From the earliest times of IBM, a severe dress code was imposed upon
its employees. Here are a few results that I saw or heard of.
I was the first IBM employee to be on TV. Not a big station, just an
educational one run by Fairleigh-Dickinson University. I told the story
of computer development, aided by display of some really fine artifacts
that IBM had accumulated. A set of original Napier's bones, for example.
A limitation of early TV was that white shirts blinded the cameras.
One had to wear blue -- a definite blue. But IBM employees were required
to wear white shirts only, at least in public. We programmers in
back rooms, or hotels like the Langdon, could fudge a little, and did.
But I had to get special dispensation to wear a blue shirt.
The 12th annual ACM meeting was held in Houston on 1957 Jun 18-22, at
the Shamrock Hotel, since disappeared. We started with good intentions.
I wore an Irish tweed-type sports coat, and we picnicked on the huge hotel
lawn. Unfortunately Houston mosquitos are huge and plentiful. My tweed
coat was no protection.
And Houston's humidity is usually close to 100. I switched to a red
short-sleeved sports shirt, with no tie. I received a summons from
Dr. Cuthbert Hurd to come to his room. There he asked why I was
wearing that sports shirt.
Most IBMers of the time would have cringed, but I was feeling a little
cocky. ACM elections had just been held, and I was elected as the New
York Region representative, whereas Hurd had lost his seat. So I said
"Because it's so damn hot". No lightning struck.
The Shamrock had a huge outdoor pool. I remember it well because John
Backus and I went skinnydipping there at 5 in the morning.
The Subtle Ways of Watson Jr.
The management style of Tom Watson, Jr., was often antithetic to
his father's (fortunately for the growth of IBM). At a big management
meeting, in an offsite location (probably Williamsburg), Watson Jr.
pulled a trick. He deliberately had Y. P. Dawkins (V.P. Eastern Region
Marketing) arrive at the cocktail hour in a sports jacket, while he
remained away. Naturally the Dawk was shunned, almost a leper. Then
Tom arrived, went directly to Dawkins, and greeted him effusively. Sport
jackets were in style the next night! (Source - Dawkins' secretary, Joan
Rinaldi, a best friend of my wife the secretary to the head of
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