IBM turns 100 years old


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International Business Machines Corp., more commonly known as IBM, turned 100 years old on Thursday.


Surviving a century is impressive for a human being; it’s astonishing for a tech company that got its start a mere three years after the Ford Model T began production.

IBM dates back to June 16, 1911, when three small companies -- which made scales, a tabulating machine, punch-clocks for work and a recording device, among other gadgets -- merged to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co. The name IBM came along in 1924.

At the helm in the early years was Thomas Watson Sr., an exacting businessman who lent the company his slogan -- ‘Think’ -- which he originally adopted as a sales manager at National Cash Register Co, according to the IBM website.

In the beginning, IBM also produced meat and cheese slicers, along with machines that read data stored on punch cards -- forerunners of the computer. By the 1930s, IBM punch cards were keeping track of millions of Americans for the newly minted Social Security program.

The company boomed in the years following World War II, focusing on mainframe computers, which powered whole offices. It introduced the floppy disk in 1971, developed the bar code and was at the forefront of personal computing.

IBM stumbled in 1981, when it introduced a personal computer but decided not to buy the software that powered the machine -- made by a fledgling company called Microsoft.


In the last decade, the company has focused on providing technology services to companies. It also built the Watson computer that beat human rivals Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on the TV trivia show ‘Jeopardy!’

IBM is due to surpass $100 billion in annual sales this year and currently ranks 18th on the Forbes 500 list of top American companies.

For the record, 6:07 p.m. June 16: A previous version of this post said that IBM invented the first bar code. In 1951, IBM hired Norman Joseph Woodland, who applied for the first bar code technology patent with his partner Bernard Silver while working at Drexel University in 1949. Woodland received the patent for the bar code in 1952, after he joined IBM.


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-- Shan Li