milling machines used to produce very quiet submarine propellers to the Soviet Union in violation of the CoCom agreement, an international embargo on certain countries to COMECON countries. The Toshiba-Kongsberg scandal involved a subsidiary of Toshiba and the Norwegian company Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk. 

The incident strained relations between the United States and Japan, and resulted in the arrest and prosecution of two senior executives, as well as the imposition of sanctions on the company by both countries. The US had always relied on the fact that the Soviets had noisy boats, so technology that would make the USSR's submarines harder to detect created a significant threat to America's security. Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania said "What Toshiba and Kongsberg did was ransom the security of the United States for $517 million."

In 2001, Toshiba signed a contract with Orion Electric, one of the world's largest OEM consumer video electronic makers and suppliers, to manufacture and supply finished consumer TV and video products for Toshiba to meet the increasing demand for the North American market. The contract ended in 2008, ending 7 years of OEM production with Orion.

In December 2004, Toshiba quietly announced it would discontinue manufacturing traditional in-house cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions. In 2006, Toshiba terminated production of in-house plasma TVs. Toshiba quickly switched to Orion as the supplier and maker of Toshiba-branded CRT-based TVs and plasma TVs until 2007. To ensure its future competitiveness in the flat-panel digital television and display market, Toshiba has made a considerable investment in a new kind of display technology called SED.

Before World War II, Toshiba was a member of the Mitsui Group zaibatsu (family-controlled vertical monopoly). Today Toshiba is a member of the Mitsui keiretsu (a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings), and still has preferential arrangements with Mitsui Bank and the other members of the keiretsu. Membership in a keiretsu has traditionally meant loyalty, both corporate and private, to other members of the keiretsu or allied keiretsu. This loyalty can extend as far as the beer the employees consume, which in Toshiba's case is Asahi.

In July 2005, BNFL confirmed it planned to sell Westinghouse Electric Company, then estimated to be worth $1.8bn (£1bn). The bid attracted interest from several companies including Toshiba, General Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and when the Financial Times reported on January 23, 2006 that Toshiba had won the bid, it valued the company's offer at $5bn (£2.8bn). 

The bid surprised many industry experts who questioned the wisdom of selling one of the world's largest producers of nuclear reactors shortly before the market for nuclear power is expected to grow substantially; China, the United States and the United Kingdom are all expected to invest heavily in nuclear power. The acquisition of Westinghouse for $5.4bn was completed on October 17, 2006, with Toshiba obtaining a 77% share, and partners The Shaw Group a 20% share and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. a 3% share.

Also, in late 2007, Toshiba's logo replaced the former Discover Card logo on one of the screens atop One Times Square. It displays the iconic New Year's countdown on its screen, as well as messages, greetings, and advertisements for the company. In January 2009, Toshiba acquired the HDD business of Fujitsu. Toshiba also manufactures small home appliances, most notably fully automatic digital rice cookers. (Wikipedia)


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