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Logos of IBM
Since 1972

International Business Machines (IBM) is a multinational corporation specializing in computer technology and information technology consulting. Headquartered in Armonk, New York, the company originated from the amalgamation of various enterprises dedicated to automating routine business transactions, notably pioneering punched card-based data tabulating machines and time clocks. In 1911, these entities were unified under the umbrella of the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR).

Thomas J. Watson (1874–1956) assumed the role of General Manager within the company in 1914 and ascended to the position of President in 1915. By 1924, the company rebranded as "International Business Machines." IBM diversified its offerings to include electric typewriters and other office equipment. Watson, a proficient salesman, aimed to cultivate a highly motivated, well-compensated sales force capable of devising solutions for clients unacquainted with the latest technological advancements.

In the 1940s and 1950s, IBM began its initial forays into computing, which constituted incremental improvements to the prevailing card-based system. A pivotal moment arrived in the 1960s with the introduction of the System/360 family of mainframe computers. IBM provided a comprehensive spectrum of hardware, software, and service agreements, fostering client loyalty and solidifying its moniker "Big Blue." The customized nature of end-user software, tailored by in-house programmers for a specific brand of computers, deterred brand switching due to its associated costs. Despite challenges posed by clone makers like Amdahl and legal confrontations, IBM leveraged its esteemed reputation, assuring clients with both hardware and system software solutions, earning acclaim as one of the esteemed American corporations during the 1970s and 1980s.

However, IBM encountered difficulties in the late 1980s and 1990s, marked by substantial losses surpassing $8 billion in 1993. The mainframe-centric corporation grappled with adapting swiftly to the burgeoning Unix open systems and personal computer revolutions.[1] Desktop machines and Unix midrange computers emerged as cost-effective and easily manageable alternatives, overshadowing multi-million-dollar mainframes. IBM responded by introducing a Unix line and a range of personal computers. The competitive edge was gradually lost to clone manufacturers who offered cost-effective alternatives, while chip manufacturers like Intel and software corporations like Microsoft reaped significant profits.

Through a series of strategic reorganizations, IBM managed to sustain its status as one of the world's largest computer companies and systems integrators. As of 2014, the company boasted a workforce exceeding 400,000 employees globally[2] and held the distinction of possessing the highest number of patents among U.S.-based technology firms.[3][4] IBM maintained a robust presence with research laboratories dispersed across twelve locations worldwide. Its extensive network comprised scientists, engineers, consultants, and sales professionals spanning over 175 countries.[5] IBM employees were recognized for their outstanding contributions with numerous accolades, including five Nobel Prizes, four Turing Awards, five National Medals of Technology, and five National Medals of Science.[6]


1880s–1924: The origin of IBM

Main article: Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1915 4 1,672
1920 14 2,731
1925 13 3,698

IBM traces its roots to the 1880s through the consolidation of four predecessor companies:[7][8][9][10]

  1. Bundy Manufacturing Company:
  2. Tabulating Machine Company:
  3. International Time Recording Company:
  4. Computing Scale Company of America:
    • Established in 1901 in Dayton, Ohio.

On June 16, 1911, these four companies were merged into a new holding company named the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), headquartered in Endicott.[11][12][13][14] This amalgamation was orchestrated by noted financier Charles Flint.[15] The consolidated entity initially had 1,300 employees and offices/plants in several locations across the United States and Toronto, Ontario.[16]

After the amalgamation, the individual companies continued operating under their established names as subsidiaries of CTR until the holding company was dissolved in 1933.[17] These divisions produced a diverse range of products, including employee time-keeping systems, weighing scales, automatic meat slicers, coffee grinders, and punched card equipment. The consolidation aimed to diversify the company's revenue sources and mitigate risks associated with dependence on a single industry.[citation needed]

The most technologically significant company amalgamated into CTR was the Tabulating Machine Company, founded by Herman Hollerith. It specialized in the development of punched card data processing equipment. Hollerith's work, drawing from his tenure at the U.S. Census Bureau, resulted in patents on tabulating machine technology, setting the industry standard for nearly eight decades of tabulating and computing data input.[citation needed]

Hollerith initially targeted government contracts, notably the 1900 US Census, and later expanded to private businesses in the United States and abroad. In 1911, due to declining health, Hollerith sold the business to Charles Flint for $2.3 million, which led to the formation of CTR.[18]

To manage the diversified businesses of CTR, Flint sought assistance from Thomas J. Watson Sr., the former No. 2 executive at the National Cash Register Company (NCR). Watson assumed the role of General Manager in 1914 and became president in 1915. Watson's managerial strategies and emphasis on customer service and large-scale tabulating solutions propelled revenue growth and expanded the company's operations globally.[citation needed]

Under Watson's leadership, he established key initiatives that shaped IBM's organizational culture, including hiring disabled workers, promoting employee education, and fostering a culture of thinking ("THINK"). His Open Door policy and initiatives to support employees and their families became integral aspects of IBM's culture. On February 14, 1924, the company officially changed its name to International Business Machines (IBM).[citation needed]

Hollerith's plant in 1893

Key events

1925–1929: IBM's early growth

Our products are known in every zone. Our reputation sparkles like a gem. We've fought our way through and new fields we're sure to conquer too. For the ever-onward IBM

— "Ever Onward", IBM employee songbook[32]
Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1925 13 3,698

Thomas J. Watson, during his tenure at IBM, implemented strict guidelines for employees, encompassing a dress code stipulating dark suits, white shirts, and striped ties. The consumption of alcohol, whether during working hours or otherwise, was prohibited. Watson actively led singing sessions during meetings, featuring songs such as "Ever Onward" from the official IBM songbook.[32] Additionally, the company initiated the publication of an employee newspaper named Business Machines, consolidating coverage of all IBM businesses into one publication.[33]

Several employee recognition programs were introduced, including the Quarter Century Club[34] to honor those with 25 years of service and the Hundred Percent Club[35] to reward sales personnel meeting annual quotas. In 1928, IBM launched the Suggestion Plan program,[36] providing cash rewards to employees for valuable ideas aimed at improving IBM products and procedures. Over a span of 70 years, IBM and its predecessor companies specialized in manufacturing clocks and other time recording products,[37][38] culminating in the 1958 sale of the IBM Time Equipment Division to Simplex Time Recorder Company.[39] This division produced a range of equipment, including dial recorders, job recorders, recording door locks, time stamps, and traffic recorders.

IBM expanded its product line through innovative engineering, driven by notable inventors such as James W. Bryce, Clair Lake,[40] Fred Carroll,[41] and Royden Pierce.[42] Significant product innovations were introduced, including the first complete school time control system[43] and the first printing tabulator[44] in 1920. In 1923, the company pioneered the first electric keypunch.[45] The Carroll Rotary Press introduced in 1924 revolutionized the production of punched cards by achieving record-setting speeds.[33] In 1928, IBM introduced the 80-column punched card, known as the "IBM Card," effectively doubling its information capacity.[46] This format became an industry standard until the 1970s.[citation needed]

Key events in IBM's history during this period include the first tabulator sold to Japan in 1925, through a partnership with Morimura-Brothers.[47][48][49] IBM established its presence in Italy by opening its first office in Milan in 1927, facilitating operations with national insurance and banks. A significant advancement in tabulator technology occurred in 1928 with the introduction of the Hollerith Type IV tabulator capable of subtraction.[50] This year also marked the debut of the Hollerith 80-column punched card, a format that became an industry standard, superseding the prior 45-column card and eventually ending vendor compatibility.[citation needed]

