Sony began in the wake of World War II. In 1946, Masaru Ibuka started an electronics shop in a department store building in Tokyo. The company started with a capital of ¥190,000 and a total of eight employees.

On 7 May 1946, Ibuka was joined by Akio Morita to establish a company called Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation).The company built Japan's first tape recorder, called the Type-G. In 1958, the company changed its name to "Sony".

The name "Sony" was chosen for the brand as a mix of two words: one was the Latin word "sonus", which is the root of sonic and sound, and the other was "sonny", a common slang term used in 1950s America to call a young boy. The first Sony-branded product, the TR-55 transistor radio, appeared in 1955 but the company name did not change to Sony until January 1958.

Sony co-founder Akio Morita founded Sony Corporation of America in 1960.

In 1968, Sony introduced the Trinitron brand name for its lines of aperture grille cathode ray tube televisions and (later) computer monitors. Sony stopped production of Trinitron for most markets, but continued producing sets for markets such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. Sony discontinued its series of Trinitron computer monitors in 2005. The company discontinued the last Trinitron-based television set in the US in early 2007. The end of Trinitron marked the end of Sony's analog television sets and monitors.

The company launched the Betamax videocassette recording format in 1975. Sony was involved in the videotape format war of the early 1980s, when they were marketing the Betamax system for video cassette recorders against the VHS format developed by JVC. In the end, VHS gained critical mass in the marketbase and became the worldwide standard for consumer VCRs.

In 1979, the Walkman brand was introduced, in the form of the world's first portable music player using the compact cassette format.

Sony began a life insurance company in 1979, one of its many peripheral businesses.

In 1983, Sony followed their counterpart Philips to the compact disc (CD). In addition to developing consumer-based recording media, after the launch of the CD Sony began development of commercially based recording media.

In 1984, Sony launched the Discman series which extended their Walkman brand to portable CD products.

Sony introduced the MiniDisc format in 1992 as an alternative to Philips DCC or Digital Compact Cassette and as a successor to the compact cassette.

In 1993, Sony challenged the industry-standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound format with a newer and more advanced proprietary motion picture digital audio format called SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound). This format employed eight channels (7.1) of audio opposed to just six used in Dolby Digital 5.1 at the time.

Launched in 1994, the first PlayStation gained 61% of global console sales and broke Nintendo's long-standing lead in the market.

The first Cyber-shot was introduced in 1996. At the time, digital cameras were a relative novelty.

Sony produced computers during the 1980s. The company withdrew from the computer business around 1990. Sony entered again into the global computer market under the new VAIO brand, began in 1996. Short for "Video Audio Integrated Operation", the line was the first computer brand to highlight visual-audio features.

Sony was ranked 43 on the 1995 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 40 on the 1996 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 33 on the 1997 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony launched in 1998, their Memory Stick format, flash memory cards for use in Sony lines of digital cameras and portable music players. It has seen little support outside of Sony's own products, with Secure Digital cards (SD) commanding considerably greater popularity.

Sony was ranked 30 on the 1998 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 31 on the 1999 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony released the PlayStation 2 in 2000, which was even more successful than the first one . The console has become the most successful of all time, selling over 150 million units as of 2011.

Sony was ranked 30 on the 2000 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 30 on the 2001 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 37 on the 2002 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 32 on the 2003 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony extended the brand to the portable games market in 2004 with the PlayStation Portable (PSP). The console has sold reasonably, but has taken a second place to a rival handheld, the Nintendo DS.

The company then introduced the BRAVIA name. BRAVIA is an in house brand owned by Sony which produces high-definition LCD televisions, projection TVs and front projectors, home cinemas and the BRAVIA home theatre range. All Sony high-definition flat-panel LCD televisions in North America have carried the logo for BRAVIA since 2005. Sony is the third-largest maker of televisions in the world. As of 2012, Sony's television business has been unprofitable for eight years.

Sony was ranked 30 on the 2004 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony faced considerable controversy when some of its laptop batteries exploded and caught fire in 2006, resulting in the largest computer-related recall to that point in history.

Sony was ranked 47 on the 2005 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was one of the leading developers of the Blu-ray optical disc format, the newest standard for disc-based content delivery. The first Blu-ray players became commercially available in 2006. The format emerged as the standard for HD media over the competing format, Toshiba's HD DVD, after a two-year-long high-definition optical disc format war.

Sony released the PlayStation 3, a high-definition console, in 2006. It was the first console to use the Blu-ray format, and was considerably more expensive than competitors Xbox 360 and Wii due to a Cell processor.

Sony was ranked 65 on the 2006 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 69 on the 2007 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 75 on the 2008 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 81 on the 2009 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 69 on the 2010 Fortune Global 500 list.

In a bid to join the tablet computer market, the company launched its Sony Tablet line of Android tablets in 2011. But since 2012, Sony's Android products have been marketed under the Xperia brand used for its smartphones.

Sony was ranked 73 on the 2011 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 87 on the 2012 Fortune Global 500 list.

Olympus and Sony established Sony Olympus Medical Solutions Inc. (Sony 51%, Olympus 49%) on 16 April 2013, which is a joint venture to develop new surgical endoscopes with 4K resolution (or higher) and 3D capability.

Sony launched its fourth console, the PlayStation 4, on 15 November 2013, which as of 31 December 2017 has sold 73.6 million units globally.

Sony was ranked 94 on the 2013 Fortune Global 500 list.

On 4 February 2014, Sony announced that it would sell its VAIO PC business due to poor sales and Japanese company Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) will purchase the VAIO brand, with the deal finalized by the end of March 2014. Sony maintains a minority stake in the new, independent company.

On 28 February 2014, Sony, M3 and Illumina established a joint venture called P5, Inc. to provide a genome analysis service for research institutions and enterprises in Japan.

On 18 March 2014, at GDC, president of Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida announced their new virtual reality technology dubbed Project Morpheus, and later named PlayStation VR, for PlayStation 4.The headset brought VR gaming and non-gaming software to the company's console. According to a report released by Houston-based patent consulting firm LexInnova in May 2015, Sony is leading the virtual reality patent race. According to the firm's analysis of nearly 12,000 patents or patent applications, Sony has 366 virtual reality patents or patent applications. PlayStation VR was released worldwide on 13 October 2016.

Sony was ranked 105 on the 2013 Fortune Global 500 list.

On 9 November 2015, Sony announced that they are going to stop producing Betamax Tapes in March 2016.

Sony was ranked 116 on the 2015 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 113 on the 2016 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 105 on the 2017 Fortune Global 500 list.

Sony was ranked 97 on the 2018 Fortune Global 500 list.