Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘centennial’ Category

Happy Birthday IBM Selectric

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You’ve probably seen some of IBM’s communications and advertising this year, on TV, print and the Web, highlighting the fact that this is IBM’s Centennial year.

The IBM Selectric Typewriter, introduced in 1961, was an instant hit and sold more than 13 million units before it was retired in 1986. It has most recently been featured in the hit TV show, "Mad Men."

That means the company is 100 years old.

That’s a long time in real years, an eternity in Internet years.

But the celebrations continue, throughout 2011.  This month, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the IBM Selectric Typewriter, which you’ve probably seen most recently featured on the secretarys’ desks in the hit AMC show, “Mad Men.”

But I remember seeing Selectrics while growing up in north Texas, where my father owned a small insurance company, where many of his associates used the IBM Selectric as their everyday workhorse.

I marveled when I would watch that small, round steel ball with the letters superimposed on it move so quickly, turning itself at lightning speed to leave the imprint of one letter after another on the sheet of paper.

Of course, a few years later, when I was in college, it was the very same IBM Selectric model that I learned how to touch type on — typing class, one of the single most valuable college classes I ever took, I used to joke.

The Flying Golf Ball

The IBM Selectric was an instant sensation when it debuted on July 31, 1961, and it remained the typewriter found on most office desks until the brand was retired 25 years later, in 1986.

The Selectric had 2,800 parts, most designed from scratch, and was a major undertaking even for IBM, which had been in the typewriting business since the 1930s and already a market leader.

With its flying golf ball head, the Selectric marked a radical change from prior typewriter design, and took IBM seven years to work out the manufacturing and design challenges before it went on sale.

The Selectric was a game changer in several ways:

  • Its unique “golf ball” head allowed typists’ fingers to fly across the keyboard at unprecedented speed. An expert typist could clock 90 words per minute versus 50 with a traditional electric typewriter.
  • The golf ball moved across the page, making it the first typewriter to eliminate carriage return and reducing its footprint on office desks.
  • Interchangeable golf balls equipped with different fonts, italics, scientific notations and other languages could easily be swapped in.
  • With magnetic tape for storing characters added in 1964, the Selectric became the first (albeit analog) word-processor device.

From Selectric To System/360

The Selectric also formed the basis for early computer terminals and paved the way for keyboards to emerge as the primary way for people to interact with computers, as opposed to pressing buttons or levers.

A modified Selectric could be plugged into IBM’s System/360 computer, enabling engineers and researchers to interact with their computers in new ways.

“The Selectric typewriter, from its design to its functionality, was an innovation leader for its time and revolutionized the way people recorded information,” said Linda Sanford, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Transformation, IBM, who was a development engineer on the Selectric. “Nearly two decades before computers were introduced, the Selectric laid the foundation for word-processing applications that boosted efficiency and productivity, and it inspired many user-friendly features in computers that we take for granted today.”

The Selectric has been highlighted as one of IBM’s top 100 milestones in the company’s century-long history. You can learn more about it here.

You can also go here to learn more about the U.S. postage stamp being released featuring the IBM Selectric.

UPDATE: My colleague Delaney wrote his own remembrance of the Selectric.  Be sure and watch the classic Selectric TV commercial he discovered on the YouTube!

Written by turbotodd

July 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Planets Aligned

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I guess I’ve been living under a rock.

I keep CNBC on in the background at times, and I just saw reporter Erin Burnett being given a sendoff from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.  Apparently she’s taken a new position at CNN, says the Times’ Media Decoder blog.

Adios and vayo condios, Erin, “International Superstar,” as the “Morning Joe” crew likes to refer to Erin.  International markets coverage on CNBC won’t be the same without her.

In the category of mean-spirited piling on, CNET’s Circuit Breaker blog is reporting a group of hackers are planning another wave of cyberattacks against Sony, this time apparently “in retaliation for its handling of the PlayStation network breach.”

They can’t say they weren’t warned.

