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Happy 60th Birthday IBM Research 212

HockeyPuck writes "On Tuesday, IBM Research celebrated it's 60th Birthday "IBM inventions and discoveries include the programming language Fortran (1957), magnetic storage (1955), the relational database (1970), DRAM (dynamic random access memory) cells (1962), the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chip architecture (1980), fractals (1967), superconductivity (1987) and the Data Encryption Standard (1974). In the last 12 years, IBM has received 29,021 patents--more than any other company or individual in the world.""
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Happy 60th Birthday IBM Research

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  • by TripMaster Monkey ( 862126 ) * on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:42AM (#13772706)

    Don't forget good old MCA []. ^_^
    • Oh sure it was a proprietary, nightmare attempt to stave off the clones, but hey the idea was sound and Billy G. had to steal the concept of Plug and Play from someone right? :)
  • And they didn't coin the term in that year, according to Wikipedia. s_from_classical_analysis []

    I know it's fashionable to inflate the importance of whomever or whatever you're trying to laud, but this is just a little over-reaching. Anyone catch any of the other discoveries?
    • by strider44 ( 650833 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:58AM (#13772810)
      From the page you linked:

      Mandelbrot's contributions

      In the 1960s Benoît Mandelbrot started investigating self-similarity in papers such as How Long Is the Coast of Britain? Statistical Self-Similarity and Fractional Dimension. This built on earlier work by Lewis Fry Richardson. Taking a highly visual approach, Mandelbrot recognised connections between these previously unrelated strands of mathematics. In 1975 Mandelbrot coined the word fractal to describe self-similar objects which had no clear dimension. He derived the word fractal from the Latin fractus, meaning broken or irregular, and not from the word fractional, as is commonly believed. However, fractional itself is derived ultimately from fractus as well.

      From the page on Benoît Mandelbrot

      In 1958 the couple moved to the United States where Mandelbrot joined the research staff at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York. He remained at IBM for the rest of his working life, becoming an IBM Fellow, and later Fellow Emeritus.
      • Sorry I misunderstood what the GP wrote, I thought he was claiming that IBM didn't coin the word fractal and though I still disagree that Mandelbrot wasn't a pioneer of fractal geometry my above post is quite irrelevent. Feel free to mod me down.

        Anyway IBM has plenty of other stuff to brag about.
        • I could go ask him, his office is just down the hall.

          I'll never forget my first day here, a cow-orker was showing me around, and I walked by an office door that said "Mandelbrot."

          He's the nicest guy. He's 81, but you'd think he was about 60. Very funny, and very personable.
    • by reverseengineer ( 580922 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:03AM (#13772851)
      IBM did not discover superconductivity in 1987 either- superconductivity was discovered in 1913(?) by Heike Kammerlingh Onnes. What was discovered by Bednorz and Muller (working for IBM) in the 1980s was the first instance of "high-temperature" superconductivity. Whereas the original type of superconductivity was found mostly in metals and metallic alloys, and is only present at temperatures below about 30 Kelvin, the new superconductors discovered by IBM and others were ceramics that were still superconducting at temperatures above 30K, and eventually above 77K where liquid nitrogen, rather than liquid helium could cool them. So IBM scientists made an important discovery, but did not "discover superconductivity"- in fact, quite a bit was known about superconductivity at that time.

      It's analogous to the parent's contention about fractals- Benoit Mandelbrot's paper about the length of England's coastline was certainly very important to the study of fractals (and I didn't know he worked for IBM until looking it up just now), but it doesn't constitute a discovery or invention.

  • Discoveries? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:45AM (#13772720)
    Does anyone else notice that all of the "Inventions and Discoveries" are actually all inventions? Perhaps a nit-picky point, but there are no discoveries listed... (granted, electron tunneling is mentioned in TFA, but the specific paragraph citing "inventions and discoveries" lists none.
  • IBM Patents (Score:3, Funny)

    by bigtallmofo ( 695287 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:46AM (#13772732)
    IBM has received 29,021 patents--more than any other company or individual in the world.

