One hundred years of business machinery

The company that became the global behemoth IBM was founded on 16 June 1911. To celebrate its centenary, we look at some of the landmarks of business technology - and the company behind it.

After a century in business, IBM may have been toppled from its dominant perch in the technology industry by trendier newcomers such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, but it’s still here and continues to play an influential role. For the 18th consecutive year, for example, IBM once again ranked as the top recipient of US patents, with 5,896 granted in 2010.

In spite of its unprecedented portfolio of hardware and technological innovations (see chronology), so much about IBM is down to its people and corporate culture, which were shaped in its formative years by Thomas Watson Sr - or “The Old Man” as company insiders used to call him.

 

An ambitious salesman who had served his apprenticeship with NCR (National Cash Register) - where he also picked up a conviction under the US Sherman Anti-Trust law - Watson joined CTR (Computing Tabulating Recording company) in 1914. Through sheer force of personality and a paternalistic outlook reminiscent of the corporate barons of the 19th century he created a company culture that laid the foundations for the success of the company he renamed International Business Machines in 1924.

 

As a salesman himself, Watson created a sales-focused, people-centric culture that probably explains why IBM is heading into its second century, as illustrated by the following extracts from Nancy Foy’s history, ‘The IBM World’ (aka ‘The Sun Never Sets On IBM’):

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