From a swipe of a card to the tap of a keyboard the impact of IBM is literally at the fingertips of millions of people around the world. And the company first born as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company is turning 100.
After changing its name to International Business Machines, it worked with the U.S. government on the largest accounting project of all time- Social Security.
Bernie Meyerson IBM’s Vice President of Innovation, says:
“Imagine what Social Security would be like if you had to collect 30, 40 million pieces of paper and track them. It’s physically impossible. So IBM was challenged. And they said look guys, how do you do this? And what we did was we created the Hollerith systems. We actually have systems that sort punch cards, that store all the data about a person on a card, which can then be sorted automatically by a machine at very high speed. That’s a game changer.”
A long list of game changers followed with IBM receiving more than 150,000 patents globally over the century.
Taking a flight? In 1962 IBM invented the first computerized airline reservation system.
The magnetic strip on credit cards came in 1969, soon followed by UPC bar codes still used on products today.
Need some cash? That ATM you are hitting was also the brainchild of IBM.
And in 1981 the personal computer came along. Which eventually led to the supercomputer Watson, which famously won the TV show Jeopardy.. and whose practical applications are now being explored in areas like medical diagnosis.
“I have a patient in front of me who has these 48 bizarre symptoms, the hair is falling out of the right side of their head, their left elbow is the size of a basketball. What on earth could that be? And within literally a matter of seconds a machine like Watson can simply fly through that data and say you know, there is this weird parasite that comes from the Amazon and here’s the definitive test you can check to make sure that is the correct diagnosis.”
IBM’s ambitions remain sky high, now focusing on cloud computing, which stores information on servers rather than individual devices, and helping the world build smarter cities through technology.
Bottom line: The company that invented and found applications for countless technologies from bar codes to personal computers is celebrating its first century.