1930–1938: The Great Depression

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1930 19 6,346
1935 21 8,654

The 1930s Great Depression posed an extraordinary economic test, yet IBM displayed resilience by maintaining investments in personnel, manufacturing, and technological advancements during this challenging period. Rather than downsizing its workforce, Watson opted to hire additional salesmen and engineers in alignment with President Franklin Roosevelt's National Recovery Administration plan.[citation needed]

IBM accounting machines in operation at the U.S. Social Security Administration c. 1936

During this era, IBM emerged as a pioneering corporation by instituting employee benefits such as group life insurance (1934), survivor benefits (1935), and paid vacations (1936). The company furthered its commitment to education and research by establishing the IBM Schoolhouse in Endicott and constructing a modern research laboratory at the same location. Watson's strategic decisions during this time represented IBM's initial 'Bet the Company' gamble, marked by substantial internal investments to secure the future.[citation needed]

In an effort to manage the strain on resources caused by factories running at maximum capacity for six years without a market to sell to, IBM opted to sell the struggling Dayton Scale Division (food services equipment business) to Hobart Manufacturing in 1933.[51][52] An opportune moment arrived with the enactment of the Social Security Act of 1935, hailed as "the biggest accounting operation of all time,"[53] wherein IBM secured the exclusive bid by promptly providing the necessary equipment. This landmark government contract involved maintaining employment records for 26 million individuals, propelling IBM's success and paving the way for additional government orders. By the decade's end, IBM had not only navigated through the Depression but had also ascended to a prominent position in the industry.[citation needed]

Watson's visionary focus on international expansion emerged as a pivotal aspect of IBM's 20th-century growth and triumph. Influenced by the devastating impact of World War I on society and businesses, he advocated for commerce as a deterrent to war, emphasizing the compatibility of business interests and peace. Watson's belief was so strong that he inscribed his slogan "World Peace Through World Trade" on the façade of IBM's new World Headquarters (1938) in New York City.[54] This phrase became a fundamental IBM business tenet, and Watson actively campaigned for this idea with international business and government leaders. He played a role as an informal government host to visiting world leaders in New York and received numerous awards from foreign governments in recognition of his efforts to enhance international relations through the establishment of business connections.[citation needed]

Key events


1939–1945: World War II

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1940 45 12,656
1945 138 18,257
Browning Automatic Rifle
M1 Carbine

Main article: IBM during World War II

In the years preceding the commencement of World War II, the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) had established operational presences across various nations that later became embroiled in the global conflict, aligning with either the Allies or the Axis powers. IBM maintained a financially significant subsidiary in Germany, where it held a majority ownership stake, alongside operations in Poland, Switzerland, and several other European countries. In line with the fate of numerous enterprises under enemy ownership in Axis-controlled territories, these IBM subsidiaries were seized by the Nazi regime and other Axis-affiliated governments early in the war. Concurrently, the corporation's central headquarters in New York redirected its efforts towards supporting the American war endeavor.

IBM in America

During World War II, IBM underwent a significant transformation in its product line[77] and operations to support the war effort. Originally known for its tabulating equipment and time recording devices, IBM shifted its focus to manufacturing various military ordnance items and essential products. The product line expanded to include Sperry and Norden bombsights, Browning Automatic Rifles, the M1 Carbine, and engine parts, comprising over three dozen major ordnance items and 70 products overall. Thomas J. Watson, the president of IBM at the time, set a nominal one percent profit on these war-related products. The profits generated were used to establish a fund dedicated to assisting the widows and orphans of IBM employee war casualties.[78]

The contributions of IBM during this period were instrumental in aiding Allied military forces. The company's tabulating equipment found extensive use in mobile records units, ballistics, accounting, logistics, and other war-related purposes. Particularly notable was the use of IBM punched-card machines at Los Alamos National Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, which played a crucial role in the development of the first atomic bombs.[79]

IBM also played a vital role in technological advancements during the war. In collaboration with the U.S. Navy, IBM built the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, also known as the Harvard Mark I, which was the first large-scale electromechanical calculator in the United States.

In the early 1930s, IBM had acquired the rights to Radiotype, an electric typewriter attached to a radio transmitter.[80] This technology proved to be crucial during the war, as Admiral Richard E. Byrd successfully sent a test Radiotype message over 11,000 miles from Antarctica to an IBM receiving station in Ridgewood, New Jersey in 1935.[81] During the war, Radiotype installations were extensively used, processing up to 50,000,000 words a day,[82] and were selected by the Signal Corps for war-related communications.

To meet the demands of wartime production, IBM significantly expanded its manufacturing capacity. New buildings were constructed at its Endicott, New York plant in 1941, and new facilities were established in Poughkeepsie, New York (1941), Washington, D.C. (1942), and San Jose, California (1943).[83][84] The decision to establish a presence on the West Coast, particularly in San Jose, was strategic and capitalized on the burgeoning electronics research and high technology innovation base in the region, which later became known as Silicon Valley.

Additionally, IBM was subcontracted by the U.S. government for a critical project related to the Japanese internment camps. IBM provided punched card equipment and services for the administration and management of these camps.[85]

IBM's punched card equipment also played a vital role in code breaking and cryptanalysis efforts by various U.S. Army and Navy organizations, including Arlington Hall, OP-20-G, Central Bureau, Far East Combined Bureau, and similar Allied organizations. These efforts were essential for intelligence and information decryption during the war.

IBM in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe

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During the 1930s and throughout World War II, the Nazi regime extensively utilized Hollerith punch-card equipment, a technology developed by IBM, for various administrative and discriminatory purposes. IBM's majority-owned German subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen GmbH (Dehomag), played a crucial role in supplying and maintaining this equipment for the Nazis. The machinery facilitated the categorization and identification of individuals in Germany and territories under Nazi control, aiding in the execution of oppressive policies, particularly the persecution and deportation of Jews and other targeted groups during the Holocaust, leading to their internment in concentration camps.[citation needed]

Dehomag, like numerous foreign-owned enterprises operating in Germany during that era, fell under Nazi control prior to and during World War II. An individual associated with the Nazi regime, Hermann Fellinger, assumed a prominent role within the subsidiary as an enemy-property custodian appointed by the Germans. The control over Dehomag was asserted by the Nazis, although Edwin Black, a journalist and historian, contends in "IBM and the Holocaust" that the appearance of seizure was a deceptive maneuver. He asserts that the company was not plundered, its leased machinery was not confiscated, and IBM continued to receive funds through its Geneva-based subsidiary.[86] Black argues that IBM persisted in its business relations with the Nazi regime beyond the point where they should have ceased, maintaining and expanding services to the Third Reich[86] until the seizure of Dehomag following the United States' declaration of war against Germany in 1941.[citation needed]

IBM countered these claims by stating that the allegations were based on known facts and previously disclosed documents, asserting the absence of new revelations. The company further denied any withholding of relevant documentation.[87] Notable historians have expressed varying views on IBM's complicity and awareness of Nazi utilization of tabulating machines as asserted by Black.[88][89][90]

In parallel to these events during World War II, key developments within IBM included initiatives beyond the geopolitical context of the war. Noteworthy events included IBM's launch of a program in 1942 to train and employ disabled individuals,[91] beginning in Topeka, Kansas, and expanding to New York City the following year. Additionally, in 1943, IBM appointed its first female vice president,[92] marking a significant milestone. In the realm of technology, IBM introduced the world's first large-scale calculating computer, the Automatic Sequence Control Calculator (ASCC),[93] in 1944, developed in collaboration with Harvard University. This electromechanical machine, also known as the Mark I, revolutionized calculation speed. Moreover, during 1944, IBM actively participated in supporting education through its involvement with the United Negro College Fund(UNCF).[94] Following the war, in 1945, IBM established its first research facility, the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory, signifying a pivotal step in the evolution of the company's research endeavors.[95] Subsequently, in 1961, IBM relocated its research headquarters to the T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York.[citation needed]

