Fable: The Murky Beginnings Of A Legend

One of the most revered figures in America’s high-tech history, seen as the founder of its greatest technology company, had an early job in his career at NCR where he was asked to go round the USA setting up used cash register shops.

NCR’s idea was to use these shops to undercut, and put out of business, the independent used cash register shops which were affecting NCR’s sales of new cash registers.

A phony company to manage these shops was incorporated with its own share certificates to distance itself from NCR even though it was set up and funded by NCR.

When a used cash register business looked like it was failing the phony company would buy it out and close it down.

The courts ruled the operation to be illegal.

The revered figure gained the confidence from heading up this operation to go on and do great things, building one of America’s largest and most long-lived companies, but he always retained a guilty conscience about what he had done at NCR.

Moral: Consciences are best when clear.



  1. “THINK” – Thomas J. Watson

  2. I remember reading that IBM (in the early days) also had a policy of buying all second-hand typewriters and destroying them. As a result you could only buy new ones, which they could control the price of. Clearly a lesson learned from teh NCR days…

  3. Spot on, Dick.

  4. Thomas J. Watson Snr, founder of the Itsie Bitsie Machinery company
    He was also rumoured to have sold cash registers from other brands that had been deliberately sabotaged, to undermine their reputation.
    A colleague once wrote that he was so keen to be seen as honest, not out of morality (or a guilty conscience) but because it gave better returns

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