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IBM Supercomputing

IBM Turns 100 189

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the ai-can't-blow-out-candles dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "On this day in 1911, IBM started as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R). It wasn't until 1924 that the company changed their name to IBM. Needless to say that a 100-year milestone is quite the feat. While some of us might know IBM for its recent "Jeopardy"-playing Watson computer, a look back shows that IBM has a long history of innovation, from cheese slicers (yes, really) and the tech behind Social Security to the UPC bar code and the floppy disk. One of the most notable leaps of faith IBM took was in 1964 with the introduction of System/360, a family of computers that started the era of computer compatibility. To date the company has invested nearly $30 billion in technology."
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IBM Turns 100

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  • Zero to Godwin (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Let's not forget helping the Nazi's round up undesirables!

    • by creat3d (1489345)
      I'd mod you up if I could, this should've been in TFA.
    • Let's not forget helping the Nazi's round up undesirables!

      The slideshow kinda skips from 1924 to 1956, doesn't it?

  • Happy Birthday IBM (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xednieht (1117791) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:13AM (#36462450) Homepage
    A fantastic achievement, Here's to the next 100 years.
    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:22AM (#36462576) Journal

      I wonder if they'll make it another 100 years?

      I mean, they got this far by spotting tech trends and successfully parlaying them into products. They don't seem to be doing much of that anymore.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Agreed. IBM hasn't been doing much innovation over the past 10 years. It's all been about increasing the stock price through cost cuts (layoffs, no travel, no perks, not even COFFEE!).

        IBM's new business model is cannibalizing other innovative companies, gutting them (through layoffs and offshoring), and then using the ensuing short-term profits to continue the cycle. It's evil and demoralizing for employees of IBM who always have a Damocles sword of "resource actions" hanging over their head regardless
        • by jonwil (467024)

          Its not just IBM, far too many companies have abandoned everything except short-term shareholder gains.

          I think the root cause of this (and other problems plaguing the western world and its companies) comes from the changes in the mid-late 20th century where the typical shareholder mix of public companies changed away from businessmen and rich people who cared about the companies they bought to investment funds, managed funds, brokerages, day traders and others who see shares as a short term investment to be

          • by hedwards (940851)

            The federal government in the US was a large part of the problem. If they graduated the capital gains tax phase in such that you needed to hold stocks for a couple years to get the full benefit of the capital gains rate, increased the short term holding substantially and limited people to only having one round trip trade per day, a lot of these problems would go away.

            Enron, as big a mess as that was, resulted in far more people making money than losing money, due to the way in which is collapsed. A relative

          • by Arterion (941661)

            Is anyone really surprised banks and bankers are the problem? They're middlemen to the extreme. Not only do they not create any wealth, they actually get in the way of honest wealth creation.

            • Is anyone really surprised banks and bankers are the problem? They're middlemen to the extreme. Not only do they not create any wealth, they actually get in the way of honest wealth creation.

              Really? Banks provide loans that allow MANY small businesses to get off the ground. Without pooling the wealth of of the local community you won't have enough resources for individuals to make those loans because it will be too risky and they don't have the time, skills or knowledge in order to properly evaluate those risks and make those loans. Banks are about as much as a useless middleman as a butcher is the middleman in your food consumption.

              • Yes, that's the theory. The practice turned out to be that once the banks lost an incredible amount of money in reckless ponzi schemes, they blackmailed the world into submission by stopping doing exactly what you deem to be their primary function: give loans to businesses and individuals. At that point, the government needed to bail them out as, like a petulant child, they were pulling the rug underneath the entire economy. And even now, even after the bail out, and even after the ponzi schemes have been s
          • by yuhong (1378501)

            Yea, I know! Friedman, Welch, the "corporate raiders" etc. certainly don't help, and the worst thing is that it created a gen of MBAs who were taught the horrible stuff.

        • by AlecC (512609)

          IBM has converted itself from a company based on selling boxes, and providing services as a side effect, to a company selling services who may sell you some boxes to run the services. That means that IBM's innovations will no longer (or at least far less) be in the field of hardware and software, which is of interest to Slashdot readers, and much more in the field of packaging and delivering services. It doesn't mean they have stopped innovating at all, it means that they are innovating in an area that is m

          • by careysub (976506)

            . That means that IBM's innovations will no longer (or at least far less) be in the field of hardware and software...

