IBM is turning 100 this year, and in celebration of that fact, the company is gradually releasing a list of its 100 most significant contributions to American society (their so-called "Icons of Progress"). A bit self-congratulatory, sure, but it's a truly impressive list that shows just how adaptable and transformational Big Blue has been as the U.S. economy has twisted and turned and ambled its way through a strange century.
Technology has come a long way since the days of President Taft, and IBM has been there every step of the way. That's no small feat in the famously fast-moving and unforgiving world of high-tech (just ask Sony... better yet, ask Gateway), and I don't blame them for taking a step back to appreciate it all. From inventing the UPC code to developing the floppy disk to (of course) the creation of the PC to even creating the accounting setup that supported our Social Security system, there is almost literally no area of American life where IBM's impact hasn't been felt.
In an era where many of our biggest companies seem intent on lobbying their way to prosperity, afraid that innovation in their industries might threaten their existing business (I'm looking at you, auto and gas companies), IBM is a refreshing example of a company which has consistently viewed innovation not as a threat, but as an opportunity. They have been unafraid to make some of their older products obsolete in the process of working toward a better and more efficient world. In doing so, they have taken part in an unprecedented era of technological growth and change, with their fingerprints all over it.
In fact, their embrace of innovation and change throughout their history is in large part exactly why they're still here today--they were never afraid to fail, and that is why they succeeded. Too many companies today are stricken with the curse of mediocrity, afraid to risk what is already "good" for the possibility that they might someday be "great". IBM suffers from no such affliction, and that is why their contributions are so ubiquitous today.