Watson, Thomas John

Watson, Thomas John,

1874–1956, American industrialist and philanthropist, b. Campbell, N.Y. After rising from clerk to sales executive in the National Cash Register Co. (1898–1913), he became (1914) president of the foundering Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., which made scales, time clocks, and tabulators that sorted information using punched cards, all forerunners of the earliest mainframe computerscomputer,
device capable of performing a series of arithmetic or logical operations. A computer is distinguished from a calculating machine, such as an electronic calculator, by being able to store a computer program (so that it can repeat its operations and make logical
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. The company was renamed International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in 1924 and Watson became its chairman in 1949. Encouraged by his son, Thomas John WatsonWatson, Thomas John, Jr.,
1914–93, American industrialist, b. Dayton, Ohio. The son of Thomas John Watson, Sr., the founder of the International Business Machines Corp. (IBM), he joined the family business following his graduation from Brown Univ. in 1937.
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, Jr., he invested heavily in research and in the 1950s widened IBM's line to include electronic computers. At the senior Watson's death, IBM had assets of over $600 million and a world market of 82 countries.

Bibliography

See memoir by T. J. Watson, Jr., Father, Son & Co. (1990); biography by K. Maney (2003).

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Watson, Thomas John

(1874–1956) business executive; born in Cambell, N.Y. He worked at National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio (1896–1911), becoming general sales manager. During that period he learned the punch-card industry. Sales became the driving force in all he did, particularly after he formed International Business Machines (IBM) by merging several other companies (1924). By 1929, IBM controlled 20 percent of the punch device market. In the 1930s, Wallace Eckert, Howard Aiken, and others convinced IBM to back computer research; however, Watson was slow to embrace the new technology in the 1940s because of the competition it represented to his mechanical devices. It was not until the early 1950s that his son convinced him to enter the computer market and by then he had turned IBM's operations over to his son.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.