            IBM is still a world-leader in solid-state research, and develops and releases fundamental hardware advances on a regular basis. Its software innovation includes the remarkable AI demonstration of Watson with Jeopardy this year.

        • by careysub (976506) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @12:26PM (#36464398)

          Agreed. IBM hasn't been doing much innovation over the past 10 years

          It is one of the few American businesses today that still vigorously conducts basic research. It is also constantly churning out new technological innovations that invigorate the entire field of computing (copper-on-silicon, silicon-on-insulator, etc.).

      • by hoytak (1148181)

        I'd disagree, It seems there's a steady stream of articles in IEEE or other magazines about cool research that IBM is doing (e.g. http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-06-ibm-graphene-based-circuit.html [physorg.com]). I think the issue is that the current problems driving innovation in companies as big as IBM are much more technical and thus more difficult to explain to a general audience, except as "20% faster" or other forgettable phrases. I suspect there's a lot of cool stuff going on.

    • by careysub (976506)

      A fantastic achievement, Here's to the next 100 years.

      I tend to think of IBM as being older than 100 years because the punch-card tabulating equipment, invented by Herman Hollerith, that was the mainstay of its dates to 1889, and I have viewed his Tabulating Machine Company (formed in 1896) as the true origin of the business that is IBM today. Anyone who remembers the days of punch cards remembers those Hollerith codes -- a coding scheme in use for nearly a century. It has always seemed to me the "senior member" of the four-way merger, the only one that was tr

    • Here's a nice movie [engadget.com] IBM made to commemorate the last 100 years. It appeared in my submission [slashdot.org] from January that didn't get picked up. Oh well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:14AM (#36462466)

    IBM and the Holocaust [ibmandtheholocaust.com]

    IBM and the Holocaust on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

    • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:30AM (#36462666) Homepage

      Hitler used IBM punchcard systems purchased in the 30's to facilitate the Holocaust. Of course, if IBM hadn't sold them the punchcard machines, the Holocaust would never have happened.

      Next up, we'll tackle Boeing's complicity in 9/11.

      • by Hyppy (74366)
        You must have missed the part where IBM's wholly owned subsidiaries in Germany and Poland operated closely with the Nazi regime to design, create, and maintain the various census and camp-tracking systems.
        • by halivar (535827) <bfelger&gmail,com> on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:51AM (#36462980) Homepage

          In 1933. And the Hollerith machines were not "designed" in Germany. In fact, we'd been using such machines since 1890 for OUR census. IBM's entire revenue revolved around selling tabulating machines.

          Also, Hollerith machines were not designed for "camp-tracking." Census machines were re-purposed for that task.

          • by decora (1710862) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @12:02PM (#36464048) Journal

            where IBM kept in contact with its Switzerland headquarters, was in trouble several times with the government for dealing with 'blacklisted' countries, the strings it pulled to get around those limitations, and one of whose officials was denied entry into the US after the war.

            and then there are the ways that the subsidiaries, after the war, were brought back into the fold of IBM, along with all the profits they had reaped from their wartime experiences, which were meticulously recorded.

            • by JBMcB (73720) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @12:49PM (#36464722)

              and then there are the ways that the subsidiaries, after the war, were brought back into the fold of IBM, along with all the profits they had reaped from their wartime experiences, which were meticulously recorded

              You're right - IBM should have forced those subsidiaries out of business for their complicity in the German war machine. In fact, all companies in Germany that helped out the Nazi regime should have been closed down. All those horrible people should have been forced into bread lines for their crimes.

              I mean, that's basically what they did after WWI, and it seemed to work out pretty well.

              • Dehomag was intimately involved with the SS, from the Eugenics program to the holocaust. Im not talking about the Army.

                Dehomag was successfull after the war, and many of the same people just worked for IBM, they re-integrated the performance metrics so that employees who had done well during the war kept their special bonus point style things.

                IBM could have at least taken a page from Volkswagen and several other manufacturing companies and participated in the reconciliation process in the 1990s.

        • You must have missed the part where the Nazi regime decided to stuff people they didn't like into camps while starving them, beating them, working them to the bone, then executing them.

          Personally, I believe if you're going to hold IBM (or Ford or Bayer or any other trendy 'you helped the holocaust' company) responsible, then you should also hold trees responsible. Trees provided the wood that built the guard towers, that held the barbed wire fences in place, and built the barracks. Bricks, fire, lead, and rope should also be investigated.