1946–1959: Postwar

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1950 266 30,261
1955 696 56,297
1960 1,810 104,241

IBM experienced significant growth in the aftermath of World War II. The company anticipated potential challenges due to a potential decrease in military spending after the war. To address this concern, IBM initiated an ambitious international expansion, leading to the establishment of the World Trade Corporation in 1949, tasked with managing and expanding foreign operations. Under the leadership of Arthur K. 'Dick' Watson, the youngest son of Watson Sr., the World Trade Corporation played a crucial role in contributing to half of IBM's profits by the 1970s.[citation needed]

IBM introduced its first computer in 1951, closely following Remington Rand's UNIVAC. Remarkably, within five years, IBM captured 85% of the computer market, prompting a UNIVAC executive to express dissatisfaction at the competitive advantage IBM had garnered through effective sales strategies.[32] Tragically, the passing of Thomas J. Watson, Jr., the company's founding father, on June 19, 1956, marked a significant shift in IBM's leadership. His eldest son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., took over as the chief executive, a position he had held since 1952.[citation needed]

The new CEO faced formidable challenges, navigating a rapidly evolving technological landscape with emerging computer technologies like electronic computers, magnetic tape storage, disk drives, and programming, creating both competitors and market uncertainties. Internally, the company experienced substantial growth, leading to organizational and management complexities. The absence of Watson Sr.'s charismatic leadership raised concerns among senior executives about managing IBM effectively during this transformative period. In response, Watson Jr. undertook a radical restructuring of the organization, implementing a modern management structure to enhance oversight and efficiency.[96]

Watson Jr. institutionalized IBM's well-known but unwritten practices and philosophies into formal corporate policies and programs, such as the Three Basic Beliefs, Open Door, and Speak Up! He notably introduced the company's first equal opportunity policy letter in 1953, preceding the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. Board of Education by a year and anticipating the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[97] by 11 years.[98]

Furthermore, Watson Jr. expanded the company's physical capabilities, establishing key research and development laboratories in various locations. Acknowledging the need to embrace transistor technology, he mandated a corporate policy in 1957, advocating the use of solid-state circuitry in all machine developments and discouraging the use of tube circuitry in new commercial machines or devices.[99]

IBM continued its collaboration with the U.S. government, driving computational innovation, particularly during the Cold War. This collaboration was instrumental in projects like the SAGE interceptor early detection air defense system.[100] Beginning in 1952, IBM collaborated with MIT's Lincoln Laboratory to design an air defense computer, and later became the primary computer hardware contractor for developing SAGE for the United States Air Force. This initiative enabled IBM to access groundbreaking research on real-time, digital computers and various technological advancements.[citation needed]

These strategic government partnerships, combined with pioneering computer technology research and successful commercial products, including the IBM 700 series of computer systems, IBM 650, IBM 305 RAMAC with disk drive memory, and IBM 1401, positioned IBM as the world's leading technology firm by the end of the 1950s.[101] In the five years following Watson Sr.'s passing, IBM's size had more than doubled, its stock had quintupled, and a significant majority of computers in operation in the United States were IBM machines.[102]

IBM 7090 installation

Key events

During the period from 1946 to 1959, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) witnessed several significant events and developments that played a crucial role in shaping the company's trajectory and influence in the emerging computer and technology industry. These events are outlined below:


These events collectively reflect IBM's prominent role in the evolution of computing technology, its commitment to innovation, and its pioneering contributions to various aspects of the emerging computer industry during the late 1940s and 1950s.

1960–1969: The System/360 era, Unbundling software and services

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1955 696 56,297
1960 1,810 104,241
1965 3,750 172,445
1970 7,500 269,291

See also: History of CP/CMS

On April 7, 1964, IBM introduced the revolutionary System/360, the first large "family" of computers to use interchangeable software and peripheral equipment, a departure from IBM's existing product line of incompatible machines, each of which was designed to solve specific customer requirements.[122] The idea of a general-purpose machine was considered a gamble at the time.[123]

Within two years, the System/360 became the dominant mainframe computer in the marketplace and its architecture became a de facto industry standard. During this time, IBM transformed from a medium-sized maker of tabulating equipment and typewriters into the world's largest computer company.[124]

In 1969 IBM "unbundled" software and services from hardware sales. Until this time customers did not pay for software or services separately from the high price for the hardware. Software was provided at no additional charge, generally in source code form. Services (systems engineering, education and training, system installation) were provided free of charge at the discretion of the IBM Branch office. This practice existed throughout the industry.

IBM's unbundling is widely credited with leading to the growth of the software industry.[125][126][127][128] After the unbundling, IBM software was divided into two main categories: System Control Programming (SCP), which remained free to customers, and Program Products (PP), which were charged for. This transformed the customer's value proposition for computer solutions, giving a significant monetary value to something that had essentially been free. This helped enable the creation of the software industry. Similarly, IBM services were divided into two categories: general information, which remained free and provided at the discretion of IBM, and on-the-job assistance and training of customer personnel, which were subject to a separate charge and were open to non-IBM customers. This decision vastly expanded the market for independent computing services companies.[citation needed]

The company began four decades of Olympic sponsorship with the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California. It became a recognized leader in corporate social responsibility, joining federal equal opportunity programs in 1962, opening an inner-city manufacturing plant in 1968, and creating a minority supplier program. It led efforts to improve data security and protect privacy. It set environmental air/water emissions standards that exceeded those dictated by law and brought all its facilities into compliance with those standards. It opened one of the world's most advanced research centers in Yorktown, New York. Its international operations produced more than half of IBM's revenues by the early 1970s. The resulting technology transfer shaped the way governments and businesses operated around the world. IBM personnel and technology played an integral role in the space program and landing the first humans on the Moon in 1969. In that same year, it changed the way it marketed its technology to customers, unbundling hardware from software and services, effectively starting today's software and services industry. See unbundling of software and services, below. IBM was massively profitable, with a nearly fivefold increase in revenues and earnings during the 1960s.[citation needed]

In 1967, Thomas John Watson Jr. announced that IBM would open a large-scale manufacturing plant at Boca Raton, Florida, to produce its System/360 Model 20 midsized computer. On March 16, 1967, a headline in the Boca Raton News[129] announced "IBM to hire 400 by year's end." The plan was for IBM to lease facilities to start making computers until the new site could be developed. A few months later, hiring began for assembly and production control trainees. IBM's Juan Rianda moved from Poughkeepsie, New York, to become the first plant manager at IBM's new Boca operations. To design its new campus, IBM commissioned architect Marcel Breuer, who worked closely with American architect Robert Gatje. In September 1967, the Boca team shipped the first IBM System/360 Model 20 to the City of Clearwater – the first computer in its production run. A year later, IBM 1130 Computing Systems were being produced and shipped. By 1970, IBM's Boca workforce grew to around 1,300 in part due to a Systems Development Engineering Laboratory being added to the division's operations.[citation needed]

Key events


1970–1974: The challenges of success

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1965 3,750 172,445
1970 7,500 269,291
1975 14,430 288,647

The Golden Decade of the 1960s was a hard act to follow, and the 1970s got off to a troubling start when CEO Thomas J. Watson Jr. suffered a heart attack and retired in 1971. For the first time since 1914 – nearly six decades – IBM would not have a Watson at the helm. Moreover, after just one leadership change over those nearly 60 years, IBM would endure two in two years. T. Vincent Learson succeeded Watson as CEO, then quickly retired upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 60 in 1973. Following Learson in the CEO office was Frank T. Cary, a 25-year IBMer[150] who had run the data processing division in the 1960s.[citation needed]