    In a related note, The SCO Group, Inc. (SCOX) has announced that they are suing IBM for 29,021 counts of using their intellectual property within IBM inventions.

  • by YodaToo ( 776221 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:47AM (#13772738)
    You hardly ever hear about their teleportation research [].
    • by jurt1235 ( 834677 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:58AM (#13772817) Homepage
      That is because they compare it with sending a fax. They show that the fax machine they would device with this quantum technique would completely disrupt the original, while sending a perfect version to the other side, which would require the receiver to send it back to you again, again distroying his version, etc etc etc.. So at this moment totally impractical technique at this moment for faxing. The only usefull thing you could do with this, is like teleport a person, but since IBM is not in traveling, but more in business machines (hence the name), they will just not develop this since it does not add in a practical way to the bottomline of the company (read the article about 60 years of research department).
      The other problem with this teleportation is that it looks like to me that they need to transport a same amount of quanta to the receiver already from the entangled pair. Also this should be a specific entangled pair, else it would be received somewhere else. So at the moment you want to send a fax for example, it will go fast and very accurate, however, the preparation sort of takes all the efficiency out of it.
      • by aicrules ( 819392 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:04AM (#13772856)
        Waaaaait a minute. You say their teleportation basically destroys the local version and creates an exact replica on the other it's NOT good for inanimate object transport. However, you then say the only useful thing you could do is transport a PERSON?!? So, you think it makes sense to clone people repeatedly while destroying the original each time?? Even throwing out the views of the religious segment of our population, that doesn't exactly seem like a good idea.
        • Yes, people do not seem to want to have copies of themselves running around (by clone or copy), since this does not add up with creationism or god like figures. So this is pretty much OK with religion I would say: No copy, you just quantumshifted a few miles. It really sucks though if not enough B/C pair quanta are available, you will be completely transported (Blue screen of death: Quanta buffer overflow, not enough quanta available, please restart your system or vulcan neck pinch to continu). See it like
        • Well, I think the ethical issues depend on how much is copied. If my entire body is copied, as well as my thoughts, memories, and personality, would it matter? I mean, if I could convince anyone who knows me (myself included) that I'm still me, then did I change at all?
          • So you would be okay ceasing to exist in favor of a perfect copy of yourself? You realize that you would not be around to be fine with it or not. I know I would much rather not cease to exist for the convenience of teleportation.

            I guess if we amount to nothing more than a bunch of atoms in a certain configuration, then it doesn't really matter pragmatically. Ethically and morally it seems suspect though.
            • Would I cease to exist? To my mind, I wouldn't notice anything between when the teleportation starts and ends. I'd be in an exactly identical body, and my mind would be exactly unchanged. therefore, I'm the same person. If I did it to you while you were sleeping, you'd never notice.
              • It wouldn't actually be YOUR mind. It would just be a completely accurate replication of your mind, body, etc... your duplicate would THINK that everything was a-okay, but the original you would be dead. Yes, everyone around you wouldn't know any different. However, what if the original you did NOT get destroyed and there were two of you. How would you feel about that? Still feel like nothing changed?
                • However, what if the original you did NOT get destroyed and there were two of you. How would you feel about that? Still feel like nothing changed?
                  According to quantum mechanics, that isn't possible, as the very act of recording my information for transport would alter all the atoms in my body, destroying me. However, if that didn't work, then we're in a totally different ballgame. We're making clones or something, which would be bad.

                  The assumption of my statement was that the transporter worked perfectl
                • As I understand it, all the atoms in your body turn over every few years anyways, i.e. little or none of you is "original."
          • I think the problem is that on your end, as far as you personally are concerned you are destroyed ie. Dead. Now on the other end there may be someone running about that looks, talks like you and thinks that they are you but they aren't because you are dead and floating around.
    • Maybe they accidentaly telesourced it to India...
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <info@de v i n m o o r> on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:47AM (#13772741) Homepage Journal
    We should be celebrating the people of IBM research along with the organization. Several very genius individuals were the driving force behind the listed patents. Of course, IBM was great to house them and help them succeed, but let's bless the baby too, not just the carriage.
  • Superconductivity (Score:5, Informative)