          • by halivar (535827)

            Ford's a different story from the others. Henry Ford was known as a Nazi sympathizer and anti-semite who received senior Nazi officials to his home.

          • it is not propaganda. almost every line in the entire book is well cited and documented.

            we are not talking about Ford here. a truck can be used for anything.

            the punch card systems had to be specifically designed, and then an IBM technician had to specifically go and maintain them, they were massively maintenance-intensive pieces of equipment. and punch cards were at the center of a lot of SS operations, including the holocaust (there were machines in the death camps), but also stuff like the Night and Fog

            • "we are not talking about Ford here. a truck can be used for anything."

              "the punch card systems had to be specifically designed, and then an IBM technician had to specifically go and maintain them, "

              Because punch cards are specifically designed to kill people......

              Trucks are trucks, data is data. The world as a whole didn't have much trouble with the Nazi's up through 1936, and even then it was another three years before the war broke out.

              • if you had a technician from Dehomag walking into a camp every couple of weeks to make adjustments, fix broken parts, do routine maintenance, etc, it is kind of hard to argue that 'data was just data'.

                if you had to have Dehomag technicians design the hole punch cards, with holes for Jew, and then how much Jew (1/8, 1/4, etc) and so forth and so on

          • You must have missed the part where the Nazi regime decided to stuff people they didn't like into camps while starving them, beating them, working them to the bone, then executing them.

            Personally, I believe if you're going to hold IBM (or Ford or Bayer or any other trendy 'you helped the holocaust' company) responsible, then you should also hold trees responsible. Trees provided the wood that built the guard towers, that held the barbed wire fences in place, and built the barracks. Bricks, fire, lead, and rope should also be investigated.

            "Your honor, I don't deny I killed him. But if I hadn't, he'd of died of something or other eventually anyway."

        • by guruevi (827432) <evi@smo k i n g c ube.be> on Thursday June 16, 2011 @11:04AM (#36463214) Homepage

          You also must have missed the first few years of the World War where the US knew about the atrocities but decided to do nothing about it or Ford-Werke, the division of Ford in Germany or the 'neutral' Swiss supplying weapons and bankrolling the operations with Jewish deposits.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          First of all do you really think IBM in the US has much control over what happened at IBM Germany and Poland after the war started? Poland was occupied by Germany very quickly and I am pretty sure they didn't let money or information flow from Poland to the US really easily.
          I am sure any communication was completely halted by December 7th.
          Also These where Census tracking systems do you really think they where any different than the off the self ones in use for the Census and other systems like the ones used

      • by Himring (646324)
        Godwin's! No Quirk's Exception!

        --Bentsen
      • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:54AM (#36463040) Homepage

        Computers in the 1930s weren't the general purpose machines we have today. You didn't just buy a computer, bring it home, and plug it in. There was no off-the-shelf software. Computers came with a team of IBM engineers in white lab coats.

        If Boeing's engineers had been in the cockpit on 9/11 and had been paid to fly in to buildings, then Boeing would be as complicit in 9/11 as IBM is in the Holocaust.

        And no one is saying it would not have happened without IBM. But that does not diminish IBM's role.

      • by dcollins (135727) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @11:19AM (#36463430) Homepage

        Yes, that's actually the thesis of that (national award-winning) book. "[W]ithout IBM's machinery, continuing upkeep and service, as well as the supply of punch cards, whether located on-site or off-site, Hitler's camps could have never managed the numbers they did." (p. 352) Germany had plans for a long-delayed census of ethnicity, which was not feasible until IBM came to the rescue in 1933, which was followed soon afterward by laws barring Jews from citizenship or marrying Aryans. Early predictions of ~500K Jews in Germany were revised upwards, identifying 2M afterwards.

        "This activity was not only countenanced by Thomas Watson and IBM in America, Black argues, but was actively encouraged and financially supported, with Watson himself traveling to Germany in October 1933 and the company ramping up its investment in its German subsidiary from 400,000 to 7,000,000 reichsmarks — about $1 million.[17] This injection of American capital allowed Dehomag to purchase land in Berlin and to construct IBM's first factory in Germany, Black charges, thereby "tooling up for what it correctly saw as a massive financial relationship with the Hitler regime."[17]" (from Wikipedia, etc.)

