The Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company Turns 100


One hundred years ago, The International Time Recording Company, Computing Scale Company, and Tabulating Machine Company merged to become the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company. Apparently, people one hundred years ago loved naming companies with a confusing collection of impressive sounding, quasi-scientific words assembled in seemingly random order. And if those company names could include hyphens, well—the more the better.

Today, that company is better known as IBM (the company changed its name to International Business Machines in 1924). It employs 450,000 people globally with revenues of nearly $100 billion annually. The media is awash these days with feature stories covering the company's history. Some truly magnificent innovations came out of the company whose motto was, simply—"Think."

In the 1930s, IBMs punch card machines kept track of the first Social Security Card recipients, keeping records of tens of millions of people. The company invented lots of other stuff along the way that simplified our lives, including:

• IBM co-developed the first computer—the Mark I, the Automated Sequence Controlled Calculator • The first commercial hard disk drive • The first bar code, making automated commercial check-out possible • Improved high-speed processing to allow ATM transactions • Magnetic strip technology for credit cards • IBM put Microsoft's operating system on its computers

Basically, the technology, machinery, and data collection and storage capabilities created at IBM allowed for the rise of corporations themselves. Their ideas became the plumbing and heating of the corporate building structure, essential to success. The Atlantic has a great illustrated timeline that charts the company's history. (Absent from the timeline is anything related to the role of IBM and its subsidiaries in Germany in the 1930s.)