A Look Into the History of IBM

IBM Headquarters Armonk Office

International Business Machines, abbreviated as IBM and nicknamed Big Blue, is one of the largest computer companies in the world.

This corporation was the dominant player in the computer and information technology (IT) industry for most of the 20th century.

Today, we look to companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google for innovation and revolution in the tech industry.

Half a century ago, IBM held this fort as the go-to corporation in the tech space. At one point, this company produced 70% of the world’s computers.

IBM: Company History

The story of IBM started in the early 1900s when Charles Ranlett Flint, a renowned financier in New York, began building trusts by merging different businesses in the same field to form one chief player.

Among the dominant companies, he started from the mergers are the International Time Recording Co. (ITR) and the Computing Scale Company of America.

Flint then purchased the Tabulating Machine Co., a company owned by Herman Hollerith. The company built the tabulating machine used in the 1890 US census.


Some people believe Herman Hollerith is the founder of IBM. Others think it is Thomas Watson Sr. In reality, IBM’s founder is Charles Ranlett Flint.

In 1911, Flint merged the Computing Scale Company, ITR, and Tabulating Machine Co. to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). CTR was IBM’s original company name before Thomas Watson Sr. changed it in 1924.

The newly formed company produced and sold tabulating machines, time clocks, calculating scales, and meat and cheese slicers.

The company had 1,300 employees and operated factories in New York, Dayton, Ohio, Endicott, and other US cities. Its headquarters were in New York City.

The Watson Senior Years

In 1914, Flint appointed Thomas J. Watson Sr. as CTR’s general manager. Under Watson Sr.’s leadership, the company expanded operations globally to the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.

Watson is also credited with creating IBM’s good organizational culture, considering the company was a merger of three firms. Watson steadily grew IBM’s revenue to more than $9,000,000 by 1920.

It wasn’t long before Watson became CTR’s president. In 1924, he changed the company’s name to its present.

The new name, IBM, standing for International Business Machines, put the company in a position to expand into more overseas locations. The company still holds the same name today.

Watson Sr. led IBM based on two beliefs. The first was that customers were the number one priority, while the second viewed employees as a valuable asset and deserving of good treatment.

He opted to lease, not sell, IBM’s products, a tactic that helped the company survive the Great Depression. Unlike most companies affected by the economic downturn, IBM kept scaling and didn’t have to lay off employees or go bankrupt. Watson even introduced the 40-hour work week in 1933 and hired more staff.

In 1937, Watson Sr. hired his son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., as IBM’s salesman. He wanted to coach him to take over the presidency. The young Watson took up the mantle in 1956 following his father’s death.

The Watson Junior Years

Thomas Watson Jr. became IBM’s CEO when the company was in the midst of rapid technological changes. IBM had gradually been transitioning from tabulating and recording machines to computer hardware and software products.

The company ventured into developing electronic computers (mainframes), hard drives, disk drives, and programming languages.

Under Watson Jr.’s leadership, IBM launched FORTRAN (formula translation). This programming language quickly became the most widely used for technical work.

The company also introduced the IBM 1401 computer model and IBM 1403 chain printer.

In 1964, IBM launched System/360, a mainframe computer that soon became the de facto in the computer industry.

Like his father, Watson Junior valued his employees. In 1959, he created Speak Up!, a program where employees would provide feedback to company management and executives. Watson Jr. is also responsible for relocating IBM’s headquarters to Armonk, New York.

He remained CEO until 1971, when he retired after suffering a heart attack. By this time, IBM had a 50% market share in almost every country it operated.

Although IBM dominated the mainframe computer industry, competition was on the rise.

The company’s main competitors included RCA, NCR, Sperry Rand, and Burroughs. IBM later launched System/370 in 1970, a better version of its predecessor.

Entering the Personal Computer Market

By the mid-1970s, it was possible to build a computer with all elements inside one unit (personal computer). IBM knew PCs would be the future of computing but was too slow to act on this opportunity.

The company held intense internal debates, with some executives supporting the PC idea and others rejecting it. Most executives feared that the development of personal computers would lead to the death of mainframe computers, which were IBM’s dominant product.

Amidst the ongoing debates, John R. Opel, IBM’s CEO, decided to act by ordering the creation of the personal computer in 1981. However, he knew that bureaucracy and internal opposition would stifle its development, so he set up a separate research lab in Boca Raton, Florida.

