Its origins can be traced to the establishment in 1945 of the Watson Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University  which later expanded into other research labs in Westchester County, New York beginning in the 1950s.
Some major activities include the invention of innovative materials and structures, high-performance microprocessors and computers, analytical methods and tools, algorithms, software architectures, and methods for managing, searching and deriving meaning from data.
Among their most famous past developments are the Data Encryption Standard (DES), the fast Fourier transform (FFT), Benoît B. Mandelbrot's paper introducing fractals, Magnetic disk storage (hard disks), One-transistor dynamic RAM (DRAM) (Dynamic random access memory), Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) architecture, Relational databases, and the grandmaster level chesscomputer, Deep Blue. IBM Research's several contributions to physical sciences include the scanning tunneling microscope and high temperature superconductivity. Both these achievements were rewarded with Nobel Prizes.
IBM Research is involved in many significant collaborative research activities with different academic universities and industrial research laboratories. These include the International Technology Alliance, the Open Collaborative Research program and the research alliance that developed the DARPA High Performance Computing System.