Sony Founded On Friendship, Ambition
In the fall of 1953, Morita made his first trip to the U.S. to sign an agreement with Western Electric, pending MITI approval in Japan. Western Electric recommended Morita use the transistor to make hearing aids. Instead, Ibuka said, "Let's make radios."
Still facing fierce resistance from the MITI, Totsuko formed a task force that began, with virtually no background materials, to research how to produce a transistor. At the end of 1953, the political winds at the MITI began to shift, and Ibuka and engineer Kazuo Iwama went to the U.S. to learn more about transistors. Western Electric would not provide specifications for manufacturing equipment, but company officials did show Iwama around their factories. Iwama memorized what he saw and wrote it down, sending detailed letters back to Japan.
Studying Iwama's letters, Totsuko engineers set about making a transistor, working with meager tools: two small lathes, a drill press, a milling machine and later a rusted slicer retrofitted with a diamond grinder Morita had obtained in the U.S.