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Q: Where did IBM get "Infrastructure"? ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Where did IBM get "Infrastructure"?
Category: Business and Money > Advertising and Marketing
Asked by: stevegt-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 07 May 2002 22:47 PDT
Expires: 07 May 2003 22:47 PDT
Question ID: 13728
Where did IBM get the term "Infrastructure" which they use in their
current ad campaigns and recent literature?

Examples:  ://

I ask because I've been advocating use of this word, in the way
they're using it, since 1994 -- see 
I've been calling myself an Infrastructure Architect almost as long --
made up the term myself.  I have no idea if I'm the first person to do
this, but I seem to have been doing it consistently, if Google is any
judge -- the first entry in the following search is me, at least right


I'm thrilled to see "Infrastructure" finally being widely used for
computing systems, make no claims against anyone's use of it etc. (as
long as they don't try to trademark or servicemark it -- I want it to
stay public).  But I'm very curious as to how much of the current use
of the term might be traceable back to my own efforts of the last 8

Thanks in advance for anyone's comments, help, and answers.

- Steve
Subject: Re: Where did IBM get "Infrastructure"?
Answered By: musashidam-ga on 08 May 2002 13:42 PDT
Thank you for your inquiry!

A quick search at provides the following definition of
the term 'infrastructure'.

"inˇfraˇstrucˇture   Pronunciation Key  (nfr-strkchr)
1.) An underlying base or foundation especially for an organization or
2.) The basic facilities, services, and installations needed for the
functioning of a community or society, such as transportation and
communications systems, water and power lines, and public institutions
including schools, post offices, and prisons."

A similar search at Bartleby's online resource, using the term
'infrastructure' within the 'modern usage' category states that the
term has been in existence
since 1927 and was originally used to describe "roads, bridges, rail
lines, and similar public works that are required for an industrial
economy, or a portion
of it, to function." Infrastructure originated as a military term to
describe the "permanent military installations necessary for the
defense of a country."

The American HeritageŽ Book of English Usage. 
A Practical and Authoritative Guide to Contemporary English.  1996.
3. Word Choice: New Uses, Common Confusion, and Constraints
§ 176. Infrastructure 

The above listed entry goes on to explain that the more modern usage
of the term 'infrastructure', used to describe any underlying system
or substructure,
originated in the Vietnam war thanks to intelligence officers who used
it to describe the opposition's intelligence organization. It should
be noted that the
Usage Panel of the American Heritage Book of English Usage found that
using the term 'infrastructure' in reference to organizations of
people was incorrect, and that the term should only be used in its
former definiton, not the latter.

According to a company history at IBM's website, IBM was first
incorporated in New York City under the name
Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (C-T-R) in 1911, thus predating
the inception of the term 'infrastructure' by sixteen years. The
company was renamed International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924.
Even after the term 'infrastructure' came into common usage three
years later, they likely wouldn't have used it, since the term would
have been used to describe large-scale public works like roads and
such...things quite out of IBM's scope at the time.

IBM Through the years

Use of the term 'infrastructure' in regards to computing technologies,
in particular those relating to the internet and computer networks,
has been outlined by the Internet Society (ISOC) in a mandate drafted
in 1994 by Vint Cerf, president of the ISOC. In this document, Mr.
Cerf describes the use of the term 'infrastructure'.

"The use of the term "infrastructure" is very deliberate here.
Although still modest in scale compared to the global telephone system
and far less pervasive
that national road systems, the Internet has reached the point where
it can be reasonably characterized as an infrastructure upon which
vital activities are
now dependent. A significant part of the R&D community is very
dependent on the daily and reliable operation of the Internet and
various business and
government enterprises are becoming more so. The general public is
only just beginning to discover and explore the potential of this mode

As is true of many other kinds of infrastructure, users and service
providers commingle in complex ways. There are some parallels with the
road system.
There are privately owned roads and driveways which interlink with
public thoroughfares and highways. Vehicles are owned and operated by
all sectors.
In the Internet, users own computers and local networks and routers
(or, at least, the user's institutions own these assets). Service
providers own or lease switching equipment and telecommunications
facilities. Private and public network operators must cooperate and
users often also serve as information
suppliers by operating anonymous FTP archives, Web servers, gopher
servers, email distribution lists, and so on."


