Going into its 106th year, IBM faces existential challenges.
Say what you will about IBM—and at this point, nearly everything has been said—it is the only tech giant to reach the ripe old age of 105. The company has weathered many a storm since it launched as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company in 1911.
IBM has made tabulators, giant disk drives, mainframes, midrange computers, PCs, and associated software. It invented or helped invent the bar code, the magnetic stripe found on credit cards, and the scanning tunneling microscope used in materials science and physics research. In the 1990s, IBM started building a giant IT services business that became the envy of competitors, including Oracle, Hewlett-Packard and Dell.
There have been stumbles along the way. In one example, IBM’s army of lawyers let it sign a contract allowing Microsoft msft to sell a version of the PC-DOS operating system it developed for IBM to any PC maker. That paved the way for a raft of PC clones that helped Microsoft—not IBM—to dominate the PC era.
Paul Allen, from Asymetrix Corporation/Vulcan Inc., and Bill Gates, from Microsoft, share a laugh at the annual PC Forum in Phoenix, Arizona in February of 1987.Ann E. Yow-Dyson — Getty Images
IBM ibm has always soldiered on. It touted breakthroughs in chip design and artificial intelligence by its vaunted research team while laying claim to a library of patents.
But in the past few decades, the company has also drawn attention for laying off tens of thousands of employees and divesting itself of lower-margin businesses, including selling its PC business to Lenovo in 2004.