Norio Ohga was the former president and chairman of Sony; he was also the man responsible for creating the compact disc (CD). At the age of 81 this great man, who headed Sony from 1982 to 1995 has passed away due to multiple organ failure in a Japanese hospital located in Tokyo.Over half a century ago in 1953, Norio Ohga was discovered by Sony’s co-founders in the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and recruited on the spot. At the time Norio Ohga was studying to be an opera singer, but also had an in-depth knowledge of electronic engineering. His classic training combined with his technical knowledge made Norio Ohga a perfect recruit for the Sony Company.
Norio’s success with Sony is almost unprecedented, by his 30s he was already an executive and in the 1970s he became the president of CBS Sony Records which now flies under the banner of Sony Music Entertainment. It was at this time that he realised the potential of the CD, and like a dog with a bone would not give up until the new format was developed and introduced into the market.
Deciding on the size of the CD was hotly debated, but it was Ohga that won the debate with his 12cm (4.8in) diameter design. Norio so badly wanted the 12cm diameter because in was able to store Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which lasts for 75 minutes. In 1982 for the first time in the world a CD was sold and five years later more CDs were being sold than LP records. The CD developed by Norio is still used today and its legacy is huge. It took a long time for mp3’s to push CDs out of the music market, but even so, the basic CD design is used for DVDs, MiniDisc and data writing discs in their millions every day.
Norio Ohga’s influence turned Sony from a successful domestic company into a global entertainment leader. Current Sony President, Howard Stringer, states ‘By redefining Sony as a company encompassing both hardware and software, Ohga-san succeeded where other Japanese companies failed…It is no exaggeration to attribute Sony’s evolution beyond audio and video products into music, movies and game, and subsequent transformation into a global entertainment leader to Ohga-san’s foresight and vision.’ Ohga not only oversaw the purchase of Hollywood studios Columbia Pictures for a massive 3.4bn in 1989, but he also conducted the launch of Sony’s game business which of course went on to develop the PlayStation.
Ohga is no doubt a great man, who had appreciation for music, technical understanding of music and incredible business sense. While developing the Sony business he somehow managed to find time to conduct the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra and was also their chairman.