Sharp Corporation

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(established 1912)

One of the largest Japanese manufacturers of domestic appliances, audio‐visual products, and office equipment in the early 21st century, Sharp was originally established as the Hayakawa Metal Works in Tokyo in 1912. In its early years the business centred on the manufacture of a mechanical pencil, the Ever‐Sharp Pencil, invented by the company's founder Tojuki Hayakawa. It sold well in Europe and the United States as well as Japan. Following the 1923 earthquake the company relocated to Osaka and moved into radio technology and the production of crystal radio sets with the advent of Japanese radio broadcasting in 1925. Hayakawa was seen as at the forefront of this new technology in Japan. From 1931 onwards the company expanded into South East Asia, first in Hong Kong and then in other countries including China, where a manufacturing plant was established in 1934. After a difficult period following the Second World War Hayakawa moved into television production in 1953 when TV broadcasting began in Japan, although the company had been researching in this field for more than twenty years. Television sales were boosted considerably by the broadcast of the wedding ceremony of the Crown Prince and Michiko Shoda in 1959. During the decade the company diversified into domestic appliance manufacture (especially refrigerators and washing machines), establishing its design department in 1957. Research and development were also important ingredients in commercial success, as seen in breakthrough products such as the Compet C5‐10A calculator of 1964, the world's first all‐transistor‐diode electronic calculator. Though extremely bulky by today's standards it attracted considerable interest and resulted in fierce competition in the office equipment market place. In 1970, as it diversified into the business equipment field, the company changed its name to the Sharp Corporation. In the same year it established its Advanced Development and Planning Centre. Continually at the forefront of technological innovation its products utilized liquid crystal displays (LCD) from 1973 and became increasingly compact. In 1978 the company introduced its ‘new lifestyle’ product strategy, seeking to cater for consumer demand for greater colour ranges, diverse product forms, and innovative features. This idea was taken further in the mid‐1980s with the establishment of the Creative Lifestyle Focus Centre, which concentrated on ‘lifestyle software’ as much as on ‘hardware’. In the late 1970s the company introduced its first PC (personal computer), in 1980 its first fax machine, and, in 1987, its first LCD television. In 1992 Sharp introduced its innovative and prize‐winning ViewCam video camera and recorder with LCD monitor and viewfinder. In 1999 such innovations were taken further with the Internet ViewCam, launched simultaneously in Japan, the USA and Europe, and the RE‐M21o microwave oven able to download recipes from the internet. Similar consumer innovations continued into the 21st century with the launch of the sophisticated AQUOS LCD colour television designed by Toshiyuki Kita. Much of Sharp's success in the second half of the 20th century was due to the design leadership of Kiyoshi Sakashita, who joined the company as a staff designer in 1957, rising to the position of corporate design manager (from 1973), corporate director (from 1981), and corporate adviser (from 1995). The recognition of the importance of design at Board level has also been an important ingredient in corporate success.


Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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