Happy birthday, IBM.
By pascal on Thursday, June 16 2011, 22:09 - Permalink
Today is IBM's 100th birthday, if the rumor is to be believed. Just the occasion for a link to this online article about the Polaroid SX-70, then. The article is the work of Harry McCracken. I am glad that 21st century internet allows authors such as him to be heard with their true voice. Harry has written and does write for traditional publications, but either the format is constraining him, or he is not allowed to pick his subjects as freely: it's just not the same. The linked article is representative of his Internet style. It is not typical in that he has outdone himself: this is probably the best article I will have read in 2011.
Why on IBM's 100th birthday? The reason, as usual, is terribly involved.
I vaguely remember a story about Steve Jobs, during his first period at Apple, defining the future of the company for his employees by telling them that Apple could be like Sony or it could be like IBM. I couldn't find a reference any more, but this is definitely something he could have said. Apple has been trying to be like the Sony of the 1980s, and did out-Sony Sony for the last ten years. And it does seem hard to be both: you can be at most one of Sony or IBM.
Still, I am not sure the dichotomy is very interesting. A better one —for us, anyway— is whether we should choose to aim to be like Polaroid, or like Kodak.
The choice has been made for a while, of course, or we wouldn't be where we are today. But it doesn't hurt from time to time to think about where we want to go. We still have choices to make occasionally. And this article about the SX-70 is as good an opportunity to prepare for them as any.