Building IBM

From History of Computing

Building IBM

Shaping an Industry and Its Technology

By Emerson W. Pugh





No company of the twentieth century achieved greater success and engendered more admiration, respect, envy, fear, and hatred than IBM. Building IBM tells the story of that company—how it was formed, how it grew, and how it shaped and dominated the information processing industry. Emerson Pugh presents substantial new material about the company in the period before 1945 as well as a new interpretation of the postwar era.Granted unrestricted access to IBM's archival records and with no constraints on the way he chose to treat the information they contained, Pugh dispels many widely held myths about IBM and its leaders and provides new insights on the origins and development of the computer industry.Pugh begins the story with Herman Hollerith's invention of punched-card machines used for tabulating the U.S. Census of 1890, showing how Hollerith's inventions and the business he established provided the primary basis for IBM. He tells why Hollerith merged his company in 1911 with two other companies to create the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, which changed its name in 1924 to International Business Machines. Thomas J. Watson, who was hired in 1914 to manage the merged companies, exhibited remarkable technological insight and leadership—in addition to his widely heralded salesmanship—to build Hollerith's business into a virtual monopoly of the rapidly growing punched-card equipment business. The fascinating inside story of the transfer of authority from the senior Watson to his older son, Thomas J. Watson Jr., and the company's rapid domination of the computer industry occupy the latter half of the book. In two final chapters, Pugh examines conditions and events of the 1970s and 1980s and identifies the underlying causes of the severe probems IBM experienced in the 1990s.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262161473 432 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262512824 432 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • Our society needs to understand the historic moments which have led to our present position in the midst of the information revolution. Building IBM: Shaping an Industry and Its Technology superbly fills that need.

    Jerrier A. Haddad

    IBM Vice President, retired

  • The emergence of the computer industry is one of the great episodes in this history of technology, but it is one whose pre-PC history is known to few. Building IBM is a lively, objective and instructive introduction to one of the most important chapters in the rise of the age of information.

    John A. Armstrong

    IBM Vice Pres., Science and Technology

  • This authoritative history illuminates the personalities and choices that created IBM's global dominance. Emerson Pugh writes with the care of a practiced historian and the insight of a knowledgeable insider.

    richard S. Rosenbloom

    David Sarnoff, Professor of Business Adminstration, Harvard University

  • Building IBM provides the clearest account I have seen of the technical and business decisions that propelled IBM to the forefront of the information processing industry.

    Robert W. Seidel

    Director charles Babbage Institute, Center for the History of Information Processing, University of Minnesota

  • Pugh's book offers the most thoughtful appreciation of IBM's place in American business history. His analysis reveals the source of IBM's strength over the last 100 years and the shortcomings that brought the company difficulty in the last 10 years. No other author has written about IBM's contributions to technology and business with such even-handedness. Building IBM will be a classic.

    Arthur L. Norberg

    Professor of Computer Science, University of Minnesota