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IBM Corporation

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Hardware

For the IBM Blue Gene supercomputer and its systems architecture, design, and software, which have delivered fundamental new science, unsurpassed speed, and unparalleled energy efficiency and have had a profound impact worldwide on the high-performance computing industry.

John Kelly describes the Blue Gene supercomputer

IBM Corp. has always been, from its very beginning in 1911, an innovator. Initially named the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R), today’s computer giant was cobbled together from several smaller start-ups responsible for inventions as varied as the time-punch card and the automatic meat slicer.

Fast forward to 2004 — IBM unveiled Blue Gene, a supercomputer that in one second could perform the number of operations that would take a single scientist with a calculator 177,000 years, nonstop. The record-breaking computer’s real-word applications included mapping the human genome, analyzing prescription drugs and flying airplanes. The company took computing to new heights with Watson, one of the world’s first cognitive computing platforms with the ability to analyze and interpret vast amounts of unstructured data in the Internet of Things, identifying trends and links in fields such as cancer research and cybersecurity.

But in that century between the meat slicer and Watson, IBM established itself as a leader in less exciting but equally significant fields of hard drives and digital storage, producing four Nobel Prize winners and peppering the world with products like the floppy disk, supermarket scanners and a pioneering version of the ATM.

By Lauren Clason