        More generally, if we're going to gush about IBM's history, intellectual honesty demands that we include the well-known black marks, too.

        • by halivar (535827)

          You leaving out relevant details. Did Watson travel to Nazi Germany to push for the purchase of Hollerith machine for the the oppression and eventual genocide of minorities?

          Or did Watson travel to Nazi Germany to push for the purchase of Hollerith machines for the purposes of Germany's seemingly innocent upcoming general census (remember that this is 5 years before Kristallnacht, and 3 years before Berlin would host a very-much-not-boycotted Olympics)?

          Other pertinent facts: Dehomag's upper management was in

    • You missed this one M1 carbine [wikipedia.org]. Personally I just find it humorous since it seems out of their area of expertise, but I guess they did have precision manufacturing capabilities.
    • by Misagon (1135)

      The Germans used Hollerith machines also in occupied Norway to organize drafting people into German service.
      Norwegian resistance fighters blew up the machines. Twice.

  • by wandazulu (265281) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:22AM (#36462564)

    I worked for a large organization in Chicago that had the "gold" IBM support contract back in the early 90s; they would show up at 2 am Sunday morning to replace a keyboard if necessary. Our main contact was a guy who had been with the company for 30+ years and he would mention some of the things he'd had to fix, in addition to the standard computer stuff: scales for weighing meat in the meat packing district and the thing that was most surprising: the clock on the Wrigley Building. Apparently IBM didn't actually out-and-out make the clock mechanism but had bought some company that had and they inherited the support contract. He mentioned having to get some gears specially made when it broke down.

    The thing I thought was so ahead of its time was the wireless device he had that was essentially a large, two-line blackberry that he'd carry on his shoulder with a strap; it would beep and he'd flip the cover open, read the message, then type some sort of response. I remember he'd use it to order parts and within an hour(!) another guy would show up with them, a new ps/2 mouse, a monitor, or a reel-to-reel tape drive for the as/400. I was surprised IBM never thought to market that device; much like Apple is reluctant to talk about their ipod touch-based POS terminals, he wasn't too keen about showing it off or even talking about it.

    • Having had one of those devices back in the early 90's it was just a 2 way pager, They never got really popular, the prices made early text messages seem cheap, water cooler talk placed it at 25 cents for each outbound message but no idea what they really cost. You can still get the modern versions have a client that thinks pagers make more sense for on-call so they are still passing around a clamshell 2 way pager. They looked at me funny when I told them the monitoring software could take care of dispat

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      much like Apple is reluctant to talk about their ipod touch-based POS terminals

      Supposedly Apple is doing very quiet testing with third parties for that system (Old Navy/Gap is apparently testing them), which Apple calls EasyPay. It's quite sketchy, but it appears Apple has been inundated with requests for more information about them so they could be deployed elsewhere.

  • Does 30 billion seem small to anyone else? I assume that number is not normalized for inflation for each investment.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From TFA:
      The company invested $5 billion in [system/360], about $30 billion today, but the gamble paid off.

      Summary is wrong.

  • That's my new yardstick for insane figures. When someone says we spent 700 billion bailing out the financial companies, I'm going to picture 20 IBM sized companies funding 100 years of research.

    • by HeckRuler (1369601) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @11:19AM (#36463428)
      Except that the $30 billion is just what they invested in researching and developing the system/360. Summary is wrong.
      Also, most of the $700 Billion of that bailout were loans that have been paid back. There's still a ludicrous about of wasted money, like the $200 million that a bankers wife took, and then deposited in a bank, and reaped the interest! But in general, it was a short term loan to keep the economy moving. And it worked. Get over it.
      • the 'bailout' was a lot more than the 700 billion TARP money.

        fannie and freddie, for example.

      • by gangien (151940)

        it worked? really? Boy that unemployment is sure going down real fast!

        You really need to understand how capitalism works, and how important it is that failures.. FAIL and that there is no such as too big to fail.

  • It is amazing to me that - back when I graduated university in '92 - people were foretelling the death knoll for IBM. Next thing I know, I'm working on programming ASP.NET using JCL on zSeries machines fifteen years later.

    Now, we're using Rational and Eclipse to manage Websphere projects.

