Lexikon's History of Computing

* * * IBM: Brief Chronology * * *

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IBM's history of growth and strength in the computer industry is legendary. The initials "IBM" are synonymous with computers and software.

From its early beginnings as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, it grew from a modest 1,200 employees and three product lines, to over 400,000 employees and hundreds of products by the early 1980's. IBM's annual sales increased from $1.4 million in 1914 to $140 million by the end of World War II.

During the stock market crash of 1929, IBM struggled but managed to survive without laying off employees. IBM has remained a leader in the information-processing field throughout the world. Even though it entered the emerging personal computer market only after others were producing computers and gaining acceptance, IBM quickly used its size and resources to dominate the PC market for a number of years. IBM's influence in the personal computing field is extremely strong, but it is challenged by the rapid changes in technology and the growing trend of businesses away from large scale computers to greater reliance on microcomputer, LAN and client-server type solutions.

Growing international competition and the U.S. economic recession of the early 1990's, adversely affected IBM and many other computer companies. From 1990 to 1993, in efforts to streamline operations, cut costs and increase competitiveness, IBM was forced to lay off about 100,000 workers world-wide.

IBM has since grown into a multi-billion dollar company. IBM is the world leader in the production of large-scale computers, personal computers, computer peripherals, software, and the largest provider of computer services and maintenance. Only AT&T and Northern Telecom surpass IBM in the data communications field. By 1993, IBM ranked as the fourth largest corporation in the world with sales of $65 billion and assets of over $87.7 billion.




On December 3, 1886, Herman Hollerith (1860-1929) organized the Tabulating Machine Company (TMC) with an initial capitalization of $100,000. Hollerith became general manager. In 1911, he sold his company to the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) for about $1 million.


On July 5, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) is founded. The CTR was organized by Charles R. Flint from a group of smaller companies including the "Tabulating Machine Company" (founded by Herman Hollerith and sold in 1911), the "Dayton Scale Company" (Dayton, Ohio), the "International Time Recording Company" (Endicott, New York) and the Bundy Manufacturing Company (Endicott, New York). The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company later changes its name to IBM.


Thomas J. Watson, Sr. joins CTR as general manager.


Early IBM machines:

-Type 001 Mechanical Card Punch

-Type 011 Electric Card Punch

-Type 015 Motor Drive Punch

-Type 016 Motor Drive Duplicating Punch

-Type 031 Alphabetical Duplicating Punch

-Type 036 Alphabetical Printing Punch

-Type 055 Alphabetical Verifier


Type I Printing Tabulators are introduced.


Thomas J. Watson, Sr. changes the name of CTR to "International Business Machines Corporation," giving it the now famous initials "IBM."


Horizontal Card Sorter, called the "Type 80 Sorter," is introduced. Type 285 Tabulator is introduced.


Type IV Tabulator is introduced.


IBM founds the Columbia University Statistical Bureau and donates punched card equipment to the school.


The Multiplying Punch, Type 600, is introduced. The Type 600 could take two numbers from a punched card, multiply them together and punch the answer in a blank space on the card.


The Type 601 improved multiplying punch is introduced.


The Type 405 Tabulator is introduced. The 405 model was also called the Alphabetical Accounting Machine. The 405 had a removable control panel and could tabulate 150 cards per minute.


IBM, in cooperation with Columbia University, develops the International Test Scoring Machine (ITSM).


IBM gives its support to build a large scale automatic calculator (later called the ASCC) and enters into an agreement with Harvard University.


The IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC) is presented to Harvard University on August 7, 1944. The ASCC was over 51 feet long and 8 feet high. It contained 3,300 relay components, 2,200 counter wheels and weighed over 5 tons. Work on the development of the ASCC was done by Howard Aiken, Clair D. Lake, Frank E. Hamilton, Benjamin M. Durfee and James W. Bryce. The machine, which was operational for over 15 years, was later known as the Harvard Mark I.


IBM produced the Pluggable Sequence Relay Calculator (PSRC) for the U.S. Army.


The IBM 602 Electronic Calculating Punch is introduced.


The IBM 603 Electronic Multiplier was announced. IBM made about 100 Model 603's and then introduced an improved version, the Model 604 in 1948.


In January 1948, the IBM Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator was dedicated by T. J. Watson, Sr., at the IBM showroom, Madison Avenue, New York, New York. The SSEC was set up around the periphery of a 60 foot by 30 foot room. It contained over 20,000 relays and 12,500 vacuum tubes. IBM had also used the machine internally, through Wallace J. Eckert, director of IBM's Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory. The SSEC was IBM's largest and most powerful machine up to this time. The SSEC was used for a variety of problem solving applications, including problems in planetary orbits, atomic fields, fluids, optics, ordnance and hydrodynamics. In 1952, the SSEC was shut down and no longer used.


