IBM History: Gartner Group
Charles Babbage Institute

Next Article

Previous Article


Table of Contents


CBI Home

IBM History: Gartner Group Records at CBI

Gideon Gartner was one of the most authoritative and respected “IBM watchers” of the twentieth century.  It is easy to forget that between the 1960s and the early years of the new century, IBM’s every move, every product introduction or pronouncement was tracked by stock brokers, share holders, competitors, and customers — that entire knowledge-based consulting companies grew up to provide information and insights about IBM.  Gartner’s was often considered to be the best informed.  Now Gartner’s business records have become available to historians to study at CBI.  And they are fabulous.

Gartner kept very detailed records of his correspondence and business, of his analysis and data, drafts of his newsletters and their final versions.  The records at CBI include his scribblings, speeches, and presentations, and in addition his collection of what others had to say about IBM.  Almost as soon as they became available, I had to rush over to CBI to see these for my research about IBM.  The value of his papers is enhanced by his deep knowledge of the industry and IBM, and the extraordinary level of detail with which he approached his work.  I think he also had the world’s smallest handwriting; no person could put more data and text on a single sheet of paper than Gartner!

Imagine my surprise as I opened up box after box of materials, seeing unfolding before me essentially the history of the computer industry from the early 1970s to the end of the century, week by week, year by year.  Laid out before me were musings about strategy, corporate intent, pricing scenarios, analysis of different markets, such as for large and small machines and software, details about IBM’s rivals, lawsuits, and press coverage — it was all there.  The finding aid was useful and accurate.  The papers had buried within the folders’ formal topics much other useful material.  For example, in folders that were clearly marked “IBM,” there is also useful information about rivals such as Burroughs and Control Data.  The bulk of Gartner’s focus was American, but there is some commentary on Europe and Asia. 

After spending several days examining these papers, I concluded that it would be difficult to study the business history of information technology in the US of the second half of the twentieth century without examining this wide-ranging and foundational collection.  It represents an important addition to a rapidly growing series of collections on the business and institutional players in the world of computing held at CBI.

James W. Cortada
CBI Senior Research Fellow

CBI is pleased to announce the availability of Jeff Yost’s 124-page oral history with Gideon Gartner at <>.


Back to Top | Next Article | Previous Article