Just last month, IBM Watson made big news when it announced the acquisition of Truven Health Analytics for $2.6 billion. With this move, IBM gained more than 8,500 new clients, 4,000 of which are U.S. hospitals.

Thanks to Lincoln Cushing's Oct. 30, 2014, article "Kaiser and IBM — a Long History," part of Kaiser Permanente's A History of Total Health historical archives, we take a look this week at Kaiser's long history with IBM dating to 1943. This partnership goes all the way back to WWII when Henry J. Kaiser relied on IBM to process payroll records in his shipyards. 


An IBM customer engineer works on the intricacies of a punch card collator that includes 17 miles of wire. Credit: Fore 'n' Aft, Dec. 3, 1943, and Kaiser Archives.

These "computers" were really just elaborate electromechanical devices called machines. The success of punch cards during the 1890 U.S. Census "led to the Tabulating Machine Co., founded in 1896, and then the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Co., IBM's precursor) in 1911. In 1928, IBM introduced an updated version of the punch card … which became the industry standard … ," writes Cushing.


Thomas J. Watson, president of IBM, along with his wife, watch Dora Stewart of Vancouver print checks while an IBM supervisor looks on. Credit: The Bo’s’n’s Whistle (NW shipyards), Oct. 21, 1943, and Kaiser archives.



R.L. Gagne, IBM assistant supervisor, displays the IBM machine's "fantastic brain" that does the calculating. Credit: The Bo’s’n’s Whistle, Oct. 21,1943, and Kaiser archives.