Datamation in 1971 stated that "the perpetual, ominous force called IBM rolls on".[151] The company's dominance let it keep prices high and rarely update products,[152] all built with only IBM components.[153] During Cary's tenure as CEO, the IBM System/370 was introduced in 1970 as IBM's new mainframe. The S/370 did not prove as technologically revolutionary as its predecessor, the System/360. From a revenue perspective, it more than sustained the cash cow status of the 360.[154]

A less successful effort to replicate the 360 mainframe revolution was the Future Systems project. Between 1971 and 1975, IBM investigated the feasibility of a new revolutionary line of products designed to make obsolete all existing products in order to re-establish its technical supremacy. This effort was terminated by IBM's top management in 1975. By then it had consumed most of the high-level technical planning and design resources, thus jeopardizing progress of the existing product lines (although some elements of FS were later incorporated into actual products).[155]

Other IBM innovations during the early 1970s included the IBM 3340 disk unit – introduced in 1973 and known as "Winchester" after IBM's internal project name – which was a storage technology which more than doubled the information density on disk surfaces. Winchester technology was adopted by the industry and used for the next two decades.[citation needed]

Some 1970s-era IBM technologies emerged to become facets of everyday life. IBM developed magnetic stripe technology in the 1960s, and it became a credit card industry standard in 1971. The IBM-invented floppy disk, also introduced in 1971, became the standard for storing personal computer data during the first decades of the PC era. IBM Research scientist Edgar 'Ted' Codd wrote a seminal paper describing the relational database, an invention that Forbes magazine described as one of the most important innovations of the 20th century. The IBM 5100, 50 lbs. and $9000 of personal mobility, was introduced in 1975 and presaged – at least in function if not size or price or units sold – the Personal Computer of the 1980s. IBM's 3660 supermarket checkout station, introduced in 1973, used holographic technology to scan product prices from UPC bar codes, which itself was based a 1952 IBM patent that became a grocery industry standard. Also in 1973, bank customers began making withdrawals, transfers and other account inquiries via the IBM 3614 Consumer Transaction Facility, an early form of today's Automatic Teller Machines.[citation needed]

IBM had an innovator's role in pervasive technologies that were less visible as well. In 1974, IBM announced Systems Network Architecture (SNA), a networking protocol for computing systems. SNA is a uniform set of rules and procedures for computer communications to free computer users from the technical complexities of communicating through local, national, and international computer networks. SNA became the most widely used system for data processing until more open architecture standards were approved in the 1990s. In 1975, IBM researcher Benoit Mandelbrot conceived fractal geometry – a new geometrical concept that made it possible to describe mathematically the kinds of irregularities existing in nature. Fractals had a great impact on engineering, economics, metallurgy, art and health sciences, and are integral to the field of computer graphics and animation.[citation needed]

A less successful business endeavor for IBM was its entry into the office copier market in the 1970s, after turning down the opportunity to purchase the xerography technology.[32] The company was immediately sued by Xerox Corporation for patent infringement. Although Xerox held the patents for the use of selenium as a photoconductor, IBM researchers perfected the use of organic photoconductors which avoided the Xerox patents. The litigation lasted until the late 1970s and was ultimately settled. Despite this victory, IBM never gained traction in the copier market and withdrew from the marketplace in the 1980s. Organic photoconductors are now widely used in copiers.[citation needed]

Throughout this period, IBM was litigating the antitrust suit filed by the Justice Department in 1969. But in a related bit of case law, the landmark Honeywell v. Sperry Rand U.S. federal court case was concluded in April 1973. The 1964 patent for the ENIAC, the world's first general-purpose electronic digital computer, was found both invalid and unenforceable for a variety of reasons thus putting the invention of the electronic digital computer into the public domain. However, IBM was ruled to have created a monopoly via its 1956 patent-sharing agreement with Sperry-Rand.[citation needed]

American antitrust laws did not affect IBM in Europe, where as of 1971 it had fewer competitors and more than 50% market share in almost every country. Customers preferred IBM because it was, as Datamation said, "the only truly international computer company", able to serve clients almost anywhere. Rivals such as ICL, CII, and Siemens began to cooperate to preserve a European computer industry.[151]

Key events


1975–1992: Information revolution, rise of software and PC industries

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1975 14,430 288,647
1980 26,210 341,279
1985 50,050 405,535
1990 69,010 373,816
1995 71,940 225,347

President of IBM John R. Opel became CEO in 1981.[161] IBM was one of the world's largest companies and had a 62% share of the mainframe computer market that year.[147] While frequently relocated employees and families still joked that IBM stood for "I've Been Moved", and employees of acquisitions feared that formal IBM employees would change the culture of their more casual offices,[162] IBM no longer required white shirts for male employees, who still wore conservative suits when meeting customers. Former employees such as Gene Amdahl used their training to found and lead many competitors[32] and suppliers.[163]

Expecting Japanese competition, IBM in the late 1970s began investing in manufacturing to lower costs, offering volume discounts and lower prices to large customers, and introducing new products more frequently.[152] The company also sometimes used non-IBM components in products,[153] and sometimes resold others' products as its own.[164] In 1980 it introduced its first computer terminal compatible with non-IBM equipment,[165] and Displaywriter was the first new product less expensive than the competition.[147] IBM's share of the overall computer market, however, declined from 60% in 1970 to 32% in 1980.[166] Perhaps distracted by the long-running antitrust lawsuit,[32] the "Colossus of Armonk" missed the fast-growing minicomputer market during the 1970s,[164][167][168][169] and was behind rivals such as Wang, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Tandem Computers, and Control Data in other areas.[166]

In 1979 BusinessWeek asked, "Is IBM just another stodgy, mature company?" By 1981 its stock price had declined by 22%.[166] IBM's earnings for the first half of the year grew by 5.3% – one third of the inflation rate – while those of DEC grew by more than 35%.[165] Although IBM began selling minicomputers,[170] in January 1982 the Justice Department ended the antitrust suit because, The New York Times reported, the government "recognized what computer experts and securities analysts had long since concluded: I.B.M. no longer dominates the computer business".[147]

The original IBM PC (c. 1981)

IBM wished to avoid the same outcome with the new personal computer industry.[169] The company studied the market for years and, as with UNIVAC, others like Apple Computer entered it first;[32] IBM did not want a product with a rival's logo on corporate customers' desks.[171] The company opened its first Product Center retail store in November 1980,[172] and a team in the Boca Raton, Florida, office built the IBM PC using commercial off-the-shelf components. The new computer debuted on August 12, 1981[153] from the Entry Systems Division led by Don Estridge. IBM immediately became more of a presence in the consumer marketplace, thanks to the memorable Little Tramp advertising campaign. Though not a spectacular machine by technological standards of the day, the IBM PC brought together all of the most desirable features of a computer into one small machine. It had 128 kilobytes of memory (expandable to 256 kilobytes), one or two floppy disks and an optional color monitor. And it had the prestige of the IBM brand. Although not inexpensive, with a base price of US$1,565 it was affordable for businesses – and many businesses purchased PCs. Reassured by the IBM name, they began buying these microcomputers on their own budgets aimed at numerous applications that corporate computer departments did not, and in many cases could not, accommodate. Typically, these purchases were not by corporate computer departments, as the PC was not seen as a "proper" computer. Purchases were often instigated by middle managers and senior staff who saw the potential – once the revolutionary VisiCalc spreadsheet, the killer app, had been surpassed by a far more powerful and stable product, Lotus 1-2-3.[citation needed]

Boca Corporate Center & Campus was originally one of IBM's research labs where the IBM PC was created.