    by DrLudicrous ( 607375 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:49AM (#13772751) Homepage
    Superconductivity was not discovered by IBM, and it also occurred much earlier than 1987. The BCS theory of superconductivity came out in 1957, and the phenomenon itself was first seen in mercury by Onnes in 1911. And while high-Tc superconducters were first seen at IBM, this occurred in 1986 [].
  • by TarrySingh ( 916400 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:50AM (#13772757) Homepage
  • by murdochrjj ( 838014 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:50AM (#13772762)
    Whilst it's popular and fashionable here on Slashdot to dismiss large corporations, particularly IT behomoths like Big Blue, as a CS student I am impressed by the quality of IBM's research and development. Real work that deserves real patents, and real recognition.
    • by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @11:13AM (#13773570) Homepage

      Whilst it's popular and fashionable here on Slashdot to dismiss large corporations

      You must be new here!

      IBM are the good guys around here these days, since they embrace open source, promote Linux, ...etc. Also Apple are among the good guys this week ...

      The bad guys are often Red Hat, and always Microsoft ...

      Seriously, IBM use to be the big 800 lb gorilla of the IT industry (before it was called IT). They bullied everyone else, used Fear Uncertainity and Doubt (FUD), and in the 70s and 80s were everything that Microsoft is today: monoplistic, greedy, arrogant ...

      After the minis and client server era of the 90s, they came out humbled and seem to have changed for the better ...

      In the corporate world, it is like international diplomacy, there are no permanet good guys or permanent bad guys ... everyone changes over time ..., including SCO, and maybe Google in the future ...

  • by cmossell ( 892174 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:50AM (#13772765)
    Rather than talk about inventing Fortran, wouldn't it be slightly more impressive to have invented the first widely used high level programming language? I mean, inventing a programming language that is still in use after 50 or so years is a rather impressive feat, but inventing "programming languages" is an order of magnitude more impressive.
    • Rather than talk about inventing Fortran, wouldn't it be slightly more impressive to have invented the first widely used high level programming language?

      FORTRAN is not my favorite language either, but it is a high level programming language. Plug boarding is low level programming. Flipping toggle switches to enter binary op-codes is low level programming. Entering hex codes at a terminal is low level programming.
      Writing in assembly language mnemonics is mid-level programming. Heck, before FORTRAN, m

    • by TwobyTwo ( 588727 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @11:24AM (#13773674)
      The history of Fortran is quite interesting. My understanding is that John Backus and the team who built Fortran were so worried that assembler programmers wouldn't trust a compiler to generate code fast enough for the slow machines of the day [] that they implemented a slew of optimizations that were still viewed as aggressive 10-15 years later. Keep in mind that the compiler itself had to run on these slow machines, with limited memory (tens of KBytes), and mostly punch cards for storing object code, math libraries, etc. By the way, I met Backus once or twice in the late 1970's when I was a very junior member of the programming staff at IBM. He was already something of a legend in the languages community, and I've never met anyone in the field who was kinder, more down to earth, or more interested in having a chat with anyone, regardless of how old or young. The field needs more people like him.
      • As I have heard it, they weren't just worried about optimization... when they started FORTRAN, the very idea of programming a computer in a naturalistic language (hey, it's all relative) was viewed as artificial intelligence, and nobody really knew whether they could get it to work at all.
        • Well, as I understand it, there were some earlier efforts, such as Speedcoding [] by Backus himself, so people had some sense that you could program at an abstraction above the machine level. From what I've read, things like Speedcoding weren't fast, and so speed was indeed viewed as a big hurdle. That said, my impression is that languages like FORTRAN were much more comprehensive and ambitious than earlier efforts, so your implication that people viewed it as magic (ahem, I meant AI) may be quite right.
  • ...they still haven't learned how to hang onto top performers, make their employees happy to work there, or make money on an account without slashing headcount. Don't even get me started on the low pay. ** Warning; comments above are from a bitter, underpayed, overworked employee. They have not been filtered through management or spun through PR, so they may contain the truth. Please treat accordingly. **
    • Sure you're not working for HP?

