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The History of IBM Innovation — An Interactive Timeline

In today’s world, we consider tech companies fast-moving businesses whose longevity can be a detriment. 

Innovation is the name of the gameif you can’t change with the times, you’re done for. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the computer world.

In the 1990s, AOL was the only game in town. The world went through the dot-com boom and bust of the early 2000s, seeing numerous stars rise only to explode: Webvan online grocery store,, social networking service,, and many more. Nokia and Motorola used to dominate cell phone sales.

Computer hardware and software manufacturers have fared better. Gateway may have crashed, but Apple and Microsoft have stood the test of time through numerous ups and downs.

Yet, their trajectories can’t even touch the biggest name in technology innovation: IBM.


The One Company That Has Truly Changed the World (and We’re Not Done Yet)

[Click here to view The History of IBM Interactive Timeline]

Since its inception in 1891 as the Dayton Scale Company, IBM hasn’t focused on building a product. Instead, the focus has been to improve both life and society through products and services.

That may seem like a lofty mission, but as The History of IBM Interactive Timeline shows, it has more than been achieved.

Here are a few of our favorite moments that show how IBM has changed the world for the better thanks to its longevity and continued innovation. 

1946: The Nuremberg Trials

It may seem macabre, but without IBM, it would have been difficult to prosecute Nazi Germany’s most notorious war criminals.1946-min.png

IBM developed a translation system consisting of microphones and headsets that would ultimately expedite the Nuremberg trails. The languages of English, German, Russian, and French were simultaneously translated nearly instantaneously.

While the system heavily relied on actual human interpreters, the technology was a giant leap forward in international language translation.

1956: The World’s First Self-Learning Program

Arthur Samuel is viewed as the pioneer of both computer gaming and artificial intelligence. With the assistance of an IBM 704, he developed a program around checkers, allowing the computer to learn from past games as it took on human opponents.1956-1-min.png

And thus, the seeds of modern videogaming and cognitive computing were planted, eventually bearing the fruit that is the IBM Watson supercomputer.

1970: The Birth of Credit Cards

Yes, this was IBM, too. In partnership with American Express, IBM kicked off electronic card payments with engineer Forrest Parry’s creation of the magnetic stripe1970-min.png

Although Parry received credit, much of it should go to his wife. He was stuck on how to affix this form of magnetic media to plastic. She suggested using the clothing ironand it worked! 

1992: The First POWER Microprocessor

Welcome to the birth of the POWER1. Based on this first chip, IBM has built an entirely new OpenPOWER world, spawning even more entries onto the IBM Interactive Timeline.

POWER Microprocessors have helped make IBM server hardware the most reliable platform. POWER8 entered the arena to do battle with the Intel x86 chip1992-min.png

In 2007, IBM’s Power Architecture traveled to Mars as an integral component of the Phoenix Mars Lander.

Then, in 2013, IBM teamed up with Google, Ubuntu, and hundreds of other companies to form the OpenPOWER Foundation, an organization dedicated to sharing ideas and technology to grow the developer community, using Power Architecture as its foundation.

1997 and 2011: Let the Games Begin

These 2 years are milestones in machine intelligence. 1997 saw IBM’s Deep Blue defeat grandmaster and world chess champion Garry Kasparov in match play.

In 2011, IBM Watson was pitted against Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on what were some of the most viewed segments of the popular game Jeopardy! 2011.png

The Watson Jeopardy! Machine consisted of 10 racks of 10 Power 750 servers, and the roar of its cooling system meant an avatar had to represent the machine at the podium.

2016: Watson Walks the Red Carpet

Actually, Karolina Kurkova did the walking, but Watson stole the show. Kurkova wore the Watson/Marchesa cognitive dress, a one-of-a-kind garment that conveyed human emotions through color, lighting up the 2016 Manus x Machina-themed Met Gala ball.

2016: CRISPR Meets IBM

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. That’s quite the mouthful, but what it does is even more impressive than its full name. 

CRISPR allows for gene editing. In 2016, IBM and CRISPR teamed up to remove the HIV-1 virus from live mice. Recently, CRISPR has come to the aid of colon cancer research.

With the power of IBM cognitive computing, CRISPR and IBM may very well take on all known diseases, extending the lifespans of humans.

IBM Marches into the Future

IBM continues to be a success because we continue to use our past to propel our future. We are always innovating and always pushing towards new discoveries to benefit human life.

Visit The History of IBM Interactive Timeline and witness our history firsthand.

You’ll also get another cool surprise – a glimpse into our future and what we’ll be up to during the next 30 years!

Written by IBM BP Network