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IBM Research - Almaden History

The History of the IBM Research - Almaden Site

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.

IBM Research - Almaden
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 Almaden 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.

IBM Research - Almaden 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, IBM Research - Almaden was the first IBM site to be named a Certified Wildlife Habitat. Almaden received the 2003 International Habitat Conservation Award and nurtures many ongoing wildlife projects.

In December 2005 IBM Research - Almaden 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 IBM Research - Almaden 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.

Almaden 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 - 2011)
Michael Karasick (2011 - present)

Years of Innovation at IBM Research - Almaden

IBM Research - Almaden: Timeline and Milestones

IBM Research - Almaden Timeline and Milestones
  • Decision made to build new laboratory.
  • Construction begins.
1986 Relational Database
  • IBM Research - Almaden dedicated.
  • Developed the Distributed Relational Database Architecture protocol and algorithms that allow databases to scale efficiently to very large sizes by adding more processors.
  • Developed the "query graph model" data structure that allowed DB2 to be extended to handle a wide variety of new data types.
  • First to propose "Fast-Write" for disk controllers.
  • First STM image of an organic molecule: benzene ring.
  • Developed the "Hagar" disk array, the first industrial RAID data-storage prototype.
  • Working with a thallium-based material, Almaden scientists report the highest superconducting transition temperature for a bulk material and thin film (125K).
  • First internet connection.
Xenon IBM on nickel
  • Developed the ARIES algorithm for recovering data efficiently and effectively from failures within the database system.
  • First to position individual atoms one at a time: I-B-M written in xenon atoms using an STM.
  • 1 gigabit data-density magnetic recording demonstration.
  • Single-peak nuclear magnetic resonance seen in C-60 (buckminsterfullerene); first proof of the suspected symmetric, soccerball shape for C-60.
  • Discovered that the exchange coupling between two ferromagnetic films through a very thin non-magnetic metal spacer layer oscillates as the thickness of the spacer layer increases.
  • C-60 on gold surface imaged using an STM.
  • Single-atom switch created.
  • As an internal project, developed technologies for backup-restore and archive-retrieve functions for heterogeneous data that ultimately led to today's Tivoli Storage Manager product.
1993 Single Walled Carbon Nanotubes
  • Quantum Corral created.
  • Introduced zoned recording with sector servo and No-ID sector format for efficient layout of information on the disk.
  • Discovered single-wall carbon nanotubes.
1994 TrackPoint -- In-Keyboard Pointing Device
  • Invented the first data mining algorithms.
  • Published the first technical paper that links to a World Wide Web animation: a hyper-media file showing fracture-tip instabilities in a million-atom 2-D notched solid under tension.
  • Multilevel optical disk announced.
  • Developed the improved TrackPoint III pointing device (and then the TrackPoint IV in 1997).
  • Announced first spin-valve (GMR) head: world's most sensitive read head.
  • The Center on Polymer Interfaces and Macromolecular Assemblies (CPIMA) was established as a partnership among research groups from Stanford University, IBM Research - Almaden, and the University of California Davis devoted to the fundamental study of the interfacial science of organic thin films prepared from polymers and low molecular weight amphiphiles.
  • 3 gigabit data-density magnetic recording demonstration.
  • Played a central role in the unification of two competing DVD formats.
  • Created the easy-to-use Chemical Kinetics Simulator. Now used worldwide in academia, industry and government, some 30,000 copies have been downloaded under a no-cost license.
  • Reliable method created for generating an infinite number of provably difficult problems, a capability useful in developing public-key cryptography.
  • Analyzed web-page-linking for the first time, leading to the concepts of hubs and authorities, advanced search technologies, WebFountain and other large-scale text analytics technologies and tools.
  • 5 gigabit data-density magnetic recording demonstration.
ScrollPoint Mouse
  • World's first public-key encryption scheme created with a mathematically proven uniform level of protection.
  • Developed the ScrollPoint Mouse, which uses TrackPoint technology to enable easy and intuitive document and web-page scrolling.
  • 11.6 gigabit data-density magnetic recording demonstration.
1998 IBM Microdrive
  • IBM Microdrive -- the world's smallest disk drive -- is announced.
  • Proposed the concept of managing data over Ethernet using Internet protocols that would become the iSCSI industry standard.
  • Developed the General Parallel File System (GPFS), which large supercomputer clusters use to manage hundreds of terabytes and to read/write at several gigabytes per second.
  • Linked macro-, meso- and microscopic material dynamics computer simulations seamlessly to model the rapid brittle fracture of a 100-million-atom slab of silicon.
  • Using GPFS on part of the ASCI White supercomputer, one terabyte of random data is sorted in a world record 17 minutes, 37 seconds -- three times faster than the previous mark.
GMR: IBM's data-density world record
  • 35.3 gigabit data-density magnetic recording demonstration.
  • Exploited our strengths in database and computational chemistry to create key technologies for IBM's DiscoveryLink product, a system for integrated access to life sciences data sources.
  • IBM's DB2 Universal Database shatters Windows NT scalability barrier with the industry's first-ever one terabyte TPC-D benchmark on Windows NT.
2000 Quantum Mirage
  • Quantum mirage observed.
  • Developed optical device that efficiently shapes a Gaussian laser beam into a flat intensity profile and propagates great distances.
