The Sabre Analogy

The Sabre (Semi-Automatic Business Research Environment) central reservation system, which was originally a part of American Airlines, pioneered online transactions. For the first time, computers were connected together through a network that allowed people around the world to enter data, process requests for information and conduct business. This system revolutionized the entire travel industry and formed the beginnings of the comprehensive and established system used today to buy and sell travel services. Moreover, it was the precursor for the entire universe of electronic commerce that exploded in the mid-1990s and that we all enjoy today.”
IBM website.

I absolutely love the story described in the link above, which was shared by a great friend of mine.

The chance meeting of R. Blair Smith (of IBM) with C.R. Smith (the president of American Airlines) on a flight in 1953 revolutionised travel bookings due to Blair Smith’s vision. It also led to decades of revenues and market dominance for IBM, not to mention being a precursor to the future explosion of e-commerce and digital disruption.

Am I alone in thinking that for all its advancements to date, OSS is still waiting for just such a click moment that changes our industry and beyond?

With the rapidly increasing convergence of compute, storage, network, security, sensors and service orchestration, the next generations of OSS (if they’re even called that by then) could help change the world.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Ryan,
    Old stories like this are quite inspiring – I think this flight would have been before the days of jet transport?!

  2. Hi Evan,

    You’re exactly right! Incredibly inspiring that one conversation, and the technology that followed, could change the world. We can but aspire to do the same one day!

    You’re also pretty much on the money about jet transport. The British de Havilland Comet was in service in 1952, whilst the Boeing 707 didn’t begin service until 1958…. And yet ripples of the Sabre project are still being felt.

    PS. I’ve just snuck this story into my book after having it highlighted by Frank Robert.


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