IBM in Kingston

IBM’s 40 Years in Kingston

The IBM main plant was dedicated on November 2, 1956 on 200 acres of the former Boice Farm in the Town of Ulster. Initially, there were two divisions, one for manufacturing and assembling parts for the SAGE air defense system and the other for manufacturing electric typewriters. Even before the official dedication, there were 5,268 workers in Kingston—2,244 in the Electric Typewriter Division and 3,024 in the Military Products Division.

IBM had started manufacturing in Kingston even before construction commenced on the main plant. In 1954, it rented the former Ruzzo Bowlatorium on Grand Street in Midtown to begin work on the SAGE system. SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) was the heart of the U.S. Air Force’s air warning network and was designed to “limit to a minimum the breakthrough of Soviet long-range bombers coming to pour nuclear destruction on the U.S.,” as Time Magazine wrote in 1957.

Over the years IBM Kingston made significant contributions to the information systems field. The best known was the IBM System/360, arguably the most famous and successful mainframe computer, which was assembled, tested and shipped from Kingston.