  • 5-qubit quantum computer demonstrated by executing quantum "order-finding" algorithm.
  • Demonstrated holographic data storage density of 254 gigabits per square inch -- 80 times that of a DVD.
  • IBM awarded the National Medal of Technology for its leadership in developing and commercializing data storage technology.
2001 Molecule used for Quantum Computing
  • IBM ships disk drives with new "antiferromagnetically coupled" magnetic media.
  • 7-qubit quantum computer demonstrates Shor's algorithm by factoring 15.
  • Magnetic resonance force microscope measures world's smallest force: 820 zeptonewtons.
  • IBM ships the 200i that is the industry's first iSCSI storage controller, spurring the development of what is now a $500 million industry.
  • Information Integration, which uses advanced technologies to leverage existing data of all types, and enables real time integration across all data sources, is based on Garlic, is launched, creating a large business for the software group.
2002Image from Billion Atom Simulation
  • Hippocratic Database proposed to enhance privacy of sensitive personal data.
  • Created the molecule cascade -- first circuit to demonstrate necessary computing qualities.
  • An unprecedented billion-atom computer simulation showed the creation and entanglement of dislocations that work-harden a ductile metal into a brittle material.
  • Created the Services Research function.
2003 Virtualization
    • Established industry leadership in Storage Virtualization with SAN Volume Controller.
    MRFM: How it works
    • Created with Stanford University the IBM-Stanford Center for Spintronic Science and Applications (SpinAps) to research and develop new types of circuits that exploit the quantum spin properties of electrons.
    • Imaged a single electron spin with a magnetic resonance force microscope, a major milestone toward achieving 3-D atom-scale magnetic resonance imaging. Measured the energy required to flip the spin of a single electron using a new scanning tunneling microscope technique.
    2005 IceCube
    • Announced the Interoperable Health Information Infrastructure, a prototype medical information exchange system to enable industry collaboration and accelerate development of a standards-based national healthcare information system.
    • ASC Purple supercomputer delivered to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
    • Installed prototype version of GPFS on the Blue Gene system at the San Diego Supercomputing Center
    • Intelligent Bricks project prototype, "IceCube," capable of storing 26 TB is operational.
    2006 Image of 29.9 nm lines on left compared to industry standard 90 nm lines on right
    • Created the smallest, high-quality line patterns ever made using deep-ultraviolet (DUV, 193-nanometer) optical lithography.
    • Developed a new way to explore and control atom-scale magnetism
    • Demonstrated a new method for rapid molecule sorting and delivery
    • Set world record (6.67 billion bits per square inch) in magnetic tape data density
    • Demonstrated a promising new memory chip technology with Macronix & Qimonda joint research teams
    • Brought electronic medical records one step closer by contributing technology to open source community
    2007 Illustration of the preferred magnetic orientation of an iron atom on a specially prepared copper surface.
    • MRI technology achievement marked significant advance toward the imaging of molecular structures
    • First-ever manufacturing application of "self assembly" used to create a vacuum -- the ultimate insulator -- around nanowires for next-generation microprocessors
    • Contributed STEM software that predicts spread of emerging infectious diseases to open source
    • IBM's first Cloud Computing Center was established in the IBM Research - Almaden in Silicon Valley in June.
    • Probed magnetic anisotropy in individual atoms
    • Provided Coscripter, a simplified consumer internet experience as a free online service
    2008 Illustration of Racetrack Memory
    • First measurement of the force required to move individual atoms
    • Developed a "Rehearsal Studio" to let you practice your job in a 3-D world
    • The fundamentals of a technology dubbed "racetrack" memory was described as well as a milestone in that technology
    • New data sharing technology speeds international collaboration to identify and respond to infectious diseases
    • Demonstrated groundbreaking performance results that outperform the world's fastest disk storage solution by over 250 percent
    • Forged a breakthrough in understanding an intriguing phenomenon in fundamental physics: the Kondo effect
    • The cognitive computing project seeks to build the computer of the future based on insights from the brain
    2009 Brain mapping illustration
    • New desalination membranes developed in collaboration with Central Glass and KACST could help remedy the world's growing water shortage
    • Began exploring battery technologies to further electric vehicle adoption and make energy grids more efficient
    • Explored the use of DNA scaffolding to build tiny circuit boards
    • Performed cat-scale cortical simulations and mapped the human brain in effort to build advanced chip technology
    2010 STM time resolution 3d rendering
    • Demonstrated a world record in areal data density on linear magnetic tape
    • CoScripter Reusable History, a new tool for knowledge sharing on the Web was made available
    • A "Green" chemistry breakthrough that could lead to new types of environmentally sustainable plastics was unveiled
    • A breakthrough 3D microscopic technique improves development of nanoscale structures and devices
    • Launched a research effort to build 360 degree view of factors affecting human health
    • IBM and Guang Dong Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine analyze digital medical records to understand kidney disease treatment efficacy
    • New 'Email Triage' technology helps manage urgent issues on mobile devices
    • Scanning Tunneling Microscope breakthrough captures high speed measurements of individual atoms
    • The new General Parallel File System-Shared Nothing Cluster (GPFS-SNC)architecture can double analytics processing speed

