Friday, June 17, 2011

Happy 100th Birthday to IBM!

Reaching 100 years of age is remarkable for anyone, including a company, so congratulations are in order to IBM, which has reached its first century milestone as a company.

I can say that I grew up with IBM, having used IBM computers (yes, mainframes) as an undergraduate student at Brown University in Applied Mathematics, specializing in Operations Research, and also while a graduate student there. I spent a lot of time at the computing center since I so enjoyed solving those large-scale network problems.

After working in the high tech defense sector and getting my PhD, I was heavilty involved in supercomputing while an Assistant and then Associate Professor at UMass Amherst. I used the IBM supercomputer facility at Cornell, along with other centers at Illinois, and Pittsburgh, which were all then funded heavily by NSF (what a glorious time that was) and even got to serve on the National Allocations Committee at the Cornell Supercomputing facility.

IBM had an initiative at that time to feature one week workshops in Lech, Austria (and I had heard even in Monaco, but I did not get invited to those) and I was an invited speaker in two of them -- on Computational Economics and on Computational Finance. The speakers would get picked up at the Zurich airport and then driven through the Alps to this magical resort where we had not only views and amazing food but light brown cows with bells wandering around and waking us up in the early morning. We even got a chance to meet some top IBM executives. IBM no longer has such workshops, but perhaps the company will reinstitute them.

We all know about IBM PCs and have IBM to thank for them, as well, and, more recently, the great Watson supercomputer and its Jeopardy win.

IBM continues to innovate and to reinvent itself as a company, and is fcusing now on providing services and customer solutions, and I applaud it on its huge milestone. This article from USA Today has more on what reaching this milestone means.

Another reason that I am personally fond of IBM is because of its employees who are not only colleagues in one of my primary fields -- operations research and analytics, but who are also really terrific people.

Since we regularly host speakers through our UMass Amherst INFORMS Student Chapter, we have had the pleasure of hearing from many IBM greats, including Dr. Brenda Dietrich, who is an IBM Fellow and the leader of its Business Analytics and Math Sciences research activities, and Dr. Robin Lougee-Heimer, as well as Dr. Grace Lin, formerly of IBM.