For 100 years, IBM kept changing in order to stay IBM
- By Kevin McCaney
- Jun 15, 2011
On June 16, 1911, the company that would soon be called IBM was formed out of three establishing companies. Although it had a lot of innovation ahead of it, it already had “computing” it its name.
The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, or CTR, was created from the merger of the Tabulating Machine Company, the International Time Recording Company and the Computing Scale Company of America. In 1924, the name was changed to International Business Machines Corp., after the decision was made to expand operations into Canada and other international locations.
One hundred years later, IBM is still IBM, an instantly recognized heavyweight in information technology, although its focus has changed a lot over the years — from calculating machines to typewriters to mainframes to personal computers to “smarter city” services.
There are scads of reasons IBM has survived and thrived over the last century, but not least of them has been technological innovation.
Among the items the company either invented, perfected or popularized are the electric typewriter, mainframe, bar code, disk drive and floppy disk, the magnetic stripe on credit cards and a little thing called the personal computer.
IBM also has had a big hand in government projects, from Social Security and Medicare to NASA’s space flight program and the Air Force’s missile defense system.
One of its most recent breakthroughs has come in the field of natural language processing, with Watson, a computer named for IBM’s early hard-charging CEO Thomas J. Watson Sr. (and perhaps also his son, Thomas J. Jr., who oversaw the company’s expansion in the 1950s and ‘60s). Watson the computer made a splash earlier this year on “Jeopardy!” but has since put on its IBM dark suit and tie to concentrate on medical research.
You can stroll down the company’s 100-year memory lane here. (Actually, its more than 100 years, since the company’s archives traces product history back to the 1880s.) There is a lot of ground to cover. Or you can check out the company’s historical videos, posted below.
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.