IBM turns 100

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IBMs centennial celebrations are on and the company reflects on the innovation and transformative breakthroughs it has made.

IBM is no more a company than it was two to three decades ago. It is at present the ranked 14th among the most valuable technology company, way behind the California-based Apple.

Reflecting on the performance of IBM, Thomas Misa, a history of science and technology professor at the University of Minnesota, credits its success to the ability to gather and share information the way people want. The 1930s punch-card tabulation machine is an example.

The birth of IBM was in 1911 when three companies joined hands to become one the Tabulating Machine Co., the International Time Recording Co.,and the Computing Scale Co. of America. Thomas Watson Sr. is credited with building IBM into a powerhouse. He joined the newly formed company, Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. (CTR) in 1914 and later renamed it to International Business Machines Corp. or IBM as it is popularly called since 1924.

IBM was always criticized for its corporate culture but that did not deter it from being in the forefront of technological innovation. IBM is credited with several patents and five of IBMs employees have won Nobel prizes for their contributions in physics.

IBM was a truly business-oriented company. During the Great Depression era, IBM was the company to continue manufacturing the machines even though there was no market for the product. When the Social Security Act was passed by the then president Franklin Roosevelt, IBM was the only company that had equipments ready to go.

Thomas Watson Jr., who took over the presidency of IBM in 1952 from his father, embarked on a new computer system, the System/360, which eventually made all of IBM’s products obsolete. The System/360 was the most successful mainframe computer of all times imprinting the three blue letters IBM in the hearts of the people.

However, IBM could not maintain its success for the personal computers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s they struggled to survive and later sold its PC division to China’s Lenovo in 2005 for $1.25 billion. Later the company took a strategic comeback with a shift in its business to software and services for which the company posted a revenue of $99.9 billion in 2010.

IBM was also in news for its technological innovation in artificial intelligence. The IBM computer called Watson defeated two human champions on the popular US television game show “Jeopardy!” and another computer named Deep Blue defeated world chess champion Garry Kasparov in a closely-watched, six-game match.

Source: Emirates 24/7

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