Chronological History of IBM


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IBM 701
IBM made a number of key technological changes in the decade of the 1950s. In 1952, the company introduced the IBM 701, its first large computer based on the vacuum tube. The tubes were quicker, smaller and more easily replaced than the electromechanical switches in the Mark I (1944). The 701 executed 17,000 instructions per second and was used primarily for government and research work. But vacuum tubes rapidly moved computers into business applications such as billing, payroll and inventory control. By 1959, transistors were replacing vacuum tubes.

The IBM 7090, one of the first fully transistorized mainframes, could perform 229,000 calculations per second. The U.S. Air Force used the 7090 to run its Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. IBM led data processing in a new direction with the 1957 delivery of the IBM 305 Random Access Method of Accounting and Control (RAMAC), the first computer disk storage system. Such machines became the industry's basic storage medium for transaction processing. In less than a second, the RAMAC's "random access" arm could retrieve data stored on any of the 50 spinning disks. At an IBM exhibit at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, the RAMAC answered world history questions in ten languages. Also in 1957, IBM introduced FORTRAN (FORmula TRANSlation), a computer language based on algebra, grammar and syntax rules. It became one of the most widely used computer languages for technical work.

Thomas J. Watson, Jr
A new generation of IBM leadership oversaw this period of rapid technological change. After nearly four decades as IBM's chief executive, Thomas J. Watson, Sr., passed the title of president on to his son, Thomas J. Watson, Jr., in 1952. He became chief executive officer just six weeks before his father's death on June 19, 1956 at age 82.

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