45 Years of Wal-Mart History: A Technology Time Line

For nearly half a century Wal-Mart has led the information technology charge to cope with growth and fuel its global expansion.

Sam Walton's self-described distrust of computers didn't keep him from building his company into a global leader of information technology innovation.

1962

First Wal-Mart opens in Rogers, Ark.

1975

With more than 125 stores and $340.3 million in sales, Wal-Mart leases an IBM 370/135 computer system to maintain inventory control for all merchandise in the warehouse and distribution centers and to prepare income statements for each store.

Electronic cash registers in more than 100 Wal-Mart stores record point-of-sale (POS) data to maintain inventory.

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Wal-Mart's Leadership Pipeline

Managing a Global Company

1977

Wal-Mart builds a companywide computer network and deploys a system for ordering merchandise from suppliers.

1979

Wal-Mart sales top $1.2 billion, making it the first company to reach more than $1 billion in sales in a mere 17 years. The company builds a computer center and installs the first terminal in a store: an IBM 3774.

1983

The company begins to use bar codes for scanning POS data.

1984

Store associates start using Texlon handheld terminals when reordering merchandise. Upon scanning a shelf label, the unit provides a description of the merchandise, information on prior quantities ordered and other data.

Bob Martin is named CIO.

1985

Wal-Mart has 882 stores and sales of $8.4 billion.

1987

Wal-Mart completes what is at the time the largest private satellite communication system in the United States. It links all operating units of company and headquarters with two-way voice, data and one-way video communication.

A check-in system designed to take full advantage of container bar-code labeling is in the back room of every Wal-Mart store.

1990

A data warehouse prototype is created to store historical sales data.

1992

Wal-Mart deploys the Retail Link system to strengthen supplier partnerships. The system provides vendors information on sale trends and inventory levels.

1993

Randy Mott becomes CIO.

1995

Wal-Mart has stores in 50 states, for a total of 1,995 Wal-Mart stores, 239 Supercenters, 433 Sam's Clubs and 276 international stores. Sales top $93.6 billion.

1996

Wal-Mart makes Retail Link and EDI available via the Internet and begins using the Internet as an application platform.

Wal-Mart and Sam's Club launch online stores.

2000

Kevin Turner becomes CIO.

2002

Wal-Mart chooses the Internet for data exchange with thousands of its global suppliers.

Linda Dillman becomes CIO.

Wal-Mart has its biggest single-day sales in history: $1.43 billion on the day after Thanksgiving.

2004

Wal-Mart announces it will deploy radio frequency identification (RFID) technology on Jan. 1, 2005.

2006

Rollin Ford is named CIO.

Wal-Mart redesigns Walmart.com, starts experimenting with Web 2.0 and social networking tools, and contracts with Oracle and Hewlett-Packard to use their price-optimization and BI retail applications.

The company ends the year with $349 billion in sales, nearly 2 million employees and 6,775 stores worldwide.

2007

Wal-Mart launches Site to Store service, enabling online customers to pick up merchandise in stores.

SOURCES: Academy of Information & Management Sciences Journal, 2006; CIO reporting; Walmart.com

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