IBM's dominance of the mainframe market in Europe and the US encouraged existing customers to buy the PC,[171][173] and vice versa; as sales of what had been an experiment in a new market became a substantial part of IBM's financials, the company found that customers also bought larger IBM computers.[174][167][162] Unlike the BUNCH and other rivals IBM quickly adjusted to the retail market,[171][175] with its own sales force competing with outside retailers for the first time.[162] By 1985 IBM was the world's most profitable industrial company,[162] and its sales of personal computers were larger than that of minicomputers despite having been in the latter market since the early 1970s.[170]

By 1983 industry analyst Gideon Gartner warned that IBM "is creating a dangerous situation for competitors in the marketplace".[32] The company helped others by defining technical standards and creating large new software markets,[174][176][152] but the new aggressiveness that began in the late 1970s helped it dominate areas like computer leasing and computer-aided design.[152] Free from the antitrust case, IBM was present in every computer market other than supercomputers, and entered communications[176] by purchasing Rolm – the first acquisition in 18 years – and 18% of MCI.[162] The company was so important to component suppliers that it urged them to diversify. When IBM (61% of revenue) abruptly reduced orders from Miniscribe shares of not only Miniscribe but that of uninvolved companies that sold to IBM fell, as investors feared their vulnerability.[163] IBM was also vulnerable when suppliers could not fulfill orders;[177] customers and dealers also feared becoming overdependent.[171][152]

The IBM PC AT's 1984 debut startled the industry. Rivals admitted that they did not expect the low price of the sophisticated product. IBM's attack on every area of the computer industry and entry into communications caused competitors, analysts, and the press to speculate that it would again be sued for antitrust.[178][179][162] Datamation and others said that the company's continued growth might hurt the United States, by suppressing startups with new technology.[152] Gartner Group estimated in 1985 that of the 100 largest data-processing companies, IBM had 41% of all revenue and 69% of profit. Its computer revenue was about nine times that of second-place DEC, and larger than that of IBM's six largest Japanese competitors combined. The 22% profit margin was three times the 6.7% average for the other 99 companies. Competitors complained to Congress, ADAPSO discussed the company with the Justice Department, and European governments worried about IBM's influence but feared affecting its more than 100,000 employees there at 19 facilities.[152]

However, the company soon lost its lead in both PC hardware and software, thanks in part to its unprecedented (for IBM) decision to contract PC components to outside companies like Microsoft and Intel. Up to this point in its history, IBM relied on a vertically integrated strategy, building most key components of its systems itself, including processors, operating systems, peripherals, databases and the like. In an attempt to accelerate the time-to-market for the PC, IBM chose not to build a proprietary operating system and microprocessor. Instead, it sourced these vital components from Microsoft and Intel respectively. Ironically, in a decade which marked the end of IBM's monopoly, it was this fateful decision by IBM that passed the sources of its monopolistic power (operating system and processor architecture) to Microsoft and Intel, paving the way for rise of PC compatibles and the creation of hundreds of billions of dollars of market value outside of IBM.[citation needed]

John Akers became IBM's CEO in 1985. During the 1980s, IBM's investment in building its research organization produced four Nobel Prize winners in physics, achieving breakthroughs in mathematics, memory storage and telecommunications, and expanded computing capabilities. In 1980, IBM researcher John Cocke introduced Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC). Cocke received both the National Medal of Technology and the National Medal of Science for his innovation, but IBM itself failed to recognize the importance of RISC, and lost the lead in RISC technology to Sun Microsystems.[citation needed]

In 1984 the company partnered with Sears to develop a pioneering online home banking and shopping service for home PCs that launched in 1988 as Prodigy. Despite a strong reputation and anticipating many of the features, functions, and technology that characterize the online experience of today, the venture was plagued by overly conservative management decisions, and was eventually sold in the mid-1990s.[citation needed]

The IBM token-ring local area network, introduced in 1985, permitted personal computer users to exchange information and share printers and files within a building or complex. In 1988, IBM partnered with the University of Michigan and MCI Communications to create the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNet), an important step in the creation of the Internet. But within five years the company backed away from this early lead in Internet protocols and router technologies in order to support its existing SNA revenue stream, thereby missing a boom market of the 1990s. Still, IBM investments and advances in microprocessors, disk drives, network technologies, software applications, and online commerce in the 1980s set the stage for the emergence of the connected world in the 1990s.[citation needed]

However, by the end of the decade, IBM was in trouble. It was a bloated organization of some 400,000 employees that was heavily invested in too many low margin, transactional, commodity businesses. Technologies IBM invented and or commercialized – DRAM, hard disk drives, the PC, electric typewriters – were starting to erode. The company had a massive international organization characterized by redundant processes and functions – its cost structure couldn't compete with smaller, less diversified competitors. Additionally, the back-to-back revolutions – the PC and the client-server – combined to undermine IBM's core mainframe business. The PC revolution placed computers directly in the hands of millions of people. It was followed by the client/server revolution, which sought to link PCs (the "clients") with larger computers that labored in the background (the "servers" that served data and applications to client machines). Both revolutions transformed the way customers viewed, used and bought technology. And both fundamentally rocked IBM and its mainframe competitors. Businesses' purchasing decisions were put in the hands of individuals and departments – not the places where IBM had long-standing customer relationships. Piece-part technologies took precedence over integrated solutions. The focus was on the desktop and personal productivity, not on business applications across the enterprise. As a result, earnings – which had been at or above US$5 billion since the early 1980s, dropped by more than a third to US$3 billion in 1989. A brief spike in earnings in 1990 did not last as corporate spending continued to shift from high-profit margin mainframes to lower margin microprocessor-based systems. In addition, corporate downsizing was in full swing.[citation needed]

Radical changes were considered and implemented. As IBM assessed the situation, it was clear that competition and innovation in the computer industry were now taking place along segmented, versus vertically integrated lines, where computer industry leaders emerged in their respective domains. Examples included Intel in microprocessors, Microsoft in desktop software, Novell in networking, HP in printers, Seagate in disk drives and Oracle Corporation in database software. IBM's dominance in personal computers was challenged by the likes of Compaq and later Dell. Recognizing this trend, management, with the support of the Board of Directors, began to implement a plan to split IBM into increasingly autonomous business units (e.g. processors, storage, software, services, printers, etc.) to compete more effectively with competitors that were more focused and nimble and had lower cost structures.[citation needed]

IBM also began spinning off its many divisions into autonomous subsidiaries (so-called "Baby Blues") in an attempt to make the company more manageable and to streamline IBM by having other investors finance those companies.[180][181] These included AdStar, dedicated to disk drives and other data storage products (on creation the largest data storage business in the world);[182] IBM Application Business Systems, dedicated to mid-range computers; IBM Enterprise Systems, dedicated to mainframes; Pennant Systems, dedicated to mid-range and large printers; Lexmark, dedicated to small printers, keyboards, and typewriters (such as the Selectric); and more.[183] Lexmark was acquired by Clayton & Dubilier in a leveraged buyout shortly after its formation.[184]