Opel appointed Phil Estridge to head the PC project and granted him autonomy in decision-making.

IBM’s management and programmers were reluctant to help with the PC project, so Estridge approached two startups for assistance, Microsoft and Intel. Microsoft would develop the operating software for IBM’s personal computer, while Intel would manufacture microprocessors.

The company launched its first personal computer in 1981.

Although Estridge’s strategy proved successful, it put IBM at a disadvantage since the company did not own any rights to the OS or microprocessors.

IBM had to pay Microsoft for the operating systems and support Intel in developing the microprocessors.

IBM in the ’90s

The last decade of the 20th century was one of turmoil for IBM. PCs were steadily taking over the computer industry, and the internet revolution had just begun.

IBM was losing money due to reduced demand for mainframe computers. The highlight of these losses occurred in 1993 when the company suffered an $8 billion net loss. Its stock price was also at an all-time low.

The PC revolution caused most businesses to shift from integrated solutions offered by mainframe computers to desktops for personal productivity.

IBM was not the lead in the PC revolution. Companies like Apple and Microsoft held the fort. In 1993, IBM hired Louis V. Gerstner Jr. as CEO and chairman and mandated him to stabilize the company. Gerstner’s first task was to eliminate the bureaucracy causing the company to fall behind on every revolution.

He also reorganized IBM’s product line and downsized the company to cut costs.

The internet was rapidly getting a foothold in the global tech industry. IBM wanted to avoid repeating the mistake of the PC revolution.

Therefore, it acquired Lotus Development Corp., a software manufacturer, in 1995, and Tivoli Systems Inc., a management software service provider.

In 1997, IBM launched Deep Blue, a chess computer program. To demonstrate its potential, the company challenged Garry Kasparov, a global chess champion, to a six-game match. Deep Blue was the first software to beat a world-renowned chess player.

IBM in the 21st Century

The first decade of the 21st century saw IBM shift from producing personal and mainframe computers to supercomputers. The company sold its hard drive business to Hitachi Limited for $2.05 billion in 2002 and its PC division to the Lenovo Group in 2005.

IBM shifted its focus to developing supercomputers for large corporations and governments.

Today, IBM provides software, technology infrastructure, and consulting services to clients worldwide. The company has over 250,000 employees and earns more than $50 billion in annual revenues.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is IBM famous?

IBM is famous for developing and selling computer software and hardware products to customers in and out of the United States.

2. How long has IBM been in business?

IBM has been in business for more than 100 years. The company was founded in 1911 and still operates today.

3. Who is IBM’s founder?

IBM was founded by a New York financier called Charles Ranlett Flint.

Flint merged three firms in different industries to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording (CTR) Company, later named IBM.

4. How many employees does IBM have in the US?

IBM had 282,100 employees globally as of December 2021. However, the exact number of employees in the US market is unclear.

5. What made IBM successful?

IBM’s success is majorly a result of the corporate culture developed by the company’s former CEO, Thomas J. Watson Sr. He emphasized teamwork among his staff.

He viewed his employees as family and treated them well.

6. What is IBM’s biggest product?

IBM’s software segment generates the most revenue and profit for the company.

7. What is IBM’s weakness?

One of IBM’s weaknesses is product imitability. The company does not invest much in making its goods unique and innovative.

Competitors can easily create similar technological products.

8. Which is bigger, IBM or Apple?

Apple is larger than IBM. Apple has a market cap value of $2.11 trillion, while IBM has $136 billion.

9. Is IBM bigger than Microsoft?

Microsoft is bigger than IBM. Microsoft has a market cap value of $1.91 trillion, while IBM’s is $136 billion.

10. Is Google bigger than IBM?

Google is bigger than IBM. Google has a market cap value of $1.42 trillion.

11. Which companies are IBM’s major competitors?

IBM’s main competitors are Oracle, Microsoft, SAP ASG, and Alation.

12. What is IBM’s main business now?

IBM offers technology products such as software, cloud infrastructure, and hosting and consulting services to customers in more than 175 countries.

13. What type of company is IBM?

IBM is a technology company.

14. Who owns most of IBM?

Institutional investors own nearly 58% of IBM. The firm’s top shareholders are James Kavanaugh, James Whitehurst, Vanguard Group Inc., Arvind Krishna, BlackRock Inc., and State Street Corp.

15. Is IBM a Top 100 Company?

No, IBM ranks at number 106 in the Global Top 100 brands. This company is a Global Top 1000 brand.

