The lesson in lasting 100 years: “We always moved to the future.” That was one message IBM Chief Executive Sam Palmisano gave Thursday night in a warmly received “IBM Centennial Lecture” at Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum. In June, the historic company officially celebrated its 100th year at HQ in Armonk, N.Y., where, Palmisano told the West Coast crowd, 35 Watsons attended.

Here. IBM is a well-known firm but its products are not household consumer brands. The firm contributes behind-the-scenes — “deep analytics, big data, cloud computing and smarter planet (as in smart grid, green buildings, etc.)” — that helps other firms succeed. That lesson? Many American firms, and foreign ones for that matter, are creating wealth, products and services, jobs, and generally making our lives better do so out of plain sight. You do not see the name on a thing you buy in the store but the stuff on store shelves gets there with business-to-business commerce.

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