    Go figure.
    • by dcollins (135727)

      *knell

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      The colossal size and huge brand reputation of IBM is enough to keep a company going for a very long time. Long enough, in fact, to change its business model significantly before having to actually face real danger of going under.

      We see companies disappearing all the time, but a lot of the time, it's actually due to a merger or acquisition. As long as you can avoid being acquired and having your assets sold at a fire sale by some short term raider or a competitor, businesses have a good chance of weatheri

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      Having worked on their z series machines and put up with the living hell that is z/OS and most of its related products, I think a big part of the reason they're still around is that PHBs will buy from IBM because they trust the name, even if what they're buying is overpriced and nowhere close to the 'best of breed' product. In many cases, the support is not even particularly good. I dread working at a place where you still hear the phrase "we''re an IBM stop". It still amazes me that people actually pay the
  • I seem to recall they were in business in the nineteenth century, not as IBM of course. I was working for one of their large customers in 1980, and they said something about being 100 then. I guess they will say they became 'IBM' 100 years ago in 2024. too. Any excuse for a marketing campaign.
    • he was just a dude selling stuff. and fighting patent lawsuits (some things dont change)

    • by careysub (976506)

      I seem to recall they were in business in the nineteenth century, not as IBM of course...

      Correct. Herman Hollerith invented the mainstay of the IBM product line in 1989, sold his punch card tabulating machines to the U.S. Census Bureau in 1890, and incorporated the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896. IBM was the result of a 4-way merger, but any one of the other 3 businesses could have been left out and we would still have an IBM - not so the Tabulating Machine Company, it is the predecessor of IBM.

      • by careysub (976506)
        Herman Hollerith invented the mainstay of the IBM product line in 1889... (obviously)
  • They used to be in the old terminal at Detroit Metro (since remodeled) and in a few GM plants.

  • Big deal, Id do it in half the time.

  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @01:23PM (#36465348)

    So far, the comments are the predictable ones I'd expect -- the recent love of offshoring, sell-off of products, etc. But it's pretty amazing to see what they did after almost dying in the late 80s after they missed the client/server and PC boat. I don't agree with a lot of their short sighted moves, but changing from a hardware to a consulting company without people realizing it is an interesting feat.

    Stories I've been told describe the IBM prior to this period as a pretty amazing place to work in terms of benefits and the tech you were able to work on. Don't forget that all of that was possible because back in the day, margins on hardware were orders of magnitude higher than they were now. Plus, IBM had a total lock on the mainframe market (still does pretty much, but less work needs to be done in this space now.) When they could get a much higher margin for selling boxes, they could lavish R&D money on the people who designed those boxes, training and salaries on the people who supported them, AND still have plenty left over for the execs and shareholders. You know, the "golden age of computing".... Now, most hardware is in the single-digit percent margin category (except for Apple stuff) and there's no money to be made in it. "Consulting" and managed services will bring in millions more than a hardware purchase; they can throw half the population of India at a customer and still make billions even if it takes longer to get results...which is where we US techies are stuck right now. In particular, the stories of older IBM techies being told to move to India or Brazil or leave paint a pretty sad state of affairs. (Side note, this trend will never reverse until we can kick everyone's hyperfocus on the stock market and corporate earnings. No public company is able to do anything that isn't guaranteed to instantly pay off anymore.)

    That said, the hardware they do still make (or at least OEM) is pretty good. And, if you're willing to pay the premium for this gear, System x and BladeCenter support is still done in the US. Documentation is horrible because of the huge decentralized nature of the company, but I've been able to call these guys up and get an answer in 5 minutes. Still, it's kind of ironic that IBM hires teams of customers to come in and basically rewrite the documentation for some of their products (see Redbooks.)

    Also, don't forget that IBM is one of the only companies big enough to put serious money into research anymore. In my mind, that's really important. Where are all the CS, physics and EE Ph. D's going to work now that Bell Labs is gone and HP only does product research?

    • by Animats (122034)

      Also, don't forget that IBM is one of the only companies big enough to put serious money into research anymore. In my mind, that's really important. Where are all the CS, physics and EE Ph. D's going to work now that Bell Labs is gone and HP only does product research?

      IBM Research is a shadow of what it once was. I happened to be up at IBM's Almaden Research Center [ibm.com] the day IBM exited the disk drive business. It was not a happy day.

  • So IBM invented the increment operator?
  • Remember! There's no 'I' in IBM!

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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