Thomas John Watson, Sr.

business executive
Born: 2/17/1874
Birthplace: Cambell, N.Y.

Having begun his career at National Cash Register in Dayton, Ohio (1896–1911), where he learned about punch cards and worked his way up to general sales manager. In 1914 he became CEO of Computing Tabulating Recording Company, a firm that specialized in selling measurement devices for businesses. In 1924, he changed the name to International Business Machines, a big name for a small company, but he built the company to live up to its name. IBM garnered 20% of the punch-card market by 1929, and in the 1930s began investing in research into computers. He handed over the business to his son, Thomas Watson, Jr., in the early 1950s. Though the computer threatened to cannibalize his core business, Watson's son pursued the computer market and made IBM synonymous with the beginnings of the computer industry.

Died: 6/19/1956