from a small company, the Computing and Tabulating Company, which he happened to lead near the beginning of this century. Watson Sr. built the company into a leader of office equipment, which at the time consisted largely of time clocks and eventually punch card equipment. Watson is credited for revolutionizing industrial employment practices by instituting at IBM "continuous employment" for life of all employees. He considered employees members of a wide family, building country clubs near the offices of the company around the country, for the free use of all employees. His revolutionary measure of continuous employment paid off during FDR's New Deal deployment by enabling IBM to deliver fast the equipment needed to manage the vast government projects of the time. IBM came to be the leading "computer" manufacturer of the time, although computers were mostly punch card machines that could sort out information by processing decks of punch cards. Along the way, some "plug board" machines were produced, which could generate selective computational processes dictated by appropriate plugging of wires on a board that was then inserted into a computing machine. A refinement of such machines was IBM's 650 computer, available circa 1950, which combined a magnetic drum for storing information with punch cards and plugboards. .
During the late 1940s, the U.S. government sponsored substantial research in computer technology leading to the development of the ENIAC, the first electronic computer utilizing von Neumann's famed "stored program" concept. It is said that some of the leading engineers of IBM, in comparing the stored program concept with plugboards, said that "this was just another way of doing things". Fortunately for IBM, this opinion did not prevail. The management of IBM shifted from the senior Watson to T. J. Watson, Jr. around this time. Watson Jr. had returned from duty in World War II with great respect for the capability of electronics, and directed the IBM engineers to pursue vigorously the development of an electronic computer that would rival the ENIAC, and a successor being developed by Univac.