IBM Kingston — My Experiences

IBM VRTIn your April 26, 2014 article on IBM Kingston, you mentioned that ‘they would recruit their researchers and engineers’…‘to the new suburban campus’…‘from cities to the new pastoral environments.’ I was one of those researchers! With a BS in Physics from Queens College and a MS in EE from Columbia University, and living in Queens, I came to IBM Kingston in late 1963 after an 18 month stint in IBM Poughkeepsie. After 25 years in IBM Kingston, I transferred to IBM Research.

I was very fortunate to come to IBM Kingston in 1963, and during those years I worked on a wide range of products and technologies, and have absolutely no regrets about coming to IBM Kingston at that time.

IBM Kingston had an especially fine management team with the key criteria being ‘the respect of the individual.’ Bud Howe, who was mentioned in your article, was a perfect leader a number of those years and, as a senior technical manager in his organization, I knew him very well. IBM Kingston Laboratory was about 2000 employees on the average, was relatively small. The lab team developed many diverse technologies such as magnetic core memories, display products, flat panel displays, FET logic chip rapid turn-around system, small systems such as banking systems, as well as large systems. I had the good fortune to work on many of these systems and technologies during those 25 years I was in Kingston.

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Unlike the ‘modern IBM,’ IBM Kingston during those years encouraged everyone to enhance their skills to be able to tackle future assignments effectively. Management encouraged further education and paid the bills. In addition, it also provided opportunities to go on temporary assignments at other locations to enhance skills and assist in the transfer of future Kingston products. Personally, I went on assignment to Silicon Valley and to England as well as spending a year at IBM for post-graduate work, all paid for by IBM Kingston.

From a family life point of view, IBM Kingston, via Ulster County and nearby Dutchess County, did provide me and my family (wife from Brooklyn) a ‘pastoral environment.’  We settled in Woodstock where we raised our children. They have no regrets from growing up in Woodstock and still have many friends from there they made in their youth.

 

No advanced degrees to be had here

In your article you mention that ‘IBM realized that young programmers, marketers and designers won’t come to work in isolated suburban campuses’ and hence they located the Watson Group in Manhattan. I think that is short-sighted, because when these young employees get married and have children, due to the extremely high housing prices in the city, they will realize that they can only live in small apartments on busy streets or spend 1.5 hours or more commuting.

From my perspective, I have my own theories of why IBM Kingston failed in 1995. For one, there was no university nearby that offered advanced degrees (RPI is 1.5 hours away.) The university could be a source of advanced education of the employees, source of new employees and future technology ideas. Secondly, the New York State tax structure caused display products to move to Raleigh, which was an enormous blow. After display products moved out, the development efforts focused mainly on large systems and that leadership team was in Poughkeepsie, so effectively, IBM Kingston became a subset of Poughkeepsie, eventually leading to its closure in 1995.

In summary, at the time it was established in the mid 1950’s, IBM Kingston was a great place to work and live nearby, and if New York State had been pro-business during those years as they are now (with Nanotech center, etc. in Albany), and by providing an adequate nearby University Research Center and tax breaks for small systems manufacturing, Kingston might still be here and flourishing.