We’re all familiar with what LG and Sharp make nowadays, but did you know they used to make tractors and pencils, respectively? Or that Samsung started exporting fish, and Apple used to make digital cameras? Not to mention the seedy blemish on Nintendo’s past that would make Mario’s hat spin. Read on, and all will be revealed.
- 1. Nintendo’s love hotel
- 2. Samsung’s fish and veg
- 3. Panasonic’s bicycles
- 4. Apple’s digital camera
- 5. Sharp’s pencils
- 6. Nokia’s paper and rubber
- 7. LG’s tractors
- 8. Motorola and the moon
1. Nintendo’s love hotel
It’s been well documented that Nintendo started in 1889 making playing cards before evolving into one of the world’s most successful video games companies, but did you know it actually ran a love hotel? Yes, in 1963, then President Hiroshi Yamauchi was looking to diversify from games cards and so opened an establishment that charged couples by the hour. That same year he also started a cab company called Daiya, but both ventures proved unsuccessful, with the company at the brink of bankruptcy. One day he spotted an employee playing with an extendable claw he’d made for his own amusement, and decided to go into making toys, which expanded to video games in 1983 with the launch of the NES.
2. Samsung’s fish and veg
Started on March 1 1938 by Byung-Chull Lee, the Korean giant primarily exported dried fish, vegetables and fruit to Manchuria and Beijing. Within 10 years it had its own flour mills and confectionery machines. It went on to acquire businesses as diverse as life insurance and security before going into electronics in the 1960s, starting producing TVs in 1972. It’s a long way from hawking dried fish to the Galaxy Tab…
3. Panasonic’s bicycles
Panasonic founder Konosuke Matsushita was adopted by a family who owned a bicycle shop, so it seemed natural enough for him to want to produce bikes as well as the company’s booming bulb business. It was already selling bicycle lamps as early as 1923, after all. So after the second world war he started manufacturing and selling them in Japan as well as overseas. And with advertising like this, it’s hard to see why they didn’t last. But it proved to be less profitable than other divisions, and so after Matsushita died it was dropped. Shame, with a ‘tache like that.
Long before it was putting cameras into the iPad 2, Apple had a line of proper standalone compact digital cameras. Named the QuickTake, they were some of the first consumer models available, and were made by Kodak and Fujifilm. Specs were 0.3-megapixel resolution, a flash, no zoom, and it could store eight photos. Then when you wanted to delete a picture, you had to bin the whole lot, as you couldn’t delete individual files. Steve Jobs promptly discontinued the line in 1997 upon his return to Apple.
Tokuji Hayakawa was an enterprising fellow. Aged 18 he’d already patented a new type of belt buckle, then in 1915 he invented the world’s first retractable pencil. Called the Ever Sharp, he liked it so much he named the company after it. He then moved on to electronics, designing radios that went on sale in 1925, then TVs in 1953, and the rest, as they say, is history.
6. Nokia’s paper and rubber
When Frederik Idestam established a paper mill at Tammerkoski Rapids in south western Finland in 1865, he wasn’t to know it would go on to become part of one of the world’s biggest telecommunications companies. But a merger between the paper mill, the Finnish Rubber Works (founded in 1898), and the Finnish Cable Works (1912, presided over by a former Olympic wrestler 25 years later) led to what we now know as Nokia. How? Well, in 1960 the Finnish Cable Works established an electronics department, selling computers, then in 1967 Nokia Ab, Finnish Rubber Works and Finnish Cable Works merged to create the Nokia Corporation. A few months later it announced the N8, but it was beset by a delay or two.
Formed in 1975 in conjunction with Hyundai, the tractor arm of LG was originally a division of LG Cable. In 2005, LG Cable became a separate company, taking the name LS Cable, and hence the tractors LS Tractors. And if you look at lstractor.co.uk you’ll see they’re available to the UK market. The U Series looks a steal at just £15,200. But does it run Android?
8. Motorola and the moon
While Motorola’s history may not be quite as bizarre as some of the others, having always been involved in technology, it still throws up a few surprises. Starting life as the Galvin Manufacturing Corporation in 1928, its first product was a battery eliminator for radios. In 1940 it made the world’s first walkie talkie, then went on to make TVs and radios. It made radio equipment for NASA space flights, including the 1969 moon landing. And it may surprise you to hear it was a Motorola radio that transmitted Neil Armstrong’s, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” back down to earth.