Making the World Work Better | Kevin Maney

Summary of: Making the World Work Better: The Ideas That Shaped a Century and a Company
By: Kevin Maney


Delve into the rich history and innovation of IBM with the book summary of ‘Making the World Work Better’ by Kevin Maney. The summary guides you through the impactful contributions of IBM in the field of information technology. Learn about IBM’s journey from its roots in the 1911 Computing-Tabulating-Recording-Company to its growth in divisions like Sensing, Memory, Processing, Logic, Connecting, and Architecture. Discover the inventions that shaped the technological world like punch cards, magnetic tape, DRAM, and the world of networking with ARPANET. Acquaint yourself with IBM’s corporate culture and their vision for making the world work better.

The Birth and Growth of IBM

In 1911, the Computing-Tabulating-Recording-Company (CTR) was formed when three technology companies merged. The company later became known as International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924 under the leadership of CEO Thomas Watson Sr. Historians see IBM’s impact on the growth of information technology in six areas: Sensing, Memory, Processing, Logic, Connecting, and Architecture.

From Punch Cards to Keyboards

Herman Hollerith’s electric calculating machine with punch cards became the primary data-handling method for computers for six decades before IBM introduced the Selectric typewriter, which inspired Bob Berner to design the universal ASCII alphabet and computer keyboard we still use today. Along with the mouse, the keyboard became the standard input device. IBM’s contribution to computer evolution is in designing and improving the architecture of technology.

The Evolution of Memory

From punch cards to magnetic tapes and DRAM, the computing industry has come a long way. IBM revolutionized the system by introducing magnetic tapes, which could store as much information as 35,000 punch cards. This was further improved when Robert Dennard invented DRAM, the simplicity and low power consumption of which changed the computing industry, eventually making it possible for personal computers to enter the market. These significant advancements ultimately led to machines that could quickly access stored information, paving the way for modern computers.

The Evolution of Computers

The book covers the evolution of computers, from the first large vacuum tube electronics-based machines to the creation of the transistor by Bell Laboratories engineers, which led to the development of integrated circuits. IBM installed these new circuits and chips, which sparked a cycle of escalating performance and plummeting cost that continues today. The book also delves into the development of microprocessors and reduced instruction set computer (RISC) chips, which allowed the creation of popular video game consoles. Finally, the book looks at the advancements in supercomputers, designed by Seymour Cray and built by IBM, including the Blue Gene system.

The Innovators of Computer Language

Grace Hopper, John Backus, John Kemeny, Thomas Kurtz, and E.F. “Ted” Codd introduced programming and database languages that made it possible for remote credit card transactions to be run. Their works evolved and became more accessible over the years, resulting in COBOL and BASIC as well as the “Customer Information Control System” (CICS). Subsequent IBM research yielded Deep Blue, which defeated a chess master, and Watson, which triumphed over humans in Jeopardy! in 2011. IBM’s success is a testament to the vital role of culture in management.

Birth of the Internet

In 1969, Bob Braden created the ARPANET network using packet switching, allowing access to the US’s most powerful computers. TCP/IP protocol by Robert Kahn and Vinton Cerf enabled all computers to communicate with each other. The Internet emerged as supercomputer centers became connected, furthered by Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of hypertext connecting pages on the World Wide Web. The Internet redistributed computing power, creating new industries and reformulating existing ones while proving that no one could own information.

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