Thomas J. Watson (February 17, 1874 in Campbell, New York - June 19, 1956) became General Manager in 1914 and President in 1915 of the CTR Company, which later changed its name to IBM, and rescued it from near extinction. Because of this, he is considered to be the founder of IBM.
Prior to that, he worked for NCR in charge of its sales force, until he was convicted for illegal anti-competitive sales practices (e.g. he used to have people sell deliberately faulty cash registers, either second-hand NCR or from competitors; soon after the second-hand NCR or competitors cash register failed, an NCR salesperson would arrive to sell them a brand new NCR cash register). He was sentenced, along with John H. Patterson (the owner of NCR), to one year of imprisonment. Their conviction was unpopular with the public, due to the efforts of Patterson and Watson to help those affected by the 1913 Dayton, Ohio floods, but efforts to have them pardoned by President Wilson were unsuccessful. However, the Court of Appeals overturned the conviction on appeal in 1915, on the grounds that important defense evidence should have been admitted.
He was famous for making his salespeople at both NCR and IBM attend sing-a-longs (see The IBM Songbook below).
In 1937, Watson received the Eagle with Star medal from Adolf Hitler, for the help IBM subsidiary Dehomag and its Hollerith punchcard machines provided the Nazi regime for tabulating census data. After the outbreak of the World War Two, Watson returned the medal, yet ensured the survival of Dehomag. See Edwin Black's 'IBM and the Holocaust.'
Although he is well known for his alleged 1943 statement: "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers", there is no evidence he ever made it. The author Kevin Maney tried to find the origin of the quote. He has been unable to locate any speeches or documents of Watson's that contain this, nor is it present in any contemporary articles about IBM. The earliest known citation is from 1986 on Usenet in the signature of a poster from Convex Computer Corporation as "I think there is a world market for about five computers" --Remark attributed to Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board of International Business Machines),1943