THINK. Before the company was known IBM, this slogan was professed by the man who would become its charismatic president, Thomas J. Watson—and it would become a mission of the company to aid mankind in this task.
IBM’s more than one hundred years of history are so full of accomplishment and innovation that just to catalogue a few of them creates an encyclopedia of computing. Among their many achievements, IBM has created: many of the original punch card machines of pre-microchip computing; the first automated traffic lights; the iconic Selectric typewriter, a precursor of the modern word processor; Fortran, one of the earliest programming languages still in use to this day; DRAM memory chips; the modern barcode; the RISC instruction set which powers more than a billion ARM microprocessors around the world; the first computer to beat a grandmaster at chess; Blue Gene, which was at its completion the world’s most powerful and most efficient super computer; numerous Nobel Prize winners, original microchip designs, and personal computers.
The computing industry moves at an exponential pace, so it is remarkable to see any company last longer than a generation, let alone several, but IBM has remained tenacious even as the radical changes it helped produce have threatened at times to render it obsolete. The company and its scientists have earned cumulatively 10 National Science and Technology Medals thus far—approximately one for every decade of its lifespan.
By Casey Samulski