      As far as I know, the friends that I have that work at IBM are generally pretty happy with both their jobs and their pay, where those that work at HP nowadays are treated like dirt and are miserable.

      Granted, this is in the Toronto area, so things may be different where you are. I'm sorry to hear that you don't like your job. Why haven't you bailed if it's that bad?
    • by Ubergrendle ( 531719 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:33AM (#13773146) Journal
      Granted your comment may be relevant, but I'm interested in finding the mythical corporation in which the conditions you describe do NOT exist.

      Size = bureacracy. Can't be avoided. But where many many other organisations have been choked by their own paperwork, IBM continues to be relevant in a very fast paced industry. Not a perfect company by any means, but better than most based on its track record.

      Generally speaking, the weight of "IBM Fellow" on your business card is worth more than a PhD IMHO.
  • pshh (Score:4, Funny)

    by trybywrench ( 584843 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:55AM (#13772791)
    "IBM inventions and discoveries include the programming language Fortran (1957), magnetic storage (1955), the relational database (1970), DRAM (dynamic random access memory) cells (1962), the RISC (reduced instruction set computer) chip architecture (1980), fractals (1967), superconductivity (1987) and the Data Encryption Standard (1974)"

    pshhh is that all? :eyeroll:
  • by BBCWatcher ( 900486 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @09:57AM (#13772806)
    It's probably appropriate to mention that IBM Research once had a rival of sorts: Bell Labs. Bell Labs and IBM Research were two of the very few commercial institutions that engaged in basic scientific research -- research that would often yield scientific breakthroughs but much less often commercial success. Now Bell Labs is all but gone, but IBM Research thrives. Thank goodness for IBM Research, and kudos to the IBM managers who still keep the "this quarter" Wall Street monsters at bay in order to spend the billions it takes for science.
    • by DrLudicrous ( 607375 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @11:01AM (#13773447) Homepage
      I agree. I was a summer intern at Bell Labs in 2000, and more or less watched the disintegration of one of the greatest research institutions ever happen in realtime. It was a sad thing to witness, though much of what led to Bell Labs current situation occurred before summer of '00, but the financial situation and layoffs are what began then. If you want to talk about interesting groundbreaking research, it's Bell Labs hands down. These are the people that invented the transistor and the laser, discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation, and churned out multiple generations of talented chemists, engineers, physicists, and computer scientists (I believe UNIX and the C programming language also came out of Bell Labs). It's demise should be lamented, though I still have hope that one day it might return to its former glory as a place of fundamental research, instead of research oriented exclusively towards developing profitable merchandise in the short term due to the demands of Wall Street.
      • This was probably the single biggest casualty of the Bell System breakup. First The Labs had Bellcore sheared off to support the RBOCs, then Lucent/Avaya took a lot of the hardware research. The market pressure that had been absent in the monopoly days burned off a lot of the pure research work as being too blue-sky. Having grown up in the Holmdel NJ area in the 60's & 70's, then getting to work in the central NJ campus in the late 80's just post-breakup, I could see the decline starting. Now the Ho
        • It's truly sad. But getting back to the parent topic, IBM is to be commended for keeping on with basic, fundamental research at its labs. The same can not be said for most mega-corporations, but IBM is doing so, creating competition between industry, academica, and the government labs. I still hope that one day Bell Labs will be cut away from Lucent and made into its own entity, and get contracted to do market-targeted research, and then use the profits to fund basic reasearch that it can turn into paten
    • You're absolutely right. I was a postdoc at Bell from '98 to '00, and got out just before everything completely imploded.

      There has definitely been an evolution from long-term basic research to short term applied research in industry, particularly as the '90s attitude of "what can we do to juice our stock price this quarter" trumped "how can we lay the foundation for the next NN years of our industry". Of course, places like IBM Research (which is also something of a shadow of its former self in the physic
  • by CaptainZapp ( 182233 ) * on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:00AM (#13772828) Homepage
    Another birthday child deserves mentioning for its 60th birthday:

    LSD [] was invented 60 years ago by Professor Albert Hofman, who will celebrate his 100th birthday come January.

