Happy 100th Birthday, IBM!

Geek Culture

One hundred years ago today, three companies merged to become the Computing Tabulating Recording (CTR) Corporation. At the time, the business manufactured and sold a number of different machines, ranging from time recorders to food slicers. Thirteen years later, CTR had hired a new leader and adopted a new moniker, leading to a century of success and innovation.

Today, International Business Machines — IBM — is an international computer company and a top-10 firm. Benefiting from nine research labs scattered around the globe, “Big Blue” holds more patents than any other U.S. technology company. In 1972, designer Paul Rand gave IBM its visual identity with the 8-bars logo.

The 100-year-old company is celebrating the milestone in style, with a resource-laden website and a new book highlighting the century of innovation. The company released a 13-minute film recapping that storied history year-by-year. The short movie features one hundred people, each presenting a different IBM achievement from the year they were born, from oldest to youngest.

President Thomas Watson got that long list going early on by instilling the slogan “THINK” and signature strong customer service into corporate culture. Over the decades, IBM equipment has powered Social Security, learned to play checkers, facilitated plane reservations, helped land men on the moon, and beat humans at Jeopardy! Watson, the natural-language analytical computer who did the winning, earned a Webby Award for “Person of the Year” on Monday. IBM scientists also invented FORTRAN and put barcodes on inventory.

One of the things IBM did not give the world, however, is the inspiration for the malfunctioning computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL is short for “Heuristic Algorithmic,” and the one-letter offset with IBM is purely coincidental.

In addition to the celebratory reflection on where they’ve been, IBM is also giving back. Since the start of the year, IBMers have donated over 2.5 million hours to 5,000 service projects in 120 countries.

Congratulations, IBM, on a century of advancing technology.

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