In September 1992, IBM combined and spun off their various non-mainframe and non-midrange, personal computer manufacturing divisions into an autonomous wholly owned subsidiary known as the IBM Personal Computer Company (IBM PC Co.).[185][186] This corporate restructuring came after IBM reported a sharp drop in profit margins during the second quarter of fiscal year 1992; market analysts attributed the drop to a fierce price war in the personal computer market over the summer of 1992.[187] The corporate restructuring was one of the largest and most expensive in history up to that point.[188] By the summer of 1993, the IBM PC Co. had divided into multiple business units itself, including Ambra Computer Corporation and the IBM Power Personal Systems Group, the former an attempt to design and market "clone" computers of IBM's own architecture and the latter responsible for IBM's PowerPC-based workstations.[189][190]

These efforts failed to halt the slide. A decade of steady acceptance and widening corporate growth of local area networking technology, a trend headed by Novell Inc. and other vendors, and its logical counterpart, the ensuing decline of mainframe sales, brought about a wake-up call for IBM. After two consecutive years of reporting losses in excess of $1 billion, on January 19, 1993, IBM announced a US$8.10 billion loss for the 1992 financial year, which was then the largest single-year corporate loss in U.S. history.[191] All told, between 1991 and 1993, the company posted net losses of nearly $16 billion. IBM's three-decade-long Golden Age, triggered by Watson Jr. in the 1950s, was over. The computer industry now viewed IBM as no longer relevant, an organizational dinosaur. And hundreds of thousands of IBMers lost their jobs, including CEO John Akers.[citation needed]

Key events

1993–2018: IBM's near disaster and rebirth

Year Gross income (in $m) Employees
1985 50,050 405,535
1990 69,010 373,816
1995 71,940 225,347
2000 85,090 316,303
2005 91,400 329,373
2010 99,870 426,751

In April 1993, IBM hired Louis V. Gerstner Jr. as its new CEO. For the first time since 1914 IBM had recruited a leader from outside its ranks. Gerstner had been chairman and CEO of RJR Nabisco for four years, and had previously spent 11 years as a top executive at American Express. Gerstner brought with him a customer-oriented sensibility and the strategic-thinking expertise that he had honed through years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Co. Recognizing that his first priority was to stabilize the company, he adopted a triage mindset and took quick action. His early decisions included recommitting to the mainframe, selling the Federal Systems Division to Loral in order to replenish the company's cash coffers, continuing to shrink the workforce (reaching a low of 220,000 employees in 1994), and driving significant cost reductions within the company. Most importantly, Gerstner decided to reverse the move to spin off IBM business units into separate companies. He recognized that one of IBM's strengths was its ability to provide integrated solutions for customers – more than piece parts or components. Splitting the company would have destroyed that IBM advantage.[225]

These initial steps worked. In 1994 IBM turned a profit of $3 billion. Stabilization was not Gerstner's endgame – the restoration of IBM's once great reputation was. To do that, he needed a winning business strategy.[226] Over the next decade, Gerstner shed commodity businesses and focused on high-margin opportunities. IBM divested itself of low margin industries (DRAM, IBM Network, personal printers, and hard drives).[citation needed]

By building upon the decision to keep the company whole, IBM built a global services business and a reputation as a technology integrator. IBM claimed that the services business became brand agnostic integrating whatever technologies the client required, even if they were from an IBM competitor.[227] IBM augmented this services business with the 2002 acquisition of the consultancy division of PricewaterhouseCoopers for $3.5 billion US.[228]

Another high margin opportunity IBM invested in was software. Starting in 1995 with its acquisition of Lotus Development Corp., IBM built its software portfolio from one brand, IBM DB2, to five: DB2, Lotus, WebSphere, Tivoli, and Rational. Content to leave the consumer applications business to other firms, IBM's software strategy focused on middleware – the vital software that connects operating systems to applications. The middleware business played to IBM's strengths, and its higher margins improved the company's bottom line significantly as the century came to an end.[229]

Not all software that IBM developed was successful. While the operating system OS/2 was arguably technically superior to Microsoft Windows 95, OS/2 sales were largely concentrated in networked computing used by corporate professionals. OS/2 failed to develop much penetration in the consumer and stand-alone desktop PC segments. There were reports that it could not be installed properly on IBM's own Aptiva series of home PCs.[230]

Microsoft made an offer in 1994 where if IBM ended development of OS/2 completely, then it would receive the same terms as Compaq for a license of Windows 95. IBM refused and instead went with an "IBM First" strategy of promoting OS/2 Warp and disparaging Windows, as IBM aimed to drive sales of its own software and hardware. By 1995, Windows 95 negotiations between IBM and Microsoft, which were difficult, stalled when IBM purchased Lotus Development whose Lotus SmartSuite would have directly competed with Microsoft Office. As a result, IBM received their license later than their competitors which hurt sales of IBM PCs. IBM officials later conceded that OS/2 would not have been a viable operating system to keep them in the PC business.[231][232]

While IBM hardware and technologies were relatively de-emphasized in Gerstner's three-legged business model, they were not relegated to secondary status. The company brought its research organization to bear more closely on its existing product lines and development processes. While Internet applications and deep computing overtook client servers as key business technology priorities, mainframes returned to relevance. IBM reinvigorated their mainframe line with CMOS technologies, which made them among the most powerful and cost-efficient in the marketplace.[233] Investments in microelectronics research and manufacturing made IBM a world leader in specialized, high margin chip production – it developed 200 mm wafer processes in 1992, and 300 mm wafers within the decade.[234] IBM-designed chips were used in PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii game consoles. IBM also regained the lead in supercomputing with high-end machines based upon scalable parallel processor technology.

An IBM ThinkPad series laptop

Equally significant in IBM's revival was its reentry into the popular mindset. On October 5, 1992, at the COMDEX computer expo, IBM announced the first ThinkPad laptop computer, the 700C. The ThinkPad,[235] a premium machine which then cost US$4350, included a 25 MHz Intel 80486SL processor, a 10.4-inch active matrix display, removable 120 MB hard drive, 4 MB RAM (expandable to 16 MB) and a TrackPoint II pointing device.[236] The design by noted designer Richard Sapper made the Thinkpad successful with the digerati, and the cool factor of the ThinkPad brought back some of the cachet to the IBM brand that was lost in the PC wars of the 1980s. Instrumental to this popular resurgence was the 1997 chess match between IBM's chess-playing computer system Deep Blue and reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov. Deep Blue's victory was a historic first for a computer over a reigning world champion. Also helping the company reclaim its position as a technology leader was its annual domination of supercomputer rankings[237] and patent leadership statistics.[238] Ironically, a contributor in reviving the company's reputation was the Dot-com bubble collapse in 2000, where many of the edgy technology high flyers of the 1990s failed to survive the downturn. These collapses discredited some of the more fashionable Internet-driven business models that IBM was previously compared against.

Another factor was the company's revival of the IBM brand. The company's marketing during the economic downturn was chaotic, presenting different, sometimes discordant voices in the marketplace. This brand chaos was attributable in part to the company having 70 different advertising agencies in its employ. In 1994, IBM consolidated its advertising in one agency. The result was a coherent, consistent message to the marketplace.[239]

As IBM recovered its financial footing, it sought to redefine the Internet age in ways that played to traditional IBM strengths, couching the discussion in business-centric manners with initiatives like e-commerce and On Demand.[240] It supported open source initiatives, forming ventures with partners and competitors alike.[241]

The company also revamped its philanthropic practices to bring focus on improving K-12 education. It ended its 40-year technology partnership with the International Olympic Committee after a successful engagement at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. On the human resources front, IBM adopted and integrated diversity principles and practices ahead of the industry. It added sexual orientation to its non-discrimination practices in 1984, in 1995 created executive diversity task forces, and in 1996 offered domestic partner benefits to its employees. The company is listed as among the best places for employees, employees of color, and women to work.[242] And in 1996, the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame inducted three IBM employees as part of its inaugural class of 10 women: Ruth Leach Amonette, the first woman to hold an executive position at IBM; Barbara Grant, PhD, first woman to be named an IBM site general manager; and Linda Sanford, the highest-placed technical woman in IBM. Fran Allen – a software pioneer for her innovative work in compilers over the decades – was inducted in 1997.[243]

In 1998, IBM merged the enterprise-oriented Personal Systems Group of the IBM PC Co. into IBM's own Global Services personal computer consulting and customer service division. The resulting merged business units then became known simply as IBM Personal Systems Group.[244] In 1999, IBM stopped selling their computers at retail outlets after their market share in this sector had fallen considerably behind competitors Compaq and Dell.[245] Immediately afterwards, the IBM PC Co. was dissolved and merged into IBM Personal Systems Group.[246]

Gerstner retired at the end of 2002, and was replaced by long-time IBMer Samuel J. Palmisano.

