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Making the World Work Better

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Making the World Work Better

The Ideas that Shaped a Century and a Company

IBM Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

IBM helped shape the last century and will influence the next.

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Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Background


Most corporate biographies read like carefully crafted public relations pieces, containing the self-congratulatory prose found in any annual report. In a refreshing departure, journalists Kevin Maney, Steve Hamm and Jeffrey M. O’Brien offer a thoughtful, well-researched and intelligent history of IBM. In telling IBM’s story, the authors trace the history of technology over the last century, explore IBM’s influence and how it changed industry and society. They delve into IBM’s story from its founding father Thomas Watson Sr. and its participation in technology development, to today’s modern international corporation. Even though IBM sponsored and published its own epic tale, getAbstract recommends it to anyone interested in computer technology or business history.


The Birth of IBM

IBM began in 1911 when three small technology companies merged to form the “Computing-Tabulating-Recording-Company” (CTR). In 1924, CEO Thomas Watson Sr. changed the firm’s name to International Business Machines (IBM). Historians view IBM’s relationship to the emergence and growth of information technology in six segments: “Sensing, Memory, Processing, Logic, Connecting and Architecture.”


In the late 1800s, Herman Hollerith, a Columbia engineering graduate working for the US Census Bureau, created an electric calculating machine that used punch cards to tabulate numbers. Cards remained the primary computer data-handling method for six decades.

In the 1960s, IBM launched the Selectric electric typewriters. The Selectric provided IBM computer scientist Bob Berner with a prototype for a computer keyboard. Berner worked on a universal alphabetic code that any computer could understand. The American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) remains the defining alphabet for computers today. By adding extra buttons, such as the Esc and backslash keys, Berner modified the Selectric keyboard for computers. The keyboard, and Douglas...

About the Authors

Kevin Maney reported for USA Today for two decades and is the author of The Maverick and His Machine. Steve Hamm wrote for BusinessWeek for 20 years before joining IBM’s Corporate Communications. Editor and journalist Jeffrey M. O’Brien worked at Fortune and Wired.

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