Unplugged

TOKYO, Nov 1, 2006 (AFP) – Times have changed since Nobutoshi Kihara sketched out designs for the revolutionary Walkman on a piece of paper. But, despite a disastrous few years for the iconic Japanese company, the ground-breaking Sony engineer believes the electronics giant still has its spirit of innovation as it marks its 60th anniversary this year.

A protege of Sony co-founders Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita, Kihara is the little known face behind Japan’s first magnetic tape recorders, portable tape recorders, music stereo systems, Betamax video and digital cameras.

Kihara, who has slipped quietly into retirement after nearly six decades at Sony, also played key roles in improving the company’s televisions and mini video cameras.

“We made good, quality products. Our founders also knew the importance of advertising and promotion. That’s how the company grew,” said the soft-spoken 80-year-old, dressed in a khaki engineer’s uniform.

“We did not think about expanding the company for the sake of expansion. It just grew as we worked on our products,” he told AFP before retiring as head of a Sony research center where he spent his la