In 2005, the company sold all of its personal computer business to Chinese technology company Lenovo[247] and, in 2009, it acquired software company SPSS Inc. Later in 2009, IBM's Blue Gene supercomputing program was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by U.S. President Barack Obama. In 2011, IBM gained worldwide attention for its artificial intelligence program Watson, which was exhibited on Jeopardy! where it won against game-show champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. The company also celebrated its 100th anniversary in the same year on June 16. In 2012, IBM announced it had agreed to buy Kenexa and Texas Memory Systems,[248] and a year later it also acquired SoftLayer Technologies, a web hosting service, in a deal worth around $2 billion.[249] Also that year, the company designed a video surveillance system for Davao City.[250]

In 2014, IBM announced it would sell its x86 server division to Lenovo for $2.1 billion.[251][better source needed] while continuing to offer Power ISA-based servers.

Key events



The 2019 acquisition of Red Hat enabled IBM to change its focus on future platforms, according to IBM Chief Executive Arvind Krishna.[295]

In October 2020, IBM announced it is splitting itself into two public companies.[296] IBM will focus on high-margin cloud computing and artificial intelligence, built on the foundation of the 2019 Red Hat acquisition. The legacy Managed Infrastructure Services unit will be spun off into a new public company Kyndryl to manage clients' IT infrastructure and accounts, and have 4,600 clients in 115 countries, with a backlog of $60 billion.[297][298]

On January 21, 2022, IBM announced that it would sell Watson Health to the private equity firm Francisco Partners.[299]

This new focus on hybrid cloud, separating IBM from its other business units, will be larger than any of its previous divestitures, and welcomed by investors.[300][301][302]

In July 2022, IBM announced the acquisition of Databand, a data observability software developer, for an undisclosed amount. Following the acquisition, Databand employees will join IBM's data and AI division.[303]

In December 2022, it was announced IBM had acquired the Reston-headquartered digital transformation and IT modernization services provider, Octo Consulting from Arlington Capital Partners for an undisclosed price.[304][305] IBM also signed a partnership with new Japanese 2 nm process manufacturing company Rapidus.[306]

In August 2023, IBM announced that it would sell The Weather Company to private equity firm Francisco Partners.[307]

Twentieth-century market power and antitrust

IBM dominated the electronic data processing market for most of the 20th century, initially controlling over 70 percent of the punch card and tabulating machine market and then achieving a similar share in the computer market.[308] IBM asserted that its successes in achieving and maintaining such market share were due to its skill, industry and foresight; governments and competitors asserted that the maintenance of such large shares was at least in part due to anti-competitive acts such as unfair prices, terms and conditions, tying, product manipulations and creating FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) related to its competitors, in the marketplace.[309] IBM was thus the defendant in more than twenty government and private antitrust actions during the 20th century. IBM lost only one of these matters but did settle others in ways that profoundly shaped the industry as summarized below. By the end of the 20th century, IBM was no longer so dominant in the computer industry. Some observers suggest management's attention to the many antitrust lawsuits of the 1970s was at least in part responsible for its decline.[308]

1936 Consent Decree

In 1932, U.S. Government prosecutors asserted as anti-competition tying IBM's practice of requiring customers who leased its tabulating equipment to purchase punched cards used on such equipment. IBM lost[310] the lawsuit and in the resulting 1936 consent decree, IBM agreed to no longer require only IBM cards and agreed to assist alternative suppliers of cards in starting production facilities that would compete with IBM's; thereby create a separate market for the punched cards and in effect for subsequent computer supplies such as magnetic tapes and disk packs.[311]

1956 Consent Decree

On January 21, 1952, the U.S. Government filed a lawsuit which resulted in a consent decree entered as a final judgment on January 25, 1956.[312] The government's goal to increase competition in the data processing industry was effected through several provisions in the decree:[313]

While the decree did little to limit IBM's future dominance of the then-nascent computer industry, it did enable competition in segments such as leasing, services, maintenance, and equipment attachable to IBM systems and reduced barriers to entry through mandatory reasonable patent cross-licensing.

The decree's terms remained in effect until 1996; they were phased out over the next five years.[314]

1968–1984 Multiple Government and Private Antitrust Complaints

In 1968 the first of a series of antitrust suits against IBM was filed by Control Data Corp (CDC). It was followed in 1969 by the US government's antitrust complaint, then by 19 private US antitrust complaints and one European complaint. In the end IBM settled a few of these matters but mainly won. The US government's case sustained by four US Presidents and their Attorneys General was dropped as "without merit" in 1982 by William Baxter, US President Reagans' Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.[315]

1968–1973 Control Data Corp. v. IBM

CDC filed an antitrust lawsuit against IBM in Minnesota's federal court alleging that IBM had monopolized the market for computers in violation of section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by among other things announcing products it could not deliver.[316] A 1965 internal IBM memo by an IBM attorney noted that Control Data had publicly blamed its declining earnings on IBM, "and its frequent model and price changes. There was some sentiment that the charges were true."[317] In 1973 IBM settled the CDC case for about $80 million in cash and the transfer of assets including the IBM Service Bureau Corporation to CDC.[316]

1969–1982 U.S. v. IBM

On January 17, 1969, the United States of America filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleging that IBM violated Section 2 of the Sherman Antitrust Act by monopolizing or attempting to monopolize the general-purpose electronic digital computer system market, specifically computers designed primarily for business. Subsequently, the US government alleged IBM violated the antitrust laws in IBM's actions directed against leasing companies and plug-compatible peripheral manufacturers.

In June 1969 IBM unbundled its software and services in what many observers believed was in anticipation of and a direct result of the 1969 US Antitrust lawsuit. Overnight a competitive software market was created.[318]

Among the major violations asserted were:[319]

It was in some ways one of the great single firm monopoly cases of all times. IBM produced 30 million pages of materials during discovery; it submitted its executives to a series of pretrial depositions. Trial began six years after the complaint was filed and then it battled in court for another six years. The trial transcript contains over 104,400 pages with thousands of documents placed in the record. It ended on January 8, 1982, when William Baxter, the then Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice dropped the case as "without merit."[315]

1969–1981 Private antitrust lawsuits

The U.S.'s 1969 antitrust lawsuit was followed by about 18 private antitrust complaints all but one of which IBM ultimately won. Some notable lawsuits include:

Greyhound Computer Corp.

Greyhound, a leasing company, filed a case under Illinois' state antitrust law in Illinois state court.[320] This case went to trial in federal court in 1972 in Arizona with a directed verdict for IBM on the antitrust claims; however, the court of appeals in 1977 reversed the decision. Just before the retrial was to start in January 1981, IBM and Greyhound settled the case for $17.7 million.[316]

Telex Corp.

