Crossroads to Tomorrow (1980): Film about IBM in Southeast Asia

Thursday, April 30, 2020

"IBM and Southeast Asia, a gathering of talent, dedication, and enthusiasm of Asian men and women working together in their own nation but sharing common goals that transcend national boundaries." Quote from Crossroads to Tomorrow

Crossroads to Tomorrow was a film released in 1980 and sponsored by IBM World Trade, a subsidiary of IBM that formed in 1949 to handle overseas business

The name International Business Machines made very clear the company’s global ambitions when they began operating under that name in 1924. By then, IBM had international customers in Europe and South America and soon after expanded into Asia. By the late 1940s, IBM sold machines in 78 countries. When Thomas Watson Sr. established IBM World Trade to consolidate their overseas business in 1949, he said: "The United States has six percent of the world’s population, and the rest of the world has ninety-four percent: someday the [IBM] World Trade Company is going to be larger than the US company." 

Watson's prediction came to pass in 1975 when foreign sales surpassed those in the United States. A year prior, IBM World Trade had divided into two operating units to oversee their international business: Europe-Middle East-Africa Corporation and the Americas-Far East Corporation.

It is in that context, that we consider the 1980 film Crossroads to Tomorrow produced by the unit of IBM World Trade that handled their Asian markets. The film attempts to recognize the cultural traditions of the Asian world and connects them to the increasingly modern economies emerging there. While we don’t know much about the films’ intended audience, Hollywood acting legend Henry Fonda handles all of the voiceover indicative of a well budgeted and possibly widely distributed film: 

Watch film via YouTube


Information about IBM World Trade and IBM in Asia from the company's website: and

"I.B.M. Realigns Structure Of Subsidiaries Overseas," New York Times, 3 April 1974


Kevin J. Martin is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Audiovisual and Digital Collections at Hagley Museum and Library.