  • by digidave ( 259925 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:12AM (#13772914)
    Magnetic storage is a stupid invention. As if anybody would keep their information on magents when hard disks are so cheap!

    Not to mention relational databases. How important is keeping track of your family tree anyway? What's wrong with the old flow-chart-on-paper method?

    I wish IBM would invent something useful.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:13AM (#13772923)
    Sure, Happy Birthday-- but news has it that internal morale surveys show that IBM (U.S.A.) employees aren't happy campers. Maybe it's the memos and conference calls directing managers to identify every outsourcable position in their U.S. organization? Great lets celebrate those 29K accomplishments- but lets also ask where the research for the next 29K patents is going to be done. Any guesses???
  • by RKBA ( 622932 ) * on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @10:14AM (#13772931)
    What a coincidence - I'm celebrating my 60th birthday TODAY! :-)
  • Seriously [].
  • IBM invented the first 'PC' called Acorn. It had a 4.77 MHz Intel 8088 microprocessor, 16kb of memory (up to 256k) one or two 160k floppy disk drives and a color monitor. The price tag started at $1,565, which is close to $4,000 in today's dollars.
    Too bad 'Top View' didn't fare as well.

    I wonder what IBM's exact response was to Bill Gates showing them Windows?
    "Thanks Bill, we'll call you, don't call us. In the mean time, have fun with your little program."

    Anyway, happy birthday IBM.
    • I wonder what IBM's exact response was to Bill Gates showing them Windows?
      "Thanks Bill, we'll call you, don't call us. In the mean time, have fun with your little program."

      Uh, Microsoft developed Windows under contract to IBM, writing to IBM's performance specifications. Windows was originally intended to be the front end for OS/2 and not a standalone product. Microsoft doesn't seem to want to emphasize that part of its history. MS also doesn't emphasize that it developed its first big success, DOS, in

  • See, when Microsoft talks about innovation, this is exactly what they want to be seen like. Real innovation, like IBM Research, not the vaporware.
  • by unk1911 ( 250141 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @11:37AM (#13773769) Homepage
    (2003ish): IBM discovers cheap labor in India/Bangalore and starts slashing jobs in the US in small but consistent increments over a prolonged time...

    -- []
  • by SteveAstro ( 209000 ) on Wednesday October 12, 2005 @12:13PM (#13774071)
    IBM labs in Switzerland invented Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy too.

    The inventors, Binnig and Rohrer got the Nobel prize for physics in 1986

  • It talks about 29021 patents. Beside the fact that one, a while ago since it is changing, of the heights of Everest was 29,028 feet, I wonder what that is in PPE, patents per employee. For a big company more patents doesn't mean as much when thought of this way.
  • Does anybody know what the name "Winchester" refers to in this case?

    My father worked on this product in the late 60's and beyond, but I never figured out if they were referring to the Mystery House, the boulevard, or the repeating rifle (all from the same family). My guess was that the Mystery House was chosen as a precursor to San Jose Building 5 :-).

    • One of the stories that I've heard is that it refers to the hardware configuration of the first drive, which had 30 MB fixed disk and 30 MB removable disk, 30-30, like the popular cartridge for the Winchester repeating rifle.
    • It may be connected with with IBM Hursley [], their UK laboratories in Winchester, England, which did some of the original development of disk drives. IBM has a review [] and discussion []of disk 'file' innovation in the 25 years up to 1981 which describes the Winchester technology in some detail, but doesn't seem to identify where the work was carried out.
  • Has IBM's 2500-patent-per-year pace of carving out territory in innovation-space really done the world that much good?
  • GML [] was invented in IBM in 1969. Here is a history. []

    It begat SGML in the 80s, which begat XML in the late '90s. When people discuss who invented XML, I roll my eyes, because XML and SGML are standardisations by comittees - the invention occured with GML.

    Standardised versions of HTML were SGML applications and now HTML is an XML application (XHTML), so the significance of GML is probably as great as any of the inventions listed.
  • All this and they couldn't make their own operating system for the PC.