The IBM Data Processing Division

Big Iron

The IBM Data Processing Division (DPD) served as the company's primary marketing and sales organization in the United States for a quarter-century. While offering a wide array of data processing products, it was especially known for marketing IBM's high-end, large-scale computers, processors and storage products (such as the legendary IBM System/360) during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s -- so much so that DPD was often called "the big iron division."

The division was also known for its dedicated people, effective sales force and crisp operating style -- quintessentially "IBM" during those decades –– and for the special role it played in fostering high-level talent. Two of DPD's 12 presidents went on to lead the entire IBM Corporation as chairman and CEO; the others moved into the most senior leadership positions in the company (including chairman of the IBM World Trade Corporation and the first general manager of IBM United States), and one DPD president eventually became chairman of AT&T. Many other DPD middle managers and alumni later assumed top executive responsibilities in IBM both in the United States and overseas.

The Data Processing Division was launched in 1956 as IBM reorganized into six autonomous divisions and the subsidiary World Trade Corporation. Until it was realigned into two new divisions late in 1981, DPD was personified by the "blue suit" marketing representative who worked closely and directly with customers to learn about their evolving needs and inform them of the latest IBM offerings to meet those needs. The unique up-close and personal relationship between DPD's field force in scores of branch offices and IBM's many thousands of customers across the United States was one of the cornerstones of the company's exceptional success and growth 30, 40 and 50 years ago.

You can review highlights of division's rich history in the DPD chronology and view images from its past in the DPD Photo Album. They are our tribute to a highly impressive business organization and its alumni.

The IBM Data Processing Division details