Talk:Thomas J. Watson

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Watson's (mis)quote seems to have already appeared in

 Chris Morgan and David Langford, Facts and Fallacies: 
      A Book of Definitive Mistakes and Misguided Predictions, 
 John Wiley & Sons Canada, Toronto, 1981, 
 p. 44.

Can anyone confirm this?

According to German Wikipedia:
Im "DER SPIEGEL" vom 26. Mai 1965 im Artikel "Elektronenroboter in Deutschland" steht auf Seite 59: "...IBM-Chef Thomas Watson hatte zunächst von neuen Geräten nichts wissen wollen. Als in den frühen fünfziger Jahren die ersten Rechenungetüme für kommerzielle Nutzung auftauchten, die mit ihren Tausenden von Röhren ganze Zimmerfluchten füllten und unerträgliche Hitze entwickelten, schätzte Watson den Bedarf der US-Wirtschaft auf höchstens fünf Stück..."
The German magazine "DER SPIEGEL" wrote on 26th may 1965 in the article "Electron robots in Germany": "IBM boss Thomas Watson at first didn't want to hear anything of new devices. When the first computing monsters for commercial use appeared in the early fifties, filling entire sets of rooms with thousands of tubes and developing unbearable heat, Watson estimated the requirements of the US economy to be at most five units."
-- (talk) 11:48, 29 May 2008 (UTC)

I have added a reference from the Economist (1973); I can see the relevant text in Google books (search for "market for five computers watson" (no quotes), but not enough context to identify the Mr Maney who says it is a myth. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:06, 8 March 2010 (UTC)

The reference from the Economist does not date from 1973, but from about 2004. It is part of a review of Kevin Maney's book 'The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM' (John Wiley & Sons, Inc, NJ, 2003). According to the copyright page, Maney was born in 1960, and was therefore unlikely to have had a credible opinion on the veracity of the quote in 1973! Maney's book goes over the usual ground of being unable to find any reliable source for the quote, and various possible origins of the misquote, but adds nothing new. Certainly, he is no more contemporaneous than any other source, although on the assumption that he did his research thoroughly the book adds some additional weight to the case for the quote being apocryphal.

It is always hard to prove a negative! (talk) 03:37, 13 January 2011 (UTC)


this section reads so badly it's almost nonsensical. Also, it raises points that are not finalised make it confusing. Artlondon 22:31, 30 March 2007 (UTC)


Does this section-header mean anything? I mean... it's hilarious, but doesn't seem to have much to do with the discussion contained. 21:24, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

That text was introduced by edit: Revision as of 19:24, 30 October 2007. I'll click undo. tooold 22:27, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

When did he cut ties with the Nazis?[edit]

After the outbreak of The Second World War - does someone have a date here? I'm guessing it's the US idea of the Second World War, i.e. 1941, rather than 1939. I can still hear my father grumbling about how slow the Americans were to join the war :). --Chriswaterguy talk 22:33, 19 February 2008 (UTC)

Actually he was directly complicit in the Holocaust and there is irrefuatble proof of this. He continued to provide a leased punch card system to the Nazis that was 100% necessary to maintain the concentration camp system long after the second world war began, in fact until it was over. The American branch of the company performed the requisite monthly maintence on the costoum ordered machines. He is a war criminal in a category with Eichman at least. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:42, 25 May 2010 (UTC)

IBM and the Holocaust[edit]

I don't think that the remarks cited from IBM and the Holocaust are particularly neutral in this article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:21, 11 April 2008 (UTC)

IBM ties with nazis or Holocaust is just trivia. there is no real connection. it's apsurd in my opinion. you can make that kind of construction with any company in the world. you can play with it as you like. so this is for curiosity purposes. because of wide interest on the subject. but no serious article would be mentioning this as a fact. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:02, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Precisely the point your opinion is worthless in the context of Wikipedia and your line of argument is flawed. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:08, 24 November 2012 (UTC)

Proposed Article Edits[edit]

I'd like to propose several relatively minor changes/edits to various parts of this article. But before I list them, first a DISCLAIMER: I am Paul Lasewicz, IBM's Corporate Archivist (see my user page). I understand and fully support the reader's and editor's right to be suspicious of any and all content I provide. For my part, I will strive to make this content factual and objective - my sole goal is to improve the reliability of this article. But I recognize that there will be those who may feel my participation is still not neutral enough for this purpose, and so I will put content suggestions here on the talk page first for folks to review and assess. I would look to those folks for additions and language edits in order to keep make sure the article is in keeping with Wikipedia's policies. I've been working with the History of IBM Wikipedia article editors on a similar endeavor - see the discussion page there for my contributions.

These are the edits I propose - additions are in bold, and the section excerpts are separated by a line of periods:

But first, a comment on the image. The image purported to be Watson Sr. is not to the best of my knowledge, actually an image of Watson. If it is it certainly isn't from 1917, when he would have been 43 years old. I would be happy to provide an image of Watson from the IBM Corporate Archives that more accurately reflects his countenance from the period. Let me know if this is acceptable.


Thomas John Watson, Sr. (February 17, 1874 – June 19, 1956) was the president of International Business Machines (IBM), who oversaw that company's growth into an international force from the 1914 to the 1956. Watson developed IBM's effective renown management style and corporate culture, and turned the company into one of the most effective selling organizations yet seen, based largely around punched card tabulating machines. A leading self-made industrialist,[1] he was one of the richest men of his time and was called the world's greatest salesman when he died in 1956.


