Toshiba was founded in 1939 by the merger of Shibaura Seisakusho (Shibaura Engineering Works) and Tokyo Denki (Tokyo Electric). Shibaura Seisakusho had been founded as Tanaka Seisakusho by Tanaka Hisashige in 1875 as Japan's first manufacturer of telegraph equipment. In 1904, it was renamed Shibaura Seisakusho. Through the first decades of the 20th century Shibaura Seisakusho had become a major manufacturer of heavy electrical machinery as Japan modernized during the Meiji Era and became a world industrial power. Tokyo Denki was founded as Hakunetsusha in 1890 and had been Japan's first producer of incandescent electric lamps. It later diversified into the manufacture of other consumer products and in 1899 had been renamed Tokyo Denki. The merger of Shibaura and Tokyo Denki created a new company called Tokyo Shibaura Denki (Tokyo Shibaura Electric) (東京芝浦電気). It was soon nicknamed Toshiba, but it was not until 1978 that the company was officially renamed Toshiba Corporation.The old logo used by Toshiba, mainly on Japan-made products The Toshiba pavilion at Expo '85.
The group expanded rapidly, driven by a combination of organic growth and by acquisitions, buying heavy engineering and primary industry firms in the 1940s and 1950s. Groups created include Toshiba Music Industries/Toshiba EMI (1960), Toshiba International Corporation (1970s) Toshiba Electrical Equipment (1974), Toshiba Chemical (1974), Toshiba Lighting and Technology (1989), Toshiba America Information Systems (1989) and Toshiba Carrier Corporation (1999).
Toshiba is responsible for a number of Japanese firsts, including radar (1942), the TAC digital computer (1954), transistor television and microwave oven (1959), color video phone (1971), Japanese word processor (1978), MRI system (1982), laptop personal computer (1986), NAND EEPROM (1991), DVD (1995), the Libretto sub-notebook personal computer (1996) and HD DVD (2005).
In 1977, Toshiba acquired the Brazilian company Semp (Sociedade Eletromercantil Paulista), subsequently forming Semp Toshiba through the combination of the two companies' South American operations.
In 1987, Tocibai Machine, a subsidiary of Toshiba, was accused of illegally selling CNC milling machines used to produce very quiet submarine propellers to the Soviet Union in violation of the CoCom agreement, an international embargo on certain countries to COMECON countries. The Toshiba-Kongsberg scandal involved a subsidiary of Toshiba and the Norwegian company Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk. The incident strained relations between the United States and Japan, and resulted in the arrest and prosecution of two senior executives, as well as the imposition of sanctions on the company by both countries. Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania said "What Toshiba and Kongsberg did was ransom the security of the United States for $517 million."2000 to 2010 The current Toshiba headquarters in Minato, Tokyo, Japan
In 2001, Toshiba signed a contract with Orion Electric, one of the world's largest OEM consumer video electronic makers and suppliers, to manufacture and supply finished consumer TV and video products for Toshiba to meet the increasing demand for the North American market. The contract ended in 2008, ending 7 years of OEM production with Orion.
In December 2004, Toshiba quietly announced it would discontinue manufacturing traditional in-house cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions. In 2006, Toshiba terminated production of in-house plasma TVs. To ensure its future competitiveness in the flat-panel digital television and display market, Toshiba has made a considerable investment in a new kind of display technology called SED. Before World War II, Toshiba was a member of the Mitsui Group zaibatsu (family-controlled vertical monopoly). Today Toshiba is a member of the Mitsui keiretsu (a set of companies with interlocking business relationships and shareholdings), and still has preferential arrangements with Mitsui Bank and the other members of the keiretsu. Membership in a keiretsu has traditionally meant loyalty, both corporate and private, to other members of the keiretsu or allied keiretsu. This loyalty can extend as far as the beer the employees consume, which in Toshiba's case is Asahi.
In July 2005, BNFL confirmed it planned to sell Westinghouse Electric Company, then estimated to be worth $1.8 billion (£1 billion). The bid attracted interest from several companies including Toshiba, General Electric and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and when the Financial Times reported on January 23, 2006 that Toshiba had won the bid, it valued the company's offer at $5 billion (£2.8 billion). The sale of Westinghouse by the Government of the United Kingdom surprised many industry experts, who questioned the wisdom of selling one of the world's largest producers of nuclear reactors shortly before the market for nuclear power was expected to grow substantially; China, the United States and the United Kingdom are all expected to invest heavily in nuclear power. The acquisition of Westinghouse for $5.4bn was completed on October 17, 2006, with Toshiba obtaining a 77% share, and partners The Shaw Group a 20% share and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. a 3% share.
In late 2007, Toshiba took over from Discover Card as the sponsor of the top-most screen of One Times Square in New York City. It displays the iconic 60-second New Year's countdown on its screen, as well as messages, greetings, and advertisements for the company.
In January 2009, Toshiba acquired the HDD business of Fujitsu.2010 to present
Toshiba announced on May 16, 2011, that it had agreed to acquire all of the shares of the Swiss-based advanced-power-meter maker Landis+Gyr for $2.3 billion.
In April 2012, Toshiba agreed to acquire IBM's point-of-sale business for $850 million, making it the world's largest vendor of point-of-sale systems.
In July 2012, Toshiba was accused of fixing the prices of LCD panels at a high level, in US. While such claims are denied by Toshiba, they have agreed to settle alongside several other manufacturers for a total of $571 million.