The History (and Future) of


If you're looking for one constant throughout the last century, you can find it in Big Blue.


IBM has been a fixture in the technological advancements that have touched every part of our lives - industry, personal, and government policy and program.

Dig into the timeline to see some of our greatest achievements as well as where we're taking you in the future.



  • IBM_ebusiness

    1891 – The Dayton Scale Company creates the first commercial computing scale.


  • 1911 – The official birth of IBM. Originally formed as the Computing Tabulating and Recording Company, CTR merges with the Dayton Scale Company, incorporates, and turns its focus to the manufacturing of computing scales and clocks.


  • 1924 – Global ambitions are realized when CTR renames itself as International Business Machines, beginning nearly a century of growth that eventually leads to operations in 170 countries.


  • 1933 – IBM buys the patents to the electric typewriter. In 1935, they release an improved Model 1, which becomes the first electric typewriter in the U.S. to gain widespread acceptance.


  • 1935 – Hello women’s rights! IBM creates technical training courses for women, officially helping to usher women into the skilled workforce.


  • 1936 – In partnership with the U.S. government, IBM helps start the largest accounting project of the times – Social Security.


  • 1937 – IBM jumps into standardized testing with the IBM Test Scoring Machine. Shortly after, guessing “C” when you don’t know the answer becomes standard procedure in classrooms countrywide.


  • 1939 – IBM sponsors the World’s Fair in New York City. It is the first exposition based on the future. Visitors are invited to come experience “the world of tomorrow.”


  • 1942 – The war effort calls for all hands on deck. IBM gets involved with the IBM tabulating machine, used to keep track of freight moving throughout the country.


  • 1944 – IBM invents the first machine to handle long calculations automatically, the Automatic Sequencing Controlled Calculator. Don’t try fitting it into your pocket, though. Its total weight exceeds 5 tons!


  • 1946 – IBM develops a translation system featuring 5 language channels for the Nuremberg trials.


  • 1952 – The company begins its “Golden Age,” with president Thomas J. Watson Jr. (recognize the name?) steering IBM toward its destiny as a modern corporation.


  • 1956 – IBM introduces the 305 RAMAC, the first hard disk drive for secondary storage.


  • 1956 – IBM scientist Arthur L. Samuel develops what is credited as the world’s first “self-learning” program. Running on an IBM 704, this program plays checkers, allowing the computer to learn from its past experiences.


  • 1959 – Meet the 1401, the first high-volume, stored-program, core-memory computer versatile enough to run enterprise applications.


  • 1960 – Due to strong sales of its massive computers to large governments and corporations, IBM increases its employment numbers to more than 100,000 people.


  • 1962 – In partnership with American Airlines, SABRE becomes the first computer-driven airline reservation system. It will later re-emerge as the key building block for online banking technology.


  • 1967 – With the creation of the floppy disk, IBM changes the way information is saved.


  • 1969 – Thousands of IBM employees build the computers and write the software programs that help get Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon.


  • 1970 – Charge it please and thank you very much – IBM and American Express kick off electronic card payments (credit cards), thanks to the IBM-created magnetic strip.


  • 1972 – Meet the first modern ATM, the IBM 2984.


  • 1974 – Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio, debuts the IBM-created UPC code. The first item rung up – a 10-pack of Juicy Fruit gum.


  • 1977 – IBM develops DES – Data Encryption Standard – a cryptographic algorithm that’s adopted by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards.


  • 1980 – Three IBM researchers invent the excimer laser surgical procedure, known as Lasik to us common folk. It is now the most popular vision correction surgery, with 25 million procedures performed worldwide.


  • 1980 – No Apple in this pact. IBM and Microsoft sign a deal that puts Microsoft’s operating system on IBM computers.


  • 1981 – IBM kicks off the PC revolution with the IBM Personal Computer – geeks rejoice nationwide!


  • 1984 – Time to talk. IBM computers set a speech recognition milestone with their ability to understand 5,000 spoken words at 95% accuracy.


  • 1988 – IBM debuts the AS/400, a server operating system that is still alive in various shapes and forms today, making it one of the most successful innovations in IBM history.


  • 1991 – A new strategy emerges from the braintrust at IBM. The company commits to being a world-class business services company, starting a trajectory that brings in $56 billion in business by 2010.


  • 1992 – IBM releases the first POWER microprocessor – the POWER1.


