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Former IBM CEO dies

Jan 10, 20062 mins
Data CenterIBM

* Frank Cary dies at age 85

Frank Cary, former IBM CEO, died Jan. 1 at the age of 85.

Cary, who was CEO of IBM from 1973 to 1981, was the consummate salesman. During his tenure at IBM, he was responsible for introducing the Selectric typewriter, a 50-lb. luggable computer and the Winchester hard drive. In 1975, Cary spearheaded a move among 21 U.S. corporations to end apartheid in South Africa.

I worked for Cary from 1979 to 1981 in the then typewriter division – Office Products Group. I remember IBM’s transition from electronic typewriters to the PC, introduced in 1981.

When I worked for IBM, customer service was the No. 1 goal. I remember we always had to answer the telephone within three rings – there was a rumor that Cary would test an office’s responsiveness by calling periodically.

Also during Cary’s tenure as CEO, IBM’s dress code rules relaxed – men started wearing blue shirts rather than the standard white and women were seen in pant suits. Clean-shaven faces gave away to beards and mustaches.

Cary began his career at IBM as a salesman in 1948. During his reign, he doubled IBM’s sales and profits. After stepping down as CEO in 1981 he continued to be chairman until 1983, after which he remained a director until 1991. He also served on the boards of Lexmark International and Lincare Holdings, a company that provides in-home patient therapy.

Cary is survived by his wife, a daughter and three sons.