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Big Blue’s 100th Birthday

June 17, 2011

Granddaddy of Computing Companies Continues to Innovate

Apple may be sexier, Google more ubiquitous and Microsoft on more PCs, but IBM has been a major innovator for 100 years. IBM is celebrating its centennial at an informative website IBM at 100

The precursor to IBM, The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R) was founded on June 16, 1911. In 1924, the company was renamed with the more expansive name of International Business Machines (IBM).

It can be argued that no company has had more influence on improving the way we work and live than IBM. In fact, they wrote a book about it. Want to read it? See: Making The World Work Better

In the 60s & 70s IBM was the object of scorn and derision by the Avant-garde Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who laughed at the stiff, white shirt and tie dinosaurs of IBM. Even though in 1952 IBM opened it’s first California Research lab in San Jose and it’s introduction of the IBM PC  in 1981, helped to legitimized and provided credibility to the nascent personal computing industry.

IBM is currently the 4th most respected company, according to Barron’s (Apple #1). Here is a mere sample of the impact that IBM has had on the world in its first 100 years.

A Century of Achievements

The film features one hundred people, who each present the IBM achievement recorded in the year they were born. The film chronology flows from the oldest person to the youngest, offering a whirlwind history of the company and culminating with its prospects for the future.

There’s little doubt that in the 60s & 70s choosing IBM was a safe bet for IT managers. “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” was the curse new computer company salespeople had to overcome to move their hardware. However, IBM was aware that it could not rest on it size or position.  Early in the company’s history Thomas Watson Sr. said, “It is the policy of this company never to be satisfied with what we have and always to anticipate the demands of the future.”

In fact, Big Blue often took big risks, see the IBM 360 story bellow. And the company regularly goes through unforced bureaucratic shake-ups and re-orgs, as if the founder’s hand still shakes the company like a snow globe. Jr. was no slouch either when it came to organizational innovation and entrepreneurship.

Think Big and Take Big Risks

Thomas John Watson, Jr. was the president of IBM from 1952 to 1971 and the eldest son of Thomas J. Watson, IBM’s first president. He led the company into a period where it dominated the new computer industry. Among many honors, he was called “the greatest capitalist in history” and one of “100 most influential people of the 20th century” Wikipedia

The Productive Little Bar Code from IBM

The bar code and the bicycle are considered two of the most productive technologies ever developed. While we’re not entirely sure who to credit for the bicycle, IBM brought us the bar code in 1973. To see other top innovations, go to…

From small ideas to really big ones…

In 1964 IBM’s Watson Bets the Farm

IBM launched the System/360 on April 7, 1964. Many consider it the biggest business gamble of all time. At the height of IBM’s success, Thomas J. Watson, Jr. bet the company’s future on a new compatible family of computer systems that would help revolutionize modern organizations. This lecture presents a behind-the-scenes view of the tough decisions made by some of the people who made them, and discusses how the System/360 helped transform the government, science and commercial landscape.

The result of IBM’s long term thinking, innovative people and intelligent management is not just building a better world, it is also in great creating value.

The Value of Innovation

Learn more about IBM’s 100 anniversary

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