SAMSUNG, KOREA: From dried fish to Olympic torches

Took a bit of a nose around Samsung's history gallery, at the entrance to which is both a bust of company founder Byung-chull Lee and a video screen showing interviews with him. He started in business with a small store in 1938, and developed that into a trading company in 1950.

Not that electronics were centre-stage then: early enterprises included a sugar company, and trading dried fish with China, and it wasn't until 1969 that Samsung Electronics was founded.

Early products included valves, before the company moved on to TVs like this, a black and white model from the early 1970s, which is very much of its time, and came complete with lockable doors to cover the screen and controls.

But Samsung has always been on the pace with technological developments: this big ol' unit is its first video-cassette recorder, from 1979, which was only the fourth model produced in the world.

while in the following decade it also made products using the 8mm video format, then being heralded as the portable video system of the future.

And the company has always majored on service, which is one of the big secrets of its success in its home market

as well as getting on board new trends at a very early stage.

This is its first-ever mobile phone for the Korean market

and not so many years later it had miniaturised phones down to the point where it could market a wristwatch phone, for all of us with Dick Tracy fantasies.

And it's never missed a trick when it comes to marketing, from sponsorship to product placement. This display of Olympic torches celebrates its role as an Olympic sponsor, and its involvement with the Olympic Torch Relay

while below is a limited edition Matrix mobile phone, from 2003.

But not every product is a runaway success, and there have been times when Samsung has found itself rather ahead of the trend. This, from the 1980s, is a microwave oven with a 5in TV built-in on top.

Who said convergence was a new thing...?

Andrew has written about audio and video products for the past 20+ years, and been a consumer journalist for more than 30 years, starting his career on camera magazines. Andrew has contributed to titles including What Hi-Fi?, GramophoneJazzwise and Hi-Fi CriticHi-Fi News & Record Review and Hi-Fi Choice. I’ve also written for a number of non-specialist and overseas magazines.