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IBM celebrates 100 years, GM invests $33 million in Buffalo plant

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It's the big one-oh-oh for former Southern Tier institution IBM.

It's IBM's centennial so the remembrances are rolling out.  Jennifer Micale at the Press & Sun-Bulletin looks at how the computer giant shaped the Southern Tier's economy, for better and worse:

IBM and shoe manufacturer Endicott-Johnson were the two companies that shaped the entire valley, noted Broome County historian Gerald Smith. Without IBM, Binghamton University and Broome Community College might never have been established. The company also established the region's golf courses and country clubs and contributed to higher education, research and development. "It helped create real pride in the community," Smith said. "It's hit every aspect of our culture."

Meanwhile, Gannett's Sarah Bradshaw details the risks that the firm took to stay afloat:

System/360 succeeded IBM's earlier 700 series, which did not have hard drive space but instead used magnetic tape as memory. The 700 series was used for specific purposes, while System/360 were general purpose computers with interchangeable parts and software. System/360 was a $5 billion bet to create something unprecedented, said Bernie Meyerson, vice president for innovation at IBM. "If System/360 had failed, there's a high probability that there wouldn't be an IBM," he said. But the gamble paid off. In 1989, 25 years after Watson introduced it, products based on System/360's architecture accounted for more than half the company's revenue.

And NPR's Jim Zarroli has a timeline of the firm's dramatic rise and fall.

General Motors

GM is dropping $33 million on a Tonawanda plant to upgrade the engine line, reports Matt Glynn at the Buffalo News.  The firm is announcing that investment today in conjunction with an "open house" at the plant - the first one in eight years, according to the Innovation Trail's Daniel Robison.

Personal computing

Bob Niedt at the Post-Standard has a profile of a computer store that's held on in a fast changing industry for a quarter of a century:

The shop is one of the few locally owned mom-and-pop computer stores that has rolled with the massive changes in the personal-computing retail industry and not caved to the consumer electronics chain stores. “I am proud to celebrate this milestone as it represents our resilience in the ever-changing computer industry,” said [co-founder] Thomas Karkowski. The couple said the emphasis now is on service and support — which is exactly what customers are seeking, said [co-founder] Ellen [Karkowski].

GlobalFoundries, the massive chip fabricator in the Albany area, is saying farewell to local boy CEO Doug Grose (native of Cooperstown, RPI grad) and bringing in a new CEO, reports Eric Anderson at the Times Union:

Grose had been CEO of GlobalFoundries since its creation from the manufacturing assets of Advanced Micro Devices Inc. two years ago. But he may not have moved quickly enough for the company’s principal owners. “(C)ustomers are asking us for more capacity, faster technology delivery and greater agility,” Norling said. “The board intends for this new management team to meet those customer needs while improving operational performance.”

Broadband

Christopher Mims at MIT's Technology Review has three suggestions to enable high speed Internet for everyone in the U.S.  His final idea is the most intriguing:

3. Wait for the situation to get so bad that someone finds a way to treat Internet service like the public good it is Slow internet ultimately hurts the bottom line of companies like Google. That's why they're giving away fiber optic connections in Kansas City, MO. They claim they have no interest in becoming a nation-wide ISP, but it's obvious that they're trying to goose the monopolists into providing better service by showing what a model Internet experience looks like. And if existing service providers drag their feet long enough, maybe Google will come up with an ad-supported experience that makes a Google-branded ISP a reality, after all.

Meanwhile, North Country Public Radio reports that two NY congressmen, Bill Owens and Chris Gibson, have managed to preserve funding for rural Internet service through the agriculture bill for at least another year, despite massive cuts throughout the legislation.

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