Norio Ohga, who led the development of the first ever compact disc, died over the weekend of multiple organ failure at the age of 81 in his native Tokyo,
Ohga was an employee of Sony since 1959, serving as President in the 1980s until 1995, CEO from 1989 to 1999 and Chairman until 2003. Under Ohga's leadership, Sony transitioned from a company that made transistor-radios and tape-recorders to an electronics giant with music, movie and video game products galore.
Ohga's storied career began in 1953. Back then, at the age of 23, the company's founders Akio Morita and Masaru Ibuka hired Ohga as a consultant straight out of the Faculty of Music of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music for his expertise in acoustic and electrical engineering. He joined Sony full time six years later and moved up the ladder, with electronic music as his specialty.
Ohga's most notable achievement was leading the team that developed the first compact disc. His insight made the CD a 12 centimeter format, which allowed for 75 minutes of music capacity, enough to fit Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. In 1982, the first CD was commercialized. By the end of the 1980s, CDs were the predominant way people listened to music. While the music industry has shifted to digital, CDs are still used for various functions including software and backups. The same size format is also used in DVDs.
As President of Sony in the 1980s, Ohga drove the company with a philosophy that hardware and software are two wheels on a car. With this attitude, Ohga helped the company land deals with record and movie studios, establishing both under the Sony name.
When I first joined Sony in 1997, Ohga-san was serving on the frontlines of Sony management as Chairman and CEO. His numerous and successful endeavors were well-known both inside and outside of Sony. Witnessing Ohga-san's leadership firsthand was truly an honor, and one I continued to enjoy and benefit from in countless ways in the years that followed, said Sir Howard Stringer, chief executive and president at Sony Corporation, in a statement.
His achievements were appreciated by the Japanese Government. In 1988 he was given the Japanese Medal of Honor with Blue Ribbon, and in 2001 when he was presented with the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure. Other countries, such as France, Germany, Italy and Austria, have also honored his achievements.
Sony says a private wake will be held among family and close relatives, and a company service will take place at a later date.