ibm-logoIBM is now a name synonymous with computers. Formally named International Business Machines in 1924, it has a history going back to the early 1900s. They’ve expanded exponentially every year since then, and became one of the great companies in the history of computing. During the 1960s they held nearly 80 percent of the market in computer sales. The U.S. Justice Dept tried unsuccessfully to break up IBM with an anti trust lawsuit in 1952.

IBM made a number of key technological changes in the decade of the 1950s. In 1952, the company introduced the IBM 701, its first large computer based on the vacuum tube. The tubes were quicker, smaller and more easily replaced than the electromechanical switches in the Mark I (1944). The 701 executed 17,000 instructions per second and was used primarily for government and research work. But vacuum tubes rapidly moved computers into business applications such as billing, payroll and inventory control. By 1959, transistors were replacing vacuum tubes.

A new generation of IBM leadership oversaw this period of rapid technological change. After nearly four decades as IBM’s chief executive, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., passed the title of president on to his son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., in 1952. He became chief executive officer just six weeks before his father’s death on June 19, 1956 at age 82.

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