Telex, a peripherals equipment manufacturer, filed suit on January 21, 1972, charging that IBM had monopolized and had attempted to monopolize the worldwide manufacture, distribution, sales, and leasing of electronic data processing equipment including the relevant submarket of plug-compatible peripheral devices. After a non-jury trial in 1973, IBM was found guilty "possessing and exercising monopoly power" over the "plug-compatible peripheral equipment market," and ordered to pay triple damages of $352.5‐million and other relief including disclosure of peripheral interface specifications. Separately Telex was found guilty of misappropriated IBM trade secrets.[321] The judgment against IBM was overturned on appeal and on October 4, 1975, both parties announced they were terminating their actions against each other.[322]

Other private lawsuits

Other private lawsuits ultimately won by IBM include California Computer Products Inc.,[323] Memorex Corp.,[324] Marshall Industries, Hudson General Corp., Transamerica Corporation[325] and Forro Precision, Inc.

1980–1984 European Union

The European Economic Community Commission on Monopolies initiated proceedings against IBM under article 86 of the Treaty of Rome for exploiting its domination of the continent's computer business and abusing its dominant market position by engaging in business practices designed to protect its position against plug-compatible manufacturers. The case was settled in 1984 with IBM agreeing to change its business practices with regard to disclosure of device interface information.[326]

Products and technologies

  See List of IBM products

Evolution of IBM's operating systems

Main article: History of IBM mainframe operating systems

IBM operating systems have paralleled hardware development. On early systems, operating systems represented a relatively modest level of investment, and were essentially viewed as an adjunct to the hardware. By the time of the System/360, however, operating systems had assumed a much larger role, in terms of cost, complexity, importance, and risk.[citation needed]

High-level languages

Early IBM computer systems, like those from many other vendors, were programmed using assembly language. Computer science efforts through the 1950s and early 1960s led to the development of many new high-level languages (HLL) for programming. IBM played a complicated role in this process. Hardware vendors were naturally concerned about the implications of portable languages that would allow customers to pick and choose among vendors without compatibility problems. IBM, in particular, helped create barriers that tended to lock customers into a single platform.

Nevertheless, IBM had a significant role in the following major computer languages:[citation needed]


IBM developed an inconsistent relationship with the UNIX and Linux worlds. The importance of IBM's large computer business placed pressures on all of IBM's attempts to develop other lines of business. All IBM projects faced the risk of being seen as competing against company priorities. This was because, for example, if a customer decided to build an application on an RS/6000 platform, this also meant that a decision had been made against the highly profitable and entrenched mainframe platform. So despite having some excellent technology, IBM often placed itself in a compromised position.[citation needed]

A case in point is IBM's GFIS products for infrastructure management and GIS applications. Despite long having a dominant position in such industries as electric, gas, and water utilities, IBM stumbled in the 1990s trying to build workstation-based solutions to replace its existing mainframe-based products. Some customers moved to new technologies from other vendors; many felt betrayed by IBM.[citation needed]

While IBM better embraced open source technologies in the 1990s, it later became embroiled in a complex litigation with SCO group over intellectual property rights related to the UNIX and Linux platforms.[citation needed]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Jim Spohrer, "IBM's service journey: A summary sketch." Industrial Marketing Management 60 (2017): 167–72.
  2. ^ "Worldwide IBM Research Locations". IBM. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  3. ^ "IBM, Fortune 500, 2015". Fortune. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  4. ^ "IBM maintains patent lead, moves to increase patent quality". IBM. January 10, 2006.
  5. ^ "2014 IBM Annual Report" (PDF). IBM. Retrieved September 26, 2015.
  6. ^ "Awards & Achievements". IBM. Retrieved August 13, 2009.
  7. ^ Bennett, Frank P.; Company (1911). United States Investor. Vol. 22, Part 2. p. 1298 (26).
  8. ^ Belden, Martin; Belden, Marva (1961). The Life of Thomas J. Watson, Little, Brown; p. 92
  9. ^ "IBM Archives: Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (1911–1924)". January 23, 2003.
  10. ^ Maney, Kevin; Hamm, Steve; O'Brien, Jeffrey M. (2011). Making the World Work Better – The ideas that shaped a century and a company, IBM Press; p. 19
  11. ^ "Certificate of Incorporation of Computing-Tabulating-Recording-Co", Appendix to Hearings Before the Committee on Patents, House of Representatives, Seventy-Fourth Congress, on H. R. 4523, Part III, United States Government Printing Office, 1935 [Incorporation paperwork filed 16 June 1911]
  12. ^ Martin Campbell-Kelly and William Aspray, Computer a History of the Information Machine – Second Edition, Westview Press, pp. 37–39 2004
  13. ^ "IBM Archives: Chronological History of IBM 1880s". IBM. January 23, 2003. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
  14. ^ Rodgers, Williams (1969). THINK. Stein and Day. p. 83.
  15. ^ "IBM Archives: Charles R. Flint".
  16. ^ Flint, Charles R. (1923). Memories of an Active Life: Men, and Ships, and Sealing Wax. G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 312.
  17. ^ The last page of this ref shows continued use of established names. The 2nd ref shows the consolidation into IBM in 1933 The Inventory Simplified Archived October 4, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, published in 1923, states: "The Tabulating Machine Company – Division of – International Business Machines Corporation".
  18. ^ – early Hollerith history, with good photographs of period equipment
  19. ^ Report of the Commissioner of Labor In Charge of The Eleventh Census to the Secretary of the Interior for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1895. Washington, D.C., July 29, 1895. p. 9: ((You may confidently look for the rapid reduction of the force of this office after the 1st of October, and the entire cessation of clerical work during the present calendar year. ... The condition of the work of the Census Division and the condition of the final reports show clearly that the work of the Eleventh Census will be completed at least two years earlier than was the work of the Tenth Census.)) Carroll D. Wright Commissioner of Labor in Charge
  20. ^ Truesdell, Leon E. (1965) The Development of Punch Card Tabulation in the Bureau of the Census 1890–1940, US GPO, p. 61
  21. ^ (Austrian, 1982, p. 69)
  22. ^ "Computing at Columbia: Timeline – Early". Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  23. ^ Certificate of Incorporation of Computing-Tabulating-Recording-Co, 14th day of June 1911
  24. ^ Pugh, Emerson W. (1995). Building IBM: Shaping an Industry and Its Technology. MIT Press. pp. 24–27. ISBN 978-0-262-16147-3.
  25. ^ Maney (2003) p. 57
  26. ^ "Mullich, Joe; Hiring Without Limits Workforce Management June 2004, pp. 53–58". Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  27. ^ Rodgers, William; THINK: A Biography of the Watsons and IBM Stein and Day, New York, p. 52.
  28. ^ Pugh (1995) p. 57
  29. ^ "IBM Archives: Frequently Asked Questions" (PDF). IBM. p. 15.
  30. ^ "IBM Archives: 1920". IBM. January 23, 2003.
  31. ^ Belden (1962) p. 125
  32. ^ a b c d e f g h Greenwald, John (July 11, 1983). "The Colossus That Works". Time. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Retrieved May 18, 2019.
  33. ^ a b "IBM Archives: 1924". IBM. January 23, 2003. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
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Further reading

Commentary, general histories

  For more recent IBM subject books see: IBM#Further reading


  For Punched card history, technology, see: Unit record equipment#Further reading
  For Herman Hollerith see: Herman Hollerith#Further reading

Locations – plants, labs, divisions, countries

Biographies, memoirs

  For IBM's corporate biographies of former CEOs and many others see: IBM Archives Biographies Builders reference room