  • 1992 –ThinkPad makes its debut and goes on to win more than 300 awards for design.


  • 1995 – IBM scientists determine the properties of a “glueball,” a long-standing theoretical puzzle in particle physics. It only took running one of the world’s fastest supercomputers non-stop for two years to prove that these elusive elementary particles do indeed exist.


  • 1996 – IBM proves they’re ahead of the times socially by announcing domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian employees.


  • 1997 – IBM’s Deep Blue lands an historic win for machine intelligence by defeating grandmaster and world chess champion Garry Kasparov in match play.


  • 1997 – Remember the birth of online shopping? If not, here it is, with the creation of IBM eBusiness, the launch point for electronic commerce.


  • 2000 – IBM creates flexible transistors, enabling semiconductors to be lightweight and inexpensive.


  • 2001 – IBM invests $1 billion in Linux, spurring open source innovation and setting the table for the OpenPOWER Foundation.


  • 2003 – IBM scientists create the world’s smallest solid-state light emitter.


  • 2005 – Time to up the war on cancer. IBM builds integrated information management systems for cancer research. Partners include the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center.


  • 2007 – Blast off! IBM’s Power Architecture travels to the red planet as an integral component to the Phoenix Mars Lander.


  • 2007 – IBM gets into environmentalism, partnering with The Beacon Institute to provide minute-to-minute monitoring of the Hudson River. The real-time data collected helps scientists better understand what’s happening to rivers and estuaries around the world as climate change heats up.


  • 2009 – Let’s take it to the nanoscale! IBM Research does just that by building a microscope that provides 100 million times finer resolution than current MRI.


  • 2011 – I’ll take Watson for $1 million, Alex. Watson defeats Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, two of the biggest winners Jeopardy has ever seen, to take the Jeopardy crown.


  • 2011 – Watson represents another leap forward in speech and speech recognition with its ability to detect nuances in words, the use of irony, and riddles.


  • 2012 – Dr. Watson is in. IBM and the Cleveland Clinic begin programming Watson for patient diagnosis.


  • 2013 – IBM teams up with powerhouses, including Google, Ubuntu, and Nvidia, to form the OpenPOWER Foundation. As a unit, they share ideas and technology to cultivate and grow the developer community.


  • 2015 – IBM partners with Mars, Inc., to begin sequencing the global food chain to mitigate food-borne illnesses and other food risks.


  • 2015 – IBM launches the Watson Health Cloud and IBM Watson Health Business unit, which both go on to play big roles in cognitive research for conditions such as leukemia, lymphoma, and psychiatric and neurological disorders.


  • 2016 – Karolina Kurkova lights up the Met Gala by wearing the Watson/Marchesa cognitive dress.


  • 2016 – Coming soon to a theater near you! IBM computers edit the first cognitive movie trailer, requiring no human input.


  • 2016 – IBM announces the POWER9 chip, creating a key challenger to Intel’s x86 microprocessor.


  • 2016 – IBM teams up with CRISPR gene-editing technology to remove the HIV-1 virus from live animals.


  • 2017 – Jupiter Medical Center puts Watson to work helping oncologists make data-driven cancer treatment decisions.


  • 2017 – IBM researchers announce a breakthrough in transistor design ─ 5nm silicon nanosheet transistors ─ that will keep processors in step with Moore’s Law.


  • 2018 – IBM is set to deploy Summit, a 200-petaflop supercomputer.


  • 2020 - IBM Power Processors are ready for a return to the harsh landscape of Mars. The goal: answering key questions about the potential for life and helping make the planet more habitable for long-term stays.


  • 2020 – Tune in for the final presentation at the TED 2020 event ─ the XPRIZE and IBM Watson challenge. See how start-ups, labs, and corporate groups use artificial intelligence to tackle issues like health, space travel, robots, climate, education, and transportation.


  • 2022 – By measuring speech and writing patterns, IBM AI tools hope to provide tell-tale signs of mental illness, developmental disorders, and neurological diseases to better predict, monitor, track, and treat brain disorders.


  • 2030 – IBM hopes to address some of the biggest threats and inequalities in our world, including illiteracy and hunger, healthcare, humanitarian relief, and global innovation.


  • 2050 – By this year, it’s expected that we’ll need to grow 70% more food to feed an additional 2.3 billion people. With Precision Agriculture, IBM Research is already working on a solution.