Sony's Norio Ohga, the 'Father of the CD,' Dies at 81
Former CEO and Chairman of the Board of Sony, Norio Ohga has been credited with leading the effort to develop the CD, or compact disc. He was president and chairman of Sony from 1982 to 1995. He stepped down as president in 1995, but remained chairman until 2003.
Born January 29, 1930, Norio Ohga graduated from Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1953 and Berlin University of the Arts in 1957. An aspiring opera singer, and it was that aspiration that drove him to write to Sony to complain about the sound quality of its tape recorders. Sony co-founders Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita immediately recruited Ohga for the company.
His climb was rapid, and he was a Sony executive by his 30s, which is rare in a Japanese company. In 1970, he was appointed president of CBS Sony Records in 1970. In 1988, he was named chairman of what later became Sony Corporation of America, and became chief executive of Sony in 1989.
Ohga's connection to music affected the specifications of what became the compact disc. Ohga insisted that the CD be designed to be 12 centimeters (4.8 inches) in diameter so that it could hold 75 minutes worth of music. It was necessary for the CD to support 75 minutes of playback in order for it to be able to hold the entirety of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
Sony sold its first CD in 1982. Ohga insisted CDs would eventually replace record albums, and although many scoffed at the notion, a mere five years later CD sales overtook LP record sales in Japan.
The specifications are still used today, although digital downloads have greatly impacted sales of CDs.
Norio Ohga is survived by his wife, Midori. Sony announced that a private wake will be held at a later date.