What Happened on May 21st
The announcement of the IBM 701 computer was a watershed moment for IBM as it signaled that the company was entering the computer business. At the time, IBM was the world’s largest supplier of punched card equipment and supplies, so building a computer was seen as a radical departure within IBM. A major reason IBM built the 701 was that it was described to IBM’s patriotic chairman Thomas Watson, Sr. as a “Defense Calculator” that would assist the US in fighting the Korean War, which had just started. Nineteen of the machines were sold, mainly to the government, military installations and West Coast aircraft manufacturers. They rented for $8,100 per month (equivalent to $56,000 per month in 2010).