What’s in a name?
In the video above, first aired in the U.K. in 1980, the host walks us through a number of ’80s-era electronic products, such as a boom box and a VCR, noting that they were all made by one of the world’s leading manufacturers. In the end he reveals that the products weren’t made by Sony or any other household name, but by Samsung, then a relative unknown in the West.
“You pay for our product,” he says, “not our name.”
At least not in Europe or the US. But by the ’80s, Samsung was already a decades-old company. In fact, as documented on its corporate website and in a lengthy TechCrunch profile, Samsung’s history stretches back to the 1930s—back when the smartphone giant of today was all about groceries.
A son of privilege, Lee Byung-chul founded a company called Samsung Sanghoe in 1938. He started by exporting fish, vegetables and the company’s own brand of noodles to China. From there, the company expanded into milling flour. After a serious setback during the Korean War, Lee rebuilt the company and diversified into a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and construction.
But it wasn’t until 1969 that the Samsung Corporation launched its Samsung Electronic subsidiary, first offering black and white televisions and later expanding into the refrigerators and other consumer electronics that ultimately made the company famous worldwide.
By the early 1990s Samsung was already one of the largest semiconductor companies in the world, and its consumer electronics line had finally become internationally known. But it wasn’t until 2010 that the company launched the product it’s most closely associate with today: the Samsung Galaxy S smart phone.
The Galaxy S wasn’t the company’s first smart phone, but it was the device that propelled the brand to the forefront of the smart phone race and ultimately pitted them against Apple, one of the company’s most important customers.
Most Apple devices have at least a few Samsung components, even if the company’s name isn’t attached to the gadgets themselves. These days if you buy an iPhone, you are literally paying for Samsung’s products rather than its name.