On a related note, in 1995 the The US Federal Networking Council (FNC)
(now the National Coordination Office for Information Technology
and Development (NCO/IT R&D)) - passed a resolution defining the term
Internet. Their definition was as follows:

"RESOLUTION: The Federal Networking Council (FNC) agrees that the
following language reflects our definition of the term ‘Internet’.
‘Internet’ refers
to the global information system that -- (i) is logically linked
together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet
Protocol (IP) or its
subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support
communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet
Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its
subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible
protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either
publicly or privately, high
level services layered on the communications and related
infrastructure described herein."

FNC's definition of 'Internet'

I hope this helps answer your query.

musashidam - ga
The American HeritageŽ Dictionary of the English Language

National Coordination Office for Information Technology Research and
Development (NCO/IT R&D)

Search terms:
infrastructure term english usage
infrastructure etymology

Request for Answer Clarification by stevegt-ga on 03 Jul 2003 02:11 PDT
Excellent level of detail, but doesn't answer the question -- where
did *IBM* get the term as used in recent ad campaigns?  I'm not paying
$50 for dictionary definitions.  I'm looking for the chain of thought
and communications that went into the decision by somebody (who?) to
spend millions on an ad campaign (run through what ad agency?), to
raise public awareness of the use of that word.

Note to webadept-ga -- your research is much closer to what I was
looking for.  But you got the name of my website wrong.
Subject: Re: Where did IBM get "Infrastructure"?
From: webadept-ga on 08 May 2002 11:28 PDT
I found on the IBM website a published document from 23-November-1994
New and Improved! IBM Multisegment LAN Design Guidelines,Infrastructure

I'm not sure if this was their first usage of the term, but they've
been using it rather often ever since.

The term "Infrastructure" in the context of "Network Infrastructure"
has been around a little longer than 1994. I found several references
and I'll put some links to the bibliographies down below.

My search turned up many more, than the ones listed below, in that
time period. From what I am able to see in white papers, and computer
science papers, the term is used quite a bit, from  1991-1995, then
drops off for three years until 1998, where usage shows a come back,
and then of course recently several papers are using the term in the
context you describe.

As to the "use of the term through your own efforts", portion of your
question I think the researchers would probably be helped along with a
list, or at least some idea of what those efforts were, so they would
recognize the usage when they saw it. For instance, any white papers,
HOWTO's, magazine articles, etc. that you have written would be good,
which may have been published off your site. Perhaps any interviews
that you have done, which are posted somewhere. This way they could
possibly look to see what type of traffic those sites got on those

The reason I suggest "off" your site, instead of on your site is
because of the sites name. If I knew the term already, then going to would be a sensible thing for me to do, and
thus not "adding" to the amount of people that understand and use the
term. Your page has a good ranking on Google, and your web site has a
number of sites/pages linking to it, so it is possible that your
efforts have had some effect on the way the term is used. To gain a
list of sites pointing at your own, you can use the google search
engine with the query :

The term "Infrastructure Architect" is also widely used during
1992-1995 by several other sources, the being seems to have come from
MIT in 1992, anyway, that's when a lot of papers have those two words
side by side. Several of them use it as a job description, something
like System Administrator. Since I don't have your name or know if you
were going to MIT at that time, I couldn't check to see if you are the
proliferating the use of the term, though it looks like several
different authors are responsible.

Link Section:

MIT Search for the terms "Network Infrastructure" before 1994 and
after 1980
1216 results found, top 100 sorted by relevance

Infrastructure Maintenance and Rehabilitation: 1980-91

Rapid Service Delivery and Customization in a Developing Network
Infrastructure -- 1991

Teaching the Environment of Systems Design -- 1992

Computational Mail as Network Infrastructure for Computer-Supported
Cooperative Work -- 1992

Traffic Management for {B}-{ISDN} Services -- 1992

An Enabling Infrastructure for a Distributed Multimedia Industry --

To search out white papers a good site is found at :

Computer Science Bibliographies can be searched through fairly easily
at :
The Collection of Computer Science Bibliographies

MIT's website is of course :

I hope this helps in your search


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