[SIGCIS-Members] Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to Trump (CACM)

James Cortada jcortada at umn.edu
Thu Dec 28 15:22:09 PST 2017


Let me add, with my prejudice of having spent over 38 years at IBM, that
Tom has tapped into a very large issue of how powerful influential people
affect organizations and societies.  My study of Watson Sr. suggests Tom is
spot on: two confident managers willing to take responsibility for "making
things happen," but in the case of Watson with a greater dignity and sense
of values (my apologies to those who appreciate President Trump, this is
all relative).  I have grown to admire Watson Sr. even more as I have
worked on writing a history of IBM (almost finished).  In the process, I
have concluded that Watson Jr. was an even better executive than his
father--perfect for his time--and more for historians, that his brother,
Arthur, is a deeply under appreciated if tragic figure.  Tom,
congratulations on a thoughtful, indeed useful, piece of writing.  Jim

On Thu, Dec 28, 2017 at 4:59 PM, Dr. Michael Dobe, Sr. <
michael.dobe at gmail.com> wrote:

> Thanks, Tom.  After reading your article, I would echo your sentiment when
> you confess to "feeling more fond of vain, pompous old Thomas Watson Sr.,
> and the empire he created, than I ever thought possible."   As you point
> out, Leonard Cohen did say it best.
>
> Nice timing for releasing the article I think.  A year into this, it is
> time to take stock.  Your article is a very helpful contribution as we all
> take a deep breath and prepare for 2018.  Will be sharing with colleagues
> and friends as we ring in the new year!
>
> Michael
>
> On Thu, Dec 28, 2017 at 3:32 PM, Thomas Haigh <thomas.haigh at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>
>> Hello SIGCIS,
>>
>>
>>
>> Hope everyone is having a pleasant holiday. I just wanted to let you all
>> know that my short article “Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to
>> Trump” just appeared in the Jan 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM.
>> ACM agreed to make this one open access, in hopes of reaching a broader
>> audience: https://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2018/1/223891-defining-
>> american-greatness/fulltext. Thanks to Jim Cortada for comments, and to
>> Bill Aspray who has recently stepped down from many years of editorial work
>> helping to shepherd historical material into Communications.
>>
>>
>>
>> The argument is that IBM founder Thomas Watson Sr. and Donald Trump have
>> a surprising amount in common, including an obsession with “greatness,” but
>> that the ways in which they differ tell us a lot about how America, and
>> global capitalism, have changed over the past century. This seemed like a
>> chance to make IBM’s long history seem more relevant, and, when the
>> parallels become more explicit in the conclusion, to approach Trumpism from
>> a relatively novel direction. Also, it finishes with Leonard Cohen, which
>> may be another first for CACM. Hopefully the computer scientists are not
>> going to complain.
>>
>>
>>
>> There is a SIGCIS connection: the piece is deeply informed by a pair of
>> panels on IBM I organized via the SIGCIS list for the Business History
>> Conference a few years ago (Frankfurt meeting). The argument that IBM had
>> been a “model corporation” in different eras comes from the talk I
>> developed for that panel. This argument is combined here with details from
>> my ongoing work with Petri Paju on the history of IBM in Europe (our
>> article “IBM’s Tiny Peripheral: Finland and the Tensions of
>> Transnationality” should be out early next year in Business History Review).
>>
>>
>>
>> Best wishes,
>>
>>
>>
>> Tom
>>
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>
>
> _______________________________________________
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> list of SHOT SIGCIS. Opinions expressed here are those of the member
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-- 
James W. Cortada
Senior Research Fellow
Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
jcortada at umn.edu
608-274-6382
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