When I was looking at notebooks for college, my father, who ran a small computer consulting business at the time, encourage me to buy a Lenovo Thinkpad. Six years later, I still write many of my blog entries from the Lenovo 3000 N100 that has since traveled to three continents and absorbed many scrapes and bruises. It was the legacy of IBM that led my father to encourage me to buy the computer, a legacy of computer engineering that spans one hundred years almost exactly to this very day. IBM has a particularly fascinating, and not totally conflict-free, history in which they have re-invented themselves time and time again in order to not only provide the solutions to problems arising in our global information age, but to contribute largely in the framing of those very problems themselves so as to position themselves in such a way that their solutions remain ahead of the curve. Originally IBM, or what was then known as C-T-R, engineered tabulating machines for various information processing needs (punch cards serving as the primary mode of information storing), fostering a corporate culture and pride that largely involved their drive to create new cutting-edge technologies. Retrospectively, IBM's groundbreaking strategies to instill corporate culture that included singing the IBM rally song (http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/multimedia/everonward_trans.html) in the workplace and insisting on a corporate uniform, leave a somewhat unappealing taste in my mouth, if only for former IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson's ambiguous role in making it possible for the National Socialist regime to systematically target Jews using IBM's tabulation machines.
Regardless of how dark a chapter of IBM�
39;s business dealings with Hitler really were, their commitment to R & D–always investing their profits back into the company–drawing on their punch card system, IBM invented calculators, electronic typewriters, and magnetic disks for data storage, all before introducing the System/360 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_System/360) in 1964, a multifunctional computer that supported several applications at the same time. From then on IBM invented the magnetic strips featured in all credit cards, bar codes, floppy drives, and in 1981 the first personal computer. During the eighties however, IBM's clean-cut, blue suit business ethic took a nosedive when more free-thinking Silicon Valley companies such as Apple Macintosh and Microsoft picked up steam, and they had to cut out 100,000 jobs. According to many analysts, IBM's fall can be attributed to their spreading themselves too thin, an issue they have since addressed by dedicating themselves to developing new information architecture and infrastructure, having sold off their Thinkpad computer line to Lenovo in 2005. One of the largest investors in Open Source technology, IBM has maybe made its biggest headlines by providing two prototypes whose intelligence has outmatched its greatest human competitor: in 1997 Gary Kasparov, the reigning chess champion, was defeated by Deep Blue, an IBM chess-playing computer, and then, in 2011, Watson, a supercomputer constructed by IBM engineers, took down two previous champions in Jeopardy. All in all, IBM's active engagement with their markets and consumers, along with the range of flexibility they have demonstrated in taking on new challenges, has brought them the one hundred years of success we now attribute to them.