Most centenarians are happy to survive long enough to open a birthday card from the Queen and reminisce about the good old days.
But IBM, which turned 100 on 14 June, is still keen to innovate and forge ahead of its younger rivals.
The firm was originally formed as the Computing Tabulating and Recording Company (CTR), but was named International Business Machines by chief executive Thomas Watson in 1924. Its Hollerith punch card machines revolutionised population monitoring across the globe, in the first-ever US census.
In 1911 the vendor had 1,300 employees globally, but this number has grown over the years to more than 400,000 today.
IBM first began doing business in the UK in 1912 and its first London plant was opened in 1929 in Hammersmith.
Big Blue has seen a lot of milestones in its 100-year history. In 1944, its five-tonne Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator was the first machine to handle long calculations automatically.
In 1956 it launched the first magnetic hard disk drive -- RAMAC -- which fathered the modern storage industry. Unlike today's sleek designs, the 10Mbit-capacity drive weighed 10 tonnes.
In 1961 the launch of the Selectric electronic typewriter was a breakthrough for typists, and in 1964 IBM's System/360 cemented its position as the father of the mainframe and began the era of computer compatibility.
Other pioneering moves included the development of the magnetic strips on credit cards in 1969, the creation of the floppy disk in 1971 and two years later the creation of the barcode, which revolutionised shopping for millions of people. The launch of the IBM Personal Computer in 1981 helped kickstart the PC revolution.
And the firm continues to innovate today, with the launch of IBM eBusiness in 1997 (the same year its Deep Blue supercomputer defeated the world chess champion), the launch of its Smarter Planet initiative in 2008 and most recently Watson, its second supercomputer, which can detect nuances in words and understands irony and riddles.
During the firm's first 100 years IBM inventors received more than 76,000 patents after releasing its first patent in July 1911. In 1932 it surpassed 100 patents in one year, and 1993 marked 1,000-plus patents in a year.
Investing in the future
Jacqui Davey, vice president of business partners and mid-market at IBM [pictured, below left], says innovation is playing a key part in the vendor's celebrations, particularly as it marks some of its longest-standing channel partnerships.
"The thing IBM has done consistently is invest in innovation in terms of both technology and channel programmes," she says. Innovation is still at the very heart of our business."
She adds: "For our partners I think we have always been true to our values and they know they are the key to us going forward. We see different business models coming out such as the cloud and SaaS, and we have made 216 acquisitions over the past few years, which allows us to add real business insight and enrich our product portfolio.
"We are looking at the future by investing in and understanding our partners."
The channel has always been a strong feature of IBM's route to market and to date the firm has more than 120,000 Business Partners all over the world. As a result, the vendor invests about $2bn (£1.2bn) annually in its partner ecosystem in skills development, technical support and co-marketing.
Its investment has paid off, as this year sees several of IBM's longest-standing UK partners honoured for having served the vendor faithfully for more than 25 years.
"We are delighted that those partners are still with us," Davey adds. "We hope more partners will continue to grow with us. If we look at those partners and how they have evolved. We have kept close to each other and understand where the priorities and joint customers are. We can produce positive mutual business, ensuring continuing dialogue and shared insight."
Typex Group was set up in 1978 and became an IBM Business Partner in 1983 after first purchasing an IBM display typewriter.
Managing director Deni Wilson explains: "We were using the typewriters in our own business, but we became so good at using them that IBM asked us if we would offer training to its customers. When IBM started its Business Partner Programme we asked to join and started to sell
Wilson says that after that, Typex took on products such as System/36 and the AS400, iSeries and Power Series - and it still sells Power Series to this day.
Typex has been every type of IBM agent -- a reseller, a managing associate, an IBM Business Centre -- and, according to Wilson, the company has had a great relationship with IBM over the years.
"It has shared its plans with us and has always been willing to help where it could," she adds.
"IBM is always at the forefront of technology and we have seen some amazing products over the years. They are solid products and we always know they will work."
Gary Barnett, founder of JBS Computer Services, says he and his partner Malcolm Jones came across IBM in the early 1970s after a manufacturer called Melcom pulled out of the UK.
"We were left with about 24 customers with a Melcom system and no support. We started our company to look after these people and also to find a replacement system. So we went to IBM and looked at its System/32.
"Our first new customer was based in the jewellery quarter in Birmingham in 1976 and it is still a customer to this day," he says.
"After System/32 [pictured, right] we moved onto System/34, then the AS400 and others. The biggest thing we found with IBM was the hardware: it has always been better than anything else we have dealt with. The software is also great and offers upward compatability."
Gavin Muirhead, managing director of Campbell Lee, says his firm has been in business since 1977, and signed up to IBM's Complementary Marketing agreement shortly afterwards. It then signed to the newly formed IBM Agent programme and saw measurable success in Scotland.
"Our staff have all enjoyed the focus on IBM products," he says. "Now owned by Onyx Group, the relationship between Campbell Lee and IBM is still active and profitable, and is expected to be so for some time."
Peter Spreadbury, director of vendor alliances at SCC, says his company has worked with Big Blue even longer.
"SCC and IBM have enjoyed a long and strategic partnership for 30 years," he says. "SCC was incorporated in 1982 and was one of the first IBM dealers in the UK.
However, SCC acquired the Byte Shops in 1983, which were also IBM dealerships, meaning SCC then had one of the first IBM dealership appointments as a PC reseller."
He adds that the firm now offers a range of IBM technology based on Power, X86 and the full storage portfolio, and owns accreditations for all major IBM software brands.
"In all aspects of our business -- from hardware and software supply, complex solution design, proof of concept, services wrap and finance offers, through to hosted services and full outsource -- IBM is engaged across the spectrum of SCC's customer propositions, not just in the UK but in all our European territories," he says.
"As SCC evolves to meet the increasingly diverse and challenging needs of our customers, IBM continues to be a key partner, evolving with us and delivering new solutions that keep us both at the forefront of the technology market."
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