From History of Computing


The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon

By James W. Cortada

A history of one of the most influential American companies of the last century.





A history of one of the most influential American companies of the last century.

For decades, IBM shaped the way the world did business. IBM products were in every large organization, and IBM corporate culture established a management style that was imitated by companies around the globe. It was “Big Blue, ” an icon. And yet over the years, IBM has gone through both failure and success, surviving flatlining revenue and forced reinvention. The company almost went out of business in the early 1990s, then came back strong with new business strategies and an emphasis on artificial intelligence. In this authoritative, monumental history, James Cortada tells the story of one of the most influential American companies of the last century.

Cortada, a historian who worked at IBM for many years, describes IBM's technology breakthroughs, including the development of the punch card (used for automatic tabulation in the 1890 census), the calculation and printing of the first Social Security checks in the 1930s, the introduction of the PC to a mass audience in the 1980s, and the company's shift in focus from hardware to software. He discusses IBM's business culture and its orientation toward employees and customers; its global expansion; regulatory and legal issues, including antitrust litigation; and the track records of its CEOs. The secret to IBM's unequalled longevity in the information technology market, Cortada shows, is its capacity to adapt to changing circumstances and technologies.


$45.00 T ISBN: 9780262039444 752 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 45 figures


  • [An] excellent and I am tempted to label definitive book.... The research and background context is amazing and the book is readable throughout.

    Tyler Cowen

    Marginal Revolution

  • A good read. It is engaging and replete with juicy tidbits. The detailed discussion about sales, arguably the firm's most influential function and its main source of competitiveness for much of the twentieth century, is the book's key contribution to the literature on IBM.


  • [IBM] touches but lightly on the history of technology and is written primarily with a readership of business historians and corporate professionals in mind. Cortada ascribes IBM's brand success more to its historical managerial outlook and sales culture than its engineering units.... Authoritative.


  • A behemoth of a book for a behemoth of a company.... Chronicles the century-plus long span of a company that once dominated American business. As a narrative history of a sprawling business, it succeeds, with Cortada weaving in more scholarly historiographical debates and analysis as relevant throughout the book. The book is massive and exhaustively researched.... An ambitious and well-executed narrative business history, and many different readers will find something of value in its many pages.

    Information and Culture

  • Cortada provides a world-spanning example of an alternative corporate culture approach that demanded sustained effort from its employees—but treated them accordingly.

    Journal of American History

  • Unlike previous IBM stories by other authors, Cortada takes the time to engage in scholarly debate on relevant topics throughout each chapter. In doing so, it offers a robust and thought-provoking discussion of the 130-year history (from 1880 to 2012) of one of the most important and iconic companies of the 20th century.

    Arena Pública


  • This book is the first authoritative business and technical history of IBM to appear in fifteen years—and a lot has happened in that time. Often overshadowed by the new Titans of the Internet Era, IBM with its 400,000 employees remains the world's oldest and largest supplier of computer services. Jim Cortada is especially well qualified to write this book—as both one of our most respected and prolific computer historians and a life-long IBMer.

    Martin Campbell-Kelly

    Warwick University

  • Jim Cortada's wonderful book took me back fifty years. My entire business education began with IBM, a company with a unique culture and ethos. At IBM I learned a seemingly obvious lesson, one that many modern companies (and later even IBM) ignored, that long-term success is dependent on how you treat your customers and employees. Cortada makes that culture and ethos the centerpiece of his magnificent history, documenting the vast changes that we as a society have faced and how IBM has always been there with us, in good and bad times for us both.

    Ernest E. [Lee] Keet

    President, Vanguard Atlantic Ltd.

  • In IBM:The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon, Dr. Cortada gives us the fullest possible perspective of IBM's leadership and presence in our evolving technology-centric world. We sit at the feet of a master observer, storyteller, and technologist. It is unlikely that any other person holds the depth of direct experience and observation skills he possesses to be able to tell this remarkable story. It is an essential work for one wishing to understand the historical development of our global technology industry.

    David G. Arscott

    co-founder, Compass Technology Group, Inc.