The IBM 604 Electronic Calculator is introduced. The 604 contained over 1,400 vacuum tubes. The 604 was designed with pluggable units, which improved the manufacturing, testing and repair processes. The model 604 was very successful and over 5,600 were made from 1948 until about 1958.


The Model 407 Accounting Machine is introduced.


The Card-Programmed Electronic Calculator (CPC) is announced. The CPC system was composed of the 604 Electronic Calculator, Type 521 Card Punch, Type 402 Accounting Machine and other optional devices.


Work begins on the Magnetic Drum Calculator (MDC).


In September, IBM discussed plans for building a very fast computer for the U.S. Navy. The computer is later called the NORC (Naval Ordnance Research Calculator).


IBM opens its first UK subsidiary.


In January, IBM embarked on a program to develop a Defense Calculator, in response to U.S. military needs in light of the Korean Conflict. This research grows into the Type 701 computer.


By the end of 1951, IBM had completed its Tape Processing Machine

(TPM) which used magnetic tape and a large arithmetic logic unit (ALU) consisting of 2,500 vacuum tubes. The ALU assembly was referred to as the "main frame" which later became a common term for large computers. The maximum speed of the TPM was 70 inches per second, or about 7,000 characters per second. The TPM was demonstrated to government and military officials.


Work is done on the IBM Type 701 computer. The system included the analytical control unit, two electrostatic storage units, punched card reader, alphabetical printer, punched-card recorder, magnetic- tape recorder, two magnetic-tape reader and recorders, and a magnetic-drum reader and recorder. The 701 was promoted as being 25 times faster than the IBM SSEC of 1948.


IBM announces the Type 701, Electronic Data Processing Machine in April of this year. A total of 19 type 701 computers were built by IBM from April 1953 to April 1955. The last machine was purchased by the U.S. Weather Bureau for use by the Joint Numerical Weather Prediction Unit. The 701 was originally called the Defense Calculator.


Announcement of the completed Model 650 Magnetic Drum Calculator. The 650 used a magnetic drum 4 inches by 16 inches, which turned at 12,500 revolutions per minute. About 1,800 Model 650s were produced up until 1965.


IBM 607 Electronic Calculating Punch was built.


IBM announces the Tape Processing Machine II (TPM II) as the IBM Type 702 Electronic Data Processing Machine, which would be ready for distribution in 1955.


(April\May) IBM announces the Type 704 Electronic Data Processing Machine. Later versions of the 704 used ferrite core memory. Several IBM 704's were used at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.


(October) IBM announces the Type 705 Electronic Data Processing Machine.


(October) IBM demonstrates an experimental model 604 electronic calculator which used all transistors. The first all-transistor calculator was based on these circuits, later sold as the IBM 608.


(December) The Naval Ordnance Research Calculator (NORC) was announced to the public.


The IBM EDPM 704 Electronic Data Processing Machine was developed


The first IBM model 702 is delivered by IBM in February of 1955. IBM builds a total of 14 model 702's.


(December) the first IBM model 704 is shipped to IBM headquarters.


(January) IBM shipped its first model 705 computers to customers.


(January) IBM contracted with the National Security Agency (NSA) to develop memory technology as part of Project Silo.


(July) IBM announces the small scale computer system, IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control).


(January) IBM announces the Type 709 Electronic Data Processing Machine.


(September) IBM announces the Type 705 III Electronic Data Processing Computer, its last large-scale vacuum tube based machine.


The IBM 608 was the first commercial electronic calculator made using all solid-state circuitry and memory. It was first shipped by IBM in December 1957.


(September) IBM announces the Type 610 Auto-Point Computer. About 180 of these medium scale vacuum-tube based machines were ultimately produced.


IBM produces the model 350 disk drive unit.


(July) IBM contracts to supply transistorized 709's for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). The model 709 is later called model 7090. IBM makes available small input/output processors to increase the speed of the 709 systems by taking some of load off the CPU.


IBM agrees to produce a large computer system for the National Security Agency (NSA) under the code name "Harvest." The Harvest system was delivered to the NSA in February 1962, and ran for 14 years.


(October) IBM announces the 7090 Data Processing System.


(September) IBM announces the 1401 Data Processing System.


(October) IBM announces the CADET computer, also known as the IBM 1620 System.


(December) Standard Modular System (SMS) technology was included in the 7090 computer systems.


(December) IBM ships the first model 7090 computer to Sylvania for use in the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS). IBM also ships the 1620. The 7090 and 1620 are fully transistorized, second generation computers. The IBM 7090 system sold for about $3 million. IBM sold or leased over 400 of these machines throughout the 1960's.


IBM marketed the 1401, which could be leased for business use for about $2,500 per month.


