Big Blue

What Does Big Blue Mean?

“Big Blue” is a commonly used nickname for the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). The true origin of the name is difficult to determine, but it is unmistakably related to the large size and tremendous impact of the company in the technology arena. The first official use of the term seems to have been in a 1981 magazine article.


Techopedia Explains Big Blue

Various theories have been advanced regarding the source of the Big Blue moniker. The company itself cannot provide a clear answer. A section on the IBM website called “The Making of International Business Machines” cites the first official print reference to the tech giant as “Big Blue.” An article called “No. 1’s Awesome Strategy” in Business Week on June 8, 1981 quotes an IBM loyalist: “The nickname comes from the pervasiveness of IBM’s blue computers.”

Internet discussions may shed some light. Some longtime IBM employees attribute the nickname to the color of IBM computers during the sixties and seventies. It seems impossible to verify through a perusal of online photos from the time; many of the pictures are in black and white, and some show computers with a color other than blue. Some say that the first System/360 machines came only in blue.

Other theories about the source of the nickname refer to the blue in the IBM logo or the fact that all male employees wore blue suits. Blue, as the color of the sky and the sea, may bring with it some connotation of strength and stability. Wherever the nickname came from, it has been an integral part of IBM culture and brand identity for decades. Deep Blue, IBM’s chess-playing computer, is a play on the name.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…