On Tuesday, we discussed the case on IBM. More specifically, we focused on the company’s history and rise to success in the midst of the computer age. I was particularly interested in learning about the company’s roots as CTR (Computing Tabulating & Recording Company). Apparently, the company got its start when an engineer named Herman Hollerith invented a calculating machine that sorted cards by punched holes. This machine was sought out by organizations such as the U.S. Census Bureau, as they saw its potential in handling national data collection efforts. Charles Flint, owner of ITR (International Time Recording Company) decided to acquire Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company and merged the two companies to form CTR. From there, the company went through several more transitions until Thomas Watson became chairman of CTR in 1924 and renamed the company IBM (International Business Machines). By 1939, IBM was the biggest and most powerful business machine company in the United States. IBM owned about 80% of the keypunches, sorters, and accounting machines used for tabulating purposes. Around the end of the 1940’s, IBM began working on its first family of electronic computers, called the 701. The rest is history – IBM went through dozens of models for their computers, expanded into global markets, and retained a strong customer base for their products.
It always fascinates me to learn about the history of companies like IBM who have been around for over a century. Reading about their start as a tabulating company in the early 1900’s just demonstrates how much society has changed and advanced (at least technologically) in the last few decades. We don’t often take the time to study the history of companies that have been around for so long because we’re too focused on up & coming companies, or companies that are trending right now (i.e. Apple, Microsoft, etc). but there is a lot we can learn from companies that have been around for over a century. Obviously, they have been doing something right as demonstrated by their ability to adapt and stay relevant in the midst of changing social conditions.