In the six months before his trial, he met his wife to be, Jeanette Kittredge. He married her just two weeks after the trial finished on February 13, 1913; he having been found guilty and sentenced to a 5000 US$ fine plus a year in Miami County jail. The jail sentence was unexpected, previously only fines had been imposed; and the sentence was appealed.[1] Charges against Patterson were eventually dismissed because of his efforts to manage the Great Dayton Flood of 1913. Similarly, the verdict against Watson was successfully appealed and subsequently set aside, pending a new trial. The government, however, chose not to go through the expense of another trial, and Watson's name was cleared of all wrongdoing in the matter. [2]


Watson joined the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR) on May 1, 1914. When Watson took over as general manager, the company produced $9 million in revenue and had fewer than 400 over 1300 employees. [3] In 1924, he renamed the company International Business Machines. Watson built IBM into such a powerful force that the federal government filed a civil antitrust suit against them in 1952. IBM owned and leased more than 90 percent of all tabulating machines in the United States at the time. When Watson died in 1956, IBM's revenues were $897 million, and the company had 72,500 employees.[4]


Watson personally approved and spearheaded IBM's strategic technological relationship with the Third Reich.[5] In this relationship, IBM helped make Nazi Germany more efficient; as it did its enemies Britain, Soviet Russia, and the United States of America, where IBM did substantial business as well. Critics then and now believe Watson's receipt of In 1937, Watson received the Eagle with Star medal from Germany in 1937 was for the help that IBM subsidiary Dehomag (Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH) and its punchcard machines provided the Nazi regime for tabulating census data. The most recent study of the matter, however, argues that Watson was awarded the medal for his work as the President of the International Chamber of Commerce, where he championed "world peace through world trade." [6]After the outbreak of The Second World War, Watson began second-guessing himself about accepting the medal almost immediately, and - after much soul searching - returned the medal in June 1940. German Chancellor Adolf Hitler was furious at the slight, and he declared that Watson would never step on German-controlled soil again. For its part Dehomag went into revolt, its management decrying Watson's stupidity and openly wondering whether or not it would best if the firm separated from its American owner. The debate ended when Germany declared war on the United States in December, 1941, and the German government took custody of the Dehomag operation. and the German government tried to take ownership of the Dehomag operation. [7]


In the same time, IBM became more deeply involved in the war effort for the U.S., focusing on producing large quantities of data processing equipment for the military and experimenting with analog computers. Watson, Sr. also developed the 1% doctrine for war profits which mandated that IBM receive no more than 1% profit from the sales of military equipment to U.S. Government.[8] Watson was has been one of the few CEO's to develop such a policy.

Watson also had a personal interest in the progress of the war. His eldest son, Tom Thomas J. Watson, Jr., joined the Air Force United States Army Air Corps where he became a bomber pilot. But he was soon hand-picked to become the assistant and personal pilot for where he would ferry General Follet Bradley, who was in charge of all Lend-Lease equipment supplied to the Soviet Union from the United States. Watson, Sr.'s youngest son, Arthur K. Watson, also joined the military during the conflict.


The IBM Archives Frequently Asked Questions[9] asks if he said in the 1950s that he foresaw a market potential for only five electronic computers. The document says no, but quotes him his son and then IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Jr., at the annual IBM stockholders meeting, April 28, 1953, as speaking about the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine, which it identifies as "the company's first production computer designed for scientific calculations". He said that "IBM had developed a paper plan for such a machine and took this paper plan across the country to some 20 concerns that we thought could use such a machine. I would like to tell you that the machine rents for between $12,000 and $18,000 a month, so it was not the type of thing that could be sold from place to place. But, as a result of our trip, on which we expected to get orders for five machines, we came home with orders for 18." Watson, Jr., later gave a slightly different version of the story in his autobiography, where he said the initial market sampling indicated 11 firm takers and 10 more prospective orders. [10]

Paul C. Lasewicz (talk) 17:50, 8 September 2009 (UTC)

More on misquote[edit]

It might make sense to clarify that any estimates for computer customers would have come from Cuthbert Hurd, who as director of Applied Science Department was the one who arranged the trip with Watson Jr to visit the 701 prospects. The context of course was Jr trying to convince Sr that "calculators" (they were not called computers then) could be sold in more than unit quantities, as the earlier machines like IBM SSEC were, compared to the punched-card gear which was produced in quanity. I will try to dig up sources for this. My disclosure is that I am related to Hurd. W Nowicki (talk) 20:17, 1 June 2010 (UTC)

Just noticed the Thomas Watson, Jr. article does attribute this to Hurd, but alas without a source! (yet) W Nowicki (talk) 20:14, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

"...instigated by managers previously." - previously what?[edit]

In section Antitrust affair, the sentence "Perhaps he was unlucky, but along with 30 other NCR managers (including Patterson) on February 22, 1912, he was indicted in an anti‑trust suit instigated by managers previously." is incomplete. I could fix it by adding "dismissed", but I'd be guessing. --CliffC (talk) 21:57, 7 June 2010 (UTC)

Watson Homestead, near Painted Post, NY[edit]

Would like to have the history of Watson's homestead and the current Watson Homestead.

vjb — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:52, 3 November 2013 (UTC)

  1. ^ a b Founding IBM
  2. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM. John Wiley and Sons. 
  3. ^ [ Archives: 1914|publisher=IBM|accessdate=2009-09-08}}
  4. ^ [ Archives: 1956|publisher=IBM|accessdate=2009-09-08}}
  5. ^ Black, Edwin (2001). IBM and the Holocaust. Crown Publishers. 
  6. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM. John Wiley and Sons. 
  7. ^ Maney, Kevin (2003). The Maverick and His Machine: Thomas Watson, Sr. and the Making of IBM. John Wiley and Sons. 
  8. ^ "IBM Archives: 1940s". IBM. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  9. ^ IBM Frequently Asked Questions, p. 26
  10. ^ Watson, Jr., Thomas J.; Petre, Peter (1990). Father, Son & Co.: My Life at IBM and Beyond. Bantam Books.