    Facts about the IBM Research - Almaden site

    • Almaden's site contains about 690 acres.
    • We cooperate in managing our site wildlife with the adjacent Santa Teresa County Park (2,500 acres) and IBM's Silicon Valley Lab, which has 1,100 acres. Activities include introducing wild turkeys and endangered burrowing owls. Volunteers monitor numerous onsite bird houses in cooperation with the Coyote Creek Riparian Station.
    • Building size: 542,000 square feet of space.
    • The Almaden building contains 557 single-person offices, 20 group offices and 155 laboratories.
    • Almaden's building was designed by MBT Associates (now called MBT Architecture), a SF-based firm specializing in buildings for science, education and art. MBT also designed IBM's nearby Silicon Valley Lab and numerous notable laboratories in the Bay Area (and elsewhere in the U.S.)
    • Green slate pavers came from China.
    • Wood paneling is yellow pine.
    • For earthquake safety, the building actually comprises seven separate structurally simple buildings -- four wings and three "Main Street" or "spine" structures. A small gap between the wings allows each to vibrate separately. Flexible couplings for water, gas and electrical conduits span the gaps. During the big 1989 earthquake, there was very little damage here, even though the epicenter was only 10 miles to our south.
    • The building's characteristic blue-green "Almaden green" color was selected to harmonize with the color of native oaks, so the building would not have a glaring 'king of the hill' appearance.
    • Lab wings are designed with window offices on the outside and labs in the interior. Ideally, a scientists labs are located just across the hall from their labs. A utility core runs through the middle of the lab wings, delivering a variety of supplies (cooling water, gases etc.) to labs in a way that permits easy rearrangements within the lab spaces without having to reroute major utility lines.
    • At the end of every long hall, there is a window. This design feature makes the hallway seem more open and pleasant; not long and walled in.
    • Located along the spine are offices and facilities that are used by the entire building population: some classrooms, meeting rooms, director's offices, staff functions, library, cafeteria, machine shop, security, shipping & receiving etc.
    • Trees in the wing courtyards are White Poplars. The grey-green boulders are serpentine, the state mineral of California, which is related to jade. Serpentine predominates the south side of the Almaden site.
    • Because the chemical composition of serpentine is unusual (high in magnesium, iron, chromium, nickel and cobalt, and low in calcium, potassium and sodium), only a few, often rare, plants are adapted to thrive in serpentine soils. A federally listed rare and endangered plant (Hamilton thistle) is found on the Almaden site. "Islands" of serpentine soils are found throughout California and are often associated with rare plants (Examples: Tiburon, Edgewood Park in San Mateo; Jasper Ridge near Stanford.)
    • Other trees planted on site include Japanese Flowering Crabapple (by the cafeteria), Coast Live Oak, Holly Oak, California Buckeye and African Sumac (along walkways to the southside parking lots).

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