100 years of IBM: Timeline

Highlights from the one hundred year history of IBM

Tags: IBM (www.ibm.com)IBM Middle East
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100 years of IBM: Timeline (Getty Images)
By  ITP.net Staff Writer Published  June 15, 2011

In its 100 year history, IBM has been at the forefront of any number of technological advances in areas such as magnetic storage, personal computing, relational databases, supercomputing, artificial intelligence and business applications, but it has also led in the field of corporate responsibility and commitment to its workforce, as well as being one of the first IT companies to plant roots in the Middle East.


1911: IBM formed from four existing companies, as the Computing Tabulating and Recording Company, (CTR) in New York on June 16, 1911. With 1,300 employees, the company specialized in punch cards, commercial scales and clocks.

1912: CTR opened its doors in the UK, one of the earliest overseas subsidiaries of the company.

1914: Thomas J Watson Sr joined the company from the National Cash Register Company. Watson developed IBM's professional sales force (with strict dress code) that set the standard for professional service and corporate culture. Watson also coins the ?THINK' slogan in 1915.

1914: First disabled worker hired, 76 years before the American with Disabilities Act; in decades to come, company pioneered diversity policies to eliminate workplace barriers and introduced new technologies around accessibility such as early Braille printer and speech recognition technology.

1916: IBM's efforts to develop future leaders and skilled workforce included the Employee Education program; over decades that expanded to management education and to today's widespread use of online and experiential learning.

1918: Dissatisfied with pace of innovation at IBM, Watson merged the Engineering and Experimental departments to inspire new and faster product development.


1920: First printing tabulator machine eliminated need to manually record tabulations from tally sheets, giving CTR strong competitive edge.

1923: The electric key punch set CTR's tabulating equipment apart from competitors' mechanically-driven systems.

1924: CTR changes its name to International Business Machines (IBM).

1927: IBM became one of first organizations to communicate over the world's first trans-Atlantic telephone line. In decades to come, IBM remained an early adopter of new communications technologies such as radio, phonograph recordings, motion pictures, air mail, television and social media.

1928: The IBM Card - a stiff rectangular 80-column card punched with rectangular holes that represented bits of data became the industry standard for storing and recording data.

1929: 90% of IBM's products were a result of its own internal R&D.


1930: Thomas Watson awarded a patent a for traffic signal timing system. Today, IBM holds more patents than any other US company.

1931: Translation system for League of Nations enabled speech to be translated and read at the same time, using low-power radio and headphones.

1933: 40-hour work week established, for manufacturing and office staff. In the same decade, IBM introduced Group life insurance, paid holidays and paid vacation for staff.

1933: Electromatic Typewriter Co. purchased. Electric typewriters would become one of IBM's most widely known products

1934: IBM's 801 Bank Proof machine automated the check-clearing process. Also, IBM eliminated piecework, put factory workers on salary and introduced life insurance.

1935: Watson advocated equal pay for men and women

1937: Columbia University opened the Thomas J. Watson Astronomical Computer Bureau - the world's first centre for scientific computation.

1938: New technologies improved how companies found, extracted, processed and used oil - paving the way for modern technology such as 3D seismic modelling to locate oil fields.

1939: IBM granted the first electronic computer patent - for a method to calculate using vacuum tubes.


1940: Team led by James W Bryce, IBM's chief engineer, invented method for adding and subtracting using vacuum tubes, a building block for electronic computers.

1942: Michael Supa, who was blind, was hired by IBM to develop programmes for the handicapped, and to help make IBM products more adaptable to the needs of the visually impaired.

1941: Radiotype, an IBM Electric typewriter attached to a radio transmitter used by the US Signal Corps to transmit text messages, sends up to 50,000,000 words a day during World War II.

1943: Ruth Leach Amonette named IBM's first female vice president.

1944: IBM's first large scale computer, the Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC), known as the Mark 1, presented to Harvard University. Also that year, IBM became first company to support the United Negro College Fund.

1945: Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory established at Columbia University.

1945: IBM punched card machines used extensively for calculations made at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.

1946: First commercial electronic calculator, the IBM 603, followed by the 604 in 1948, which sold 5,000 units. 1946 also saw the first Chinese and Arabic ideographic character typewriters.


1951: An IBM card programmed calculator became the first digital computer used in the US space programme.

1952: IBM introduced the IBM 701, its first large scale electronic computer, which paved the way for computers built for specific business and industrial purposes.

1952: Thomas Watson Jr. takes over as president from his father. Also, IBM's first magnetic tape storage unit, the 726, introduced world to electronic storage - a single reel of tape held the equivalent of 35,000 punch cards.

1953: Watson Jr. published IBM's equal opportunity policy letter for employees.

1953: IBM wins first contract in Egypt to supply tabulating machines to the Heliopolis Railways Company and Ain Shams Oasis

1954: IBM Egypt formed

1955: IBM 608 transistor calculator, the world's first commercially-available, all solid-state computing machine.

1956: First magnetic hard disc - the RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control), containing the world's first magnetic hard disk drive. The size of two kitchen refrigerators side-by-side, the drives were about 10 megabits of capacity and 10 tons in weight.

1956: IBM hires design consultant Eliot Noyes to oversee the creation of a formal Corporate Design Program, and charged Noyes with creating a consistent, world class look and feel at IBM.

1956: Artificial Intelligence - Arthur L. Samuel of IBM's Poughkeepsie lab programmed an IBM 704 computer to play checkers and ?learn' from its own experience.