16. Is IBM in Debt?

Yes, IBM is in debt. The company’s November 5, 2021, balance sheet showed that its total debt was $54.50 billion.

17. Why is IBM called Big Blue?

IBM is called Big Blue due to its blue logo. The term was first used in a magazine article in 1981.

Timeline.IBM Company Timeline


IBM gets founded as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR).


Thomas J. Watson Sr. joins CTR as general manager.


IBM adopts its present company name.


IBM acquires Electromatic Typewriters Inc., thus entering the electric typewriter sector.


Thomas J. Watson Jr. joins IBM as a salesman.


IBM launches the Automatic Sequence Control Calculator (ASCC), the first large-scale calculating computer.


Thomas J. Watson Jr. becomes IBM’s CEO and chairman after his father dies.


Watson Jr. introduces the Speak Up! program to allow employees to give feedback.


IBM introduces System/360.


IBM introduces System/370.


Thomas J. Watson Jr. retires as IBM’s CEO and chairman after suffering a heart attack.


IBM enters the PC market with the IBM Personal Computer.


IBM acquires Lotus Development Corp.


IBM acquires Tivoli Systems Inc.


IBM launches the Deep Blue program.


IBM sells its hard drive business to Hitachi Limited for $2.05 billion.


IBM sells its PC division to Lenovo Group.


IBM’s supercomputer, IBM Roadrunner, gets ranked as the world’s most powerful supercomputer.

More About IBM

Next, you’ll find a few resources to give you more information about IBM. Many links lead to search results, so you always have the latest information anytime you visit this page.

IBM Website Information


  • Over 100 years ago, IBM was founded in New York City.
  • IBM stands for “International Business Machines.”
  • IBM computers assisted in the effort to put the first man on the moon.
  • IBM’s Simon Brick Phone is considered the first real smartphone by experts.
  • Over the years, five IBM employees won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • For most of the 20th century, IBM executives instituted a strict yet stylish dress code.
  • ThinkPad’s classic Butterfly keyboard design was inspired by a puzzle.
  • In some ways, Apple’s slogan ‘Think Different’ is similar to IBM’s “Think” badge.
  • IBM invests over $6 billion per year in research & development.
  • In 2008, IBM became the first company ever to earn over 4,000 US patents in a year.
  • On 12th August 1981, IBM launched its first personal computer, the IBM PC.
  • Floppy disks and hard disk drives were invented by IBM.
  • Magnetic stripe technology was introduced by IBM for credit cards.
  • Several supercomputers were built by IBM, including Watson, one of the most powerful.

For more facts about IBM, you can view the latest search results – Facts about IBM.

IBM Executive Team

A management team is responsible for everything within its control.

Management changes with a company like IBM that has been in business for a hundred years.

From the link below, you can see the information about the current and past management teams, what they accomplished, and where they fell short.

Working at IBM

You can see how the management team treats employees by reviewing employee reviews.

Many legitimate negative reviews indicate a problem with the management team, and they need to be in touch with their workforce.

On the other hand, many positive reviews indicate management is on the right track and has put time and effort into creating a positive work environment.

See the link below to review posted feedback from employees.

Complaints and Lawsuits

Again, many legitimate complaints and lawsuits indicate problems with the management team.

So naturally, the larger the corporation, the more lawsuits you’ll see and the more complaints posted.

However, in today’s business world, freedom of speech on social media allows management teams to monitor online activity related to their company to identify trends and legitimate complaints and improve on those issues. See the link below to browse through complaints and lawsuits related to IBM.

Company Profile

A company profile can give you an overall understanding of the company, what it specializes in, its mission statement, products, and services, etc.

If you’re interested in the details of IBM, see the link below for more information.

Investment Outlook

If you are planning on buying shares and IBM, look at the link below, offering information related to its stock, prices, trends, and predictions from professionals.


Books are another source of information you can use to learn more about IBM, from its history to previous managers and CEOs and how they contributed to the success of IBM.

View the most recent books related to IBM on Amazon.


The news is another source of information to stay up-to-date with what’s happening with IBM. Google news will offer the latest and archive stories related to the company that you can view using the link below.

See Google’s News search results related to IBM.


Videos are another excellent source of information to learn more about IBM.

Keep an eye out for related videos on the screen while watching, which contain information you may have yet to consider.

See the most recent videos related to IBM.