2011: IBM's Centennial(ish) Year

IBM is a fascinating company in many ways. This year seems a particularly appropriate year to look back on IBM's long and interesting history, because 2011 is IBM's official centennial year.

In classic IBM fashion, the company may be underselling itself when it comes to recognizing its centennial. The Tabulating Machine Company, founded by Herman Hollerith — arguably history's leading computing pioneer — dates back to 1896 and commercialized much of the technology Hollerith invented for the 1890 U.S. Census. Hollerith's tabulating equipment improved the Census's productivity by at least a factor of three. There is a recognizably straightforward evolution, albeit a somewhat convoluted one with at least two big hardware technology transitions, from TMC's late 1800s punched card tabulating technologies to many of IBM's current technology offerings, even including the IBM zEnterprise mainframe. Yet IBM considers the incorporation of Computing Tabulating Recording (C-T-R) in mid-June, 1911, to be its official start. C-T-R, later renamed International Business Machines (IBM), was a merger of TMC, the Computing Scale Corporation, and the International Time Recording Company. It's not clear to me why the addition of meat scale and employee time clock businesses reset IBM's corporate clock, so to speak, especially when IBM divested those businesses long ago, but that's how IBM sees its history.

Anyway, even if IBM should be celebrating its 115th birthday instead of its 100th, understanding the company's history is helpful in understanding how IBM — and how technology overall — is likely to evolve in the future. Therefore I would recommend paying at least a little attention to IBM's centennial reflections over the course of this year.

by Timothy Sipples January 5, 2011 in Future, History


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Good read, and to be honest, I was not aware of some of the details. One point however; the phrase "even including the zEnterprise" triggered me. The reason? I think it's the single technology IBM ever developed that allows large businesses to still run 30-35 year old software that has been helping companies to make money on the same architecture. I think IBM deserved Kudo's larger than life for being able to develop technology and keep reinventing the same technology to run old AND the latest technology on the same piece of hardware. They have also created a healthy business of ISV's (like CA technologies: www.ca.com/mainframe) around this business. For people who sometimes accuse IBM from being protective, I think they did a pretty good good of protecting the market and their clients, and not only themselves..

Posted by: zMarcel | Jan 10, 2011 10:36:15 AM

In 1980, when IBM chose to use "open architecture" for their new PC, many things happened that shaped the PC industry forever. Why was this so? Name at least two companies that exploited opportunities resulting from IBM's decision and describe how they did it.

Posted by: excel development | Aug 29, 2011 9:41:03 AM

Complaint with IBM China CSR on Centennial

Reports in Chinese:

羊城晚报:为与IBM抗争他历经磨难 http://t.cn/aRXm9Z
腾讯科技:IBM丑闻不断 百年庆典不忘拘禁抑郁员工家属 http://t.cn/appKpV
新华社中国名牌杂志&新华网:IBM前员工维权悲剧 http://t.cn/a0TCD4

Self-translation in English:

4.Tragedy of Labor Rights Repression in IBM China http://t.cn/amn9sM
3.Burdens and Hardships: Protesting Against IBM http://t.cn/aEopKa
1.Scandal stricken IBM detained mother of ex-employee on the day of centennial http://t.cn/aj8hkI
2.Suicidal IBM employee Yuan Yipeng rescued by police from river http://t.cn/aYk1Vp

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