1957: FORTRAN, invented by John Backus, became world's most widely used computer language and first programming language standard.

1959: 1401 Data Processing System, the world's first affordable general-purpose business computer and one of earliest to rely on transistors, not vacuum tubes. Was the first computer to sell 10,000 units and became most popular computer of the 1960s.


1960: IBM Stretch computer became industry's most powerful computer and pioneer of computer 'multitasking'.

1960: First computer to be installed in Turkey, an IBM 650, is delivered

1961: The Selectric Typewriter became an instant design sensation. With silver-colored golf-ball shaped typing head, it revolutionized typing speed and caputured 75% of the US market for electric business typewriters.

1962: IBM and American Airlines launched world's first computer-driven airline reservation system called SABRE.

1964: The System/360 family of computers, became the first ?family' of computers, with shared programming instructions, which ushered in the era of computer compatibility. IBM also introduces the Magnetic Tape Scelectric Typewriter, a predecessor to desktop word processors.

1964: Istanbul Technical Library installs first IBM 1620 in Turkey

1966: IBM's Bob Dennard invented Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM).

1967: Benoit Mandelbrot's fractal geometry gave rise to new branch of geometry still used today in mapping the natural world.

1968: IBM introduced Customer Information Control System, CICS, which became one of IBM's most valuable software products.

1969: Magnetic strip technology for credit cards invented by IBM.

1969: IBM technology guided the Apollo mission to the moon; IBM has been part of every U.S. manned space effort since the beginning of the national space program in the 1950s.

1969: The United States government launches what would become a 13-year-long antitrust suit against IBM, eventually dropped in 1982 as found without merit.


1970: Relational databases, invented by IBMer Edgar Codd, revolutionized how data was stored and processed for financial records and manufacturing.

1971: IBM introduces the 8-inch floppy disk, the world's first flexible, magnetic media with storage of 100k bytes

1971: First operational speech recognition technology from IBM, enabled people to talk to and receive 'spoken' answers from a computer with a vocabulary of 5,000 words.

1972: First automated teller machine

1973: Supermarkets started scanning UPC barcodes, which were invented in IBM labs the decade before.

1974: First Arabic IBM 2260 Terminal is installed in Egypt.

1974: IBM cuts energy and fuel consumption by double digits - three years after its pioneering Corporate Policy on Environmental Responsibility

1974: IBM announces Systems Network Architecture (SNA), a networking protocol for computing systems.

1975: IBM introduced the first portable computer, the 5100, a 50lb desktop PC.

1976: IBM introduced the world's first laser printer.

1977: Data Encryption Standards (DES) cryptographic algorithm, adopted by U.S. National Bureau of Standards.


1980: IBM scientists discovered process that made LASIK and PRK surgery possible.

1980: IBM's John Cocke developed first computer to use RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) CPU design, which remains the bedrock of microprocessors today and core of the $22 billion UNIX market.

1980: IBM establishes a Scientific Center in Kuwait

1981: IBM Personal Computer launched the PC revolution.

1983: IBM opens a Scientific Center in Egypt.

1984: The Arabic Competence Center opens in Egypt

1984: IBM was a key part of the Prodigy online consumer information and shopping service, which pioneered online shopping.

1984: IBM adds sexual orientation to the company's non-discrimination policy

1985: Token Ring technology brought new level of control to local area networks and became industry standard for office networking.

1985: IBM re-enters the supercomputing field with the RP3 (IBM Research Parallel Processor Prototype.

1987: In response to early computer viruses, IBM develops a suite of antivirus tools practically overnight.

1988: IBM was central to the U.S. National Science Foundation's effort to develop a high-speed network, NSFNET

1988: IBM introduces the IBM Application System/400 (AS/400), a new family of easy-to-use computers designed for small and intermediate-sized companies.


1992: IBM introduced the ThinkPad notebook line up.

1993: IBM posts billion dollar losses for third straight year, mainly attributed to the company missing out on the PC trend and client-server computing.

1993: In April, IBM hired Louis V Gerstner, Jr as its new CEO. Gerstner defies calls to split the company.

1994: IBM reports a profit for the year, its first since 1990.

1995: IBM acquired Lotus Development Corporation and its pioneering Notes collaboration software.

1995: IBM discovered magnetic materials that made rewritable CDs possible.

1996: Introduction of DB2 Universal Database, industry's first web-ready database management system.

1997: IBM coins the term 'eBusiness'.

1997: Deep Blue chess-playing supercomputer beat World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, in six games.

1999: IBM began support for Linux, spurring open source innovation around software and hardware.


2000: Sam Palmisano becomes President and Chief Operating Officer.

2001: World's first carbon nanotube transistor transported information on an atomic scale.

2002: IBM acquired PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting for $3.5 billion to build on its service expertise.

2003: IBM introduced Blue Gene high-performance computer.

2005: PC division, including Thinkpad brand, is sold to Chinese manufacturer, Lenovo.

2005: Cell architecture ushered in new era of power-efficient and cost-effective processing - a "supercomputer on a chip" used in 3D TV sets, top computer gaming systems and medical ultrasound equipment. Also that year, IBM employees created pioneering Social Media Guidelines.

2006: IBM delivers an advanced speech-to-speech translation system to US forces in Iraq using bidirectional English to Arabic translation software.

2008: IBM launched Smarter Planet initiative to find ways to improve the way world works.

2008: Road Runner supercomputer broke the petaflop barrier and became fastest supercomputer on earth at the time.

2011: IBM's supercomputer Watson competed, and won on the TV show Jeopardy against two best former champions.

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