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IBM Research
Almaden's 20th Anniversary

The History of the Almaden Research Site

May 31, 2006

Thomas J. Watson, Sr., originator of the credo 'T-H-I-N-K', created a major IBM division in 1932 to lead the engineering, research and development efforts for the entire IBM product line. The following year, IBM completed one of the finest modern research and development laboratories in the world in Endicott, NY.

Ideas and knowledge are the lifeblood of IBM. Every step of the process by which products and services are created and enhanced, poses new challenges. The solutions are not in textbooks. Meeting these challenges requires discovery and innovation. The predictable progress of technology rests on the unpredictability of insight and creativity. IBM Research meets this challenge by bringing together some of the most talented people in the world and giving them the freedom to explore new pathways. Research's many stellar achievements are evidence of its success.

IBM Research is one of the few industrial research organizations to successfully meld fundamental scientific research with the development of innovative product-related technologies. Projects are generally chosen for their potential to underlie future advances in technologies and service offerings important to IBM.

IBM's Presence In San Jose
The San Jose Card Plant was the forerunner of IBM's epic 1950's West Coast expansion. On August 22, 1943, 105 men, women and children, among them 43 IBM employees, alighted from a special train that carried them across the continent to establish new homes and the new IBM Card Manufacturing Plant Number 5 at 16th and St. John Streets. At the time, Thomas J. Watson, Sr. (1874-1956), declared, "Our decision to establish a plant on the Pacific coast is based not only on the large amount of business which we now have in the territory, but on our belief that after the war the Pacific coast will be a far greater industrial district than ever before." A number of sites in California were considered before deciding on San Jose. The site selection committee reasoned, "The decision was unanimously in favor of San Jose because of its being a home community with good schools and its advantageous location and facilities."

IBM Research Moves West Too
In January 1952, Reynold B. Johnson, veteran inventor, arrived in San Jose from Endicott. In a speech long afterward, Rey described his charter for the new IBM research laboratory: "During the first week of January 1952, I was told of my appointment as West Coast Laboratory Manager. I was told that I would have free rein in hiring a staff of 30 to 50, and I would be free to choose projects to work on. Half of my projects were to be new products and half were to be devices in support of customers' special needs. No projects were to be duplicates of work in progress in other IBM laboratories. The [original] San Jose Laboratory was to be dedicated to innovation. To be given freedom to choose our projects and our staff made the San Jose Laboratory an exciting opportunity, especially since funding was guaranteed - at least for a few years."

So in 1952 IBM established its first West Coast laboratory in a modest commercial building at 99 Notre Dame Avenue in downtown San Jose. At this site, now a historical landmark, the newly formed team of free-thinking researchers was chartered to pursue radically new approaches to information processing problems. Their seminal work resulted in the Random Access Memory Accounting Machine - RAMAC. This invention signaled the beginning of a new technology sector.

IBM Cottle Road Campus
July 1956: A beehive of construction began on the 190-acre IBM Cottle Road Campus. Fourth in the build line, the 'modernistic' Building 25 complex became home to the San Jose Research and Development Laboratories in 1957 and was originally described as follows: "Designed specifically for creative engineers, the five connected brick and decorative tile buildings, totaling 40,000 square feet, feature floor-to-ceiling glass throughout. In true California style, patios between the wings give the effect that offices and laboratories extend out-of-doors. Decorated in quiet pastel shades, the interior is casual yet austere, creating an atmosphere conducive to contemporary concentration. With its extensive scientific engineering facilities, the new laboratory affords the San Jose Research team the resources for its continual search for new knowledge and inventions."

1971: Triangular Building 28 on the Cottle Road site was occupied by all of the San Jose Research Laboratory personnel. The once spacious and 'modernistic' Building 25 had become outdated and too small. Building 28 would relatively soon experience the same growing pains of progress.

Almaden Research Center
IBM chose the Almaden site in order to further expand West Coast Research within close proximity to Stanford University, UC Berkeley and other collaborative academic institutions. Not coincidentally, the Almaden Valley was then, and is today, an area of San Jose in which over half of the researchers reside.

IBM purchased three rural ranch properties totaling approximately 691 acres in the early 1980's: the Stile Cattle Ranch, the Joice Ranch, and the Rule Orchard Farm. San Jose Research Laboratory employees contributed their suggestions toward the design of the new Almaden building, with the objective of creating a facility which reflected the utmost in modern technology and the use of computers, integrated into a warm and congenial environment. Plans for ARC were drawn up by MBT Associates of San Francisco and Perini Building Company broke ground in 1983. The building was dedicated and occupied in 1986.

Almaden Research Center located in the Santa Teresa foothills overlooking Silicon Valley is a 540,000 square foot building, well integrated into the natural landscape, and not visible to the valley residents below. The building consists of a long spine, often referred to as "Main Street," with four wings branching off at 45 degree angles. The site could really be thought of as a small town with most of the services townspeople would expect: Main Street, a library, a restaurant, a theater, a machine shop, an electric substation, water delivery and treatment plants, police station, paramedics, post office, garbage service, a gym, a gas station, in addition to 25 conference rooms, 180 laboratories, and 695 offices.

Natural Almaden
IBM's 650 acres of undeveloped land border the 1,600-acre Santa Teresa County Park. All 2,250 acres are operated as a wildlife habitat and sanctuary. Although situated in the midst of an urban environment, Almaden Research Center was the first IBM site to be named a Certified Wildlife Habitat. ARC received the 2003 International Habitat Conservation Award and nurtures many ongoing wildlife projects.

In December 2005 Almaden Research Center was certified as a Green Business by Santa Clara County. The Green Business Program recognizes businesses that operate in an environmentally friendly manner.

People At Almaden
The lab as it stands today accommodates a population of 800. Most of ARC's research staff members are Ph.D.-level chemists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians and physicists, who typically work in small groups. Behind the long history of Research achievement is a flexible organization that allows individuals to contribute to both the world of science and to the specific needs of IBM customers while simultaneously contributing to IBM's technology base and patent portfolio. Almaden maintains close ties with universities in areas of mutual technical interest. Almaden scientists are also involved in a number of joint programs with other IBM divisions, creating technologies of critical importance. The Almaden Research Center has a distinguished record of major technical accomplishments. Many of the Almaden scientists and engineers are IBM Fellows, IBM Distinguished Engineers, IBM Master Inventors and members of the IBM Academy of Technology.

ARC Lab Directors Past and Present
Frank Mayadas (1986 - 1987)
Juri Mattisoo (1987 - 1994)
Paul Horn (1994 - 1996)
John Best (1996 -1999)
Robert Morris (1999 - 2004)
Mark Dean (2004 - 2008)
Josephine M. Cheng (2008 - present)


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