Saturday, July 19, 2008

*Edison said genius is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration.

Goethe said perserverance is the most important virtue is getting great things done.

When the young, small Sony Corporation licensed the transitor from Bell Labs, which invented it, the Bell Labs people told them it would only be good for hearing aids.

Which was true of the transitor as Bell Labs had formulated it out of germanium and iridium. It didn't have enough power to run, for example, a radio.

The mission of the Sony Corporation was to make electronic products for regular people and sell lots and lots of them. They thought the transitor could be made into something that would power a small radio. Not just portable, they said. Pocketable. They said this before they had a transistor radio or a transistor that could run a radio. They knew what they wanted.

They thought the transitor could help them make the mass electronic product of their dreams. It just needed to be made of different materials. But which ones?

Sony researchers tried this and that and tried combinations of this and that. One researcher was trying a technique called phosporus doping. It seemed to be making tiny, incremental steps toward a more powerful transitor. But the progress wasn't that clear, and he wasn't that sure.

He reported his possible project at a meeting, cautiously. His boss, Kazuo Iwans, said, "Well, if it looks like you are getting interesting results, why don't you just keep working and see what happens?"

Hence, tiny Sony corporation became bigger. Phosphorus doping was the way to go.

Bell Labs had tried phosphorus doping, but not for long enough.

The Japanese language doesn't have an imperative--"Do this. Close the door. Talk. Shut up." They don't have that.

Sometimes a boss needs to say, Maybe you're right.

--information from "Made in Japan: Akio Morita and Sony" by Akio Morita with Edwin M. Reingold and Mitsuko Shimomura