Then again, there’s an upside to everything.  If you social media acolytes were wondering what it would take to get more C-level execs out there blogging, have your global gaming network be hacked two times in two weeks on the tail end of even more bad news in the form of a horrible tsunami and earthquake, and you might just get your answer.

Sony’s PlayStation Blog welcomed a post (a letter, actually) from Sir Howard Stringer, in which he apologized as well as announced measures to reassure Sony network users, including one for U.S. PlayStation Network and Qriocity customers that includes a $1 million identity theft insurance policy.

Sony will also be offering a “Welcome Back” package to its customers “once [their] PlayStation Network and Qriocity services are up and running,” one which will include a month of free PlayStation Plus membership for all PSN customers, among other treats.

When will that be?  VentureBeat’s GamesBeat says Sony has “entered the final stages of internal testing to bring its beleaguered online network” back online.

This, too, shall pass, and it’s time for a small moment of celebration.

I’ve always been a bit of a space junkie — it’s probably one of the reasons I ended up working in technology.

And if you’ve followed IBM’s Centennial communications this year, you’ve seen a number of videos online and TV spots that highlighted the role IBM played in helping land a man on the moon.

We didn’t get there in one fell swoop.  It took the better part of the decade, and Project Mercury was a key step in the direction of manned spaceflight for the U.S.

NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary of manned space flight yesterday at an event at the Kennedy Space Center.  Concurrently, IBM celebrated the team of mathematicians and technologists which supported the Project Mercury missions in the 1960s.

Professor Arthur Cohen led the IBM team that supported Project Mercury and recounts the project in the video below.  You can also read the fascinating details behind IBM’s support of Project Mercury here.

As you prepare to be launched back to the liftoff of the Space Race, does anyone but me find it strange that this celebration occurs as all the planets come into alignment for much of the month of May??

Written by turbotodd

May 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm

IBM Patent Leadership

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I feel as though I’ve written this blog post before.  That’s probably because I have.

But I’m happy to write it again this year.

Today, IBM announced that its inventors received a record 5,896 U.S. patents in 2010, marking the 18th consecutive year it has topped the list of the world’s most inventive companies.

(Ah, that’s why I’m having déjà vu!)

IBM also became the first company to be granted as many as 5,000 U.S. patents in a single year.

It took IBM’s inventors more than 50 years to receive their first 5,000 patents after the company was established in 1911.

2010 Patent Portfolio: Patients, Traffic, Performance

IBM received patents for a range of inventions in 2010, including the following:

  • A method for gathering, analyzing, and processing patient information from multiple data sources to provide more effective diagnoses of medical conditions
  • A system for predicting traffic conditions based on information exchanged over short-range wireless communications; a technique that analyzes data from sensors in computer hard drives to enable faster emergency response in the event of earthquakes and other disasters
  • A technology advancement for enabling computer chips to communicate using pulses of light instead of electrical signals, which can  deliver increased performance of computing systems.

More than 7,000 IBM inventors residing in 46 different U.S. states and 29 countries generated the company’s record-breaking 2010 patent tally.

Inventors residing outside the U.S. contributed to more than 22% of the company’s patents in 2010, representing a 27% increase over international inventor contributions during the last three years.

IBM’s 2010 patent total nearly quadrupled Hewlett-Packard’s and exceeded the combined issuances of Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Oracle, EMC, and Google.

IBM’s inventiveness stems from the company’s long-term commitment to development and bold, exploratory research. IBM spends approximately $6 billion in R&D annually.

This year marks IBM’s Centennial, and from the first patent IBM received in 1911 for an invention related to punched card tabulation – to patent its inventors received in 2010 for analytics, core computing and software technologies, and smart utilities, traffic systems, and healthcare systems — the company consistently has pursued a balanced and versatile intellectual property strategy that can translate into real-world solutions, and make systems, processes and infrastructures more efficient, more productive and more responsive.

Check out the video below to see  IBM’s 2010 patent portfolio highlights.

Written by turbotodd

January 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm

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