IBM: Tech's Golden Oldie

ARMONK, N.Y. ( TheStreet) -- IBM ( IBM), which celebrates its centennial Thursday, has come a long way in the last 100 years.

From its early days manufacturing punch cards, cheese slicers and grocery scales, IBM is now one of the world's best-known tech brands, bringing in revenue of $100 billion a year.

Although its slow, steady stock growth and migration away from buzzy consumer gadgets have resulted in some lost love for investors in a sector where companies like Apple ( AAPL) and Google ( GOOG) grab most of the attention, Big Blue's ability to re-invent itself should not be underestimated.

"IBM is certainly one of the most innovative companies around," Charles King, principal analyst at research firm Pund-IT, told TheStreet. " IBM's uniqueness is that it's a company that's 100 years old and still a leading force in an industry that tends to favor young companies ."

IBM might not be churning out iterations of must-have consumer tech like the iPhone, but after securing 5,896 U.S. patents in 2010 -- including one for predicting traffic conditions based on information exchanged over short-range wireless devices -- it again captured the title of receiving more patents than any other company, for the 18th year in a row. Some 12 IBMers line the halls of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, including the guy who invented Lasik eye surgery and the engineer responsible for the UPC, retail's ubiquitous inventory tracking tool.

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