IBM introduces the "Selectric" typewriter, with a non-moving carriage and a round typing element. The Selectric became the first commercially successful ball-typewriter. The Selectric's ball- shaped printing mechanism had been prototyped on the early IBM 7030 Stretch computer in 1958.


(April) IBM delivers the STRETCH to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL). The STRETCH computer was built as part of the model 7030 program. About nine STRETCH computers were built in all.


IBM produces the 1405 disk drive unit.


IBM produces the 1301 Data Storage Units


(January) IBM announces the 7094 Data Processing System.


(October) IBM announces the 1440 Data Processing System.


IBM produces the 1311 disk drive units.


(April) IBM announces the System/360 computer. This was the most expensive and riskiest undertaking by IBM since its inception. Thomas J. Watson, Jr. and T. Vincent Learson, Vice President of IBM's General Product Division and its Data Systems Division, viewed the System/360 as a major step in IBM's road to obtain a large share of the business computing market. The term "360" was chosen to emphasize the computer's versatile nature, covering a 360 degrees radius of business applications. Bob O. Evans, who was in charge of planning and development in IBM's Data Systems Division, chaired a committee to develop IBM's long range computer systems strategy. The committee made its recommendations in January 1962, which included the concept of the System/360. Over 1,000 computers are ordered within the first 30 days.


(April) IBM ships the first System/360 Model 40. (June) IBM ships the first System/360 Model 30. (August) IBM ships the first System/360 Model 50. (November) IBM ships the first System/360

Model 65.


IBM ships the first System/360 Model 75 in 1966. By end of 1966, world-wide production of all IBM System 360's numbered about 1,000 per month. IBM's gross sales for 1966 exceeded $4.2 billion, an increase over the previous year. By 1968, IBM had installed over 14,000 System/360 large-scale computer systems.


IBM produces the 2314 disk drive unit.


The System/3, IBM's first minicomputer, was introduced.


IBM introduced a new model of the System/360 mainframe, the model 195. The model 195 could process an instruction in 54 billionths of a second, has main core memory of 4 million bytes. Frank G. Rogers, president of IBM's data processing division, describes it as the new top of the System/360 line with unique performance not only for scientists but for large-scale commercial users as well. The machine competes with other big machines marketed by Control Data Corporation, Sperry Rand Univac, and Burroughs.


IBM ships its System/370 computer, its first fourth generation computer system.


(June) IBM introduces the System/370 Model 145, the first commercial computer utilizing all-semiconductor main memory.


IBM produces the 3330 disk drive unit.


IBM produces the 3340 disk drive unit.


(September) IBM's System Network Architecture (SNA*) was released.


The IBM 5100 was IBM's first personal computer. It was announced in 1975.


IBM produces the 3350 disk drive unit.


IBM produces the 3370 disk drive unit.


An IBM research team, including Philip Estridge, begins work on the "IBM PC" project. The Intel 8088 microprocessor chip is selected as the heart of the new system, making Intel a de-facto standard.


IBM introduces the IBM PC.


IBM produces the 3380 disk drive unit.


IBM introduced the "IBM PC XT."


IBM announces the PC Jr.


IBM introduced the "IBM PC AT."

IBM Portable Personal Computer. (See Photo)


IBM released SAA (Systems Applications Architecture) in March of 1987.


(April 2) IBM introduced a new family of personal computers, called the Personal System/2. With the PS/2 family of machines,
IBM introduced Micro Channel Architecture (MCA). MCA provided increased capabilities and potential for the PC, such as running multimedia applications.

1989 (approx)

IBM produces the 3390-2 disk drive units.


IBM announces its first full Intel based 80486 based system, utilizing a PS/2 model 70. This 25 MHz system reports twice the performance of a 33 MHz 386 based system and almost three times the performance of a 25 MHz 386 PC.


IBM spun off its Personal Systems Division into a new company called "The IBM Personal Computer Company." IBM's share of the PC market had dropped to less than 15% from its 1987 level of 30%.


IBM and Apple enter into agreement to develop software that runs on both OS/2 and Macintosh platforms.


IBM acquires Lotus Development Corporation for an estimated $3.5 billion.


IBM and Dell Computer unveiled a $16 billion agreement that calls for Dell to buy storage, microelectronics, networking and display technology from IBM for integration into Dell systems. The agreement was expected to include IBM's copper, silicon-on-insulator and other advanced technologies.


Did you know?
IBM got its nickname "Big Blue" not from the color of the computers but from the dark blue suits that its early sales force wore. IBM had one of the greatest sales forces in the country, even before IBM started making and selling digital computers.


For further information,

See Bibliography

See Early Computing and IBM

See also IBM online

IBM PC History and Photos

IBM Company Additional Historical Information

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Copyright © 1982-2003, Lexikon Services "History of Computing" ISBN 0-944601-78-2