IBM introduced the first commercial high-end mainframe computer system incorporating laser ablation technology in 1991. This milestone was the culmination of nearly a decade of scientific, engineering, and manufacturing effort. Extensive research and development on 308 nm laser ablation of polyimide lead to the first IBM prototype ablation tool in 1987 for the production of via-holes in thin film packaging structures. This prototype, similar to step and repeat photolithography systems, evolved into full-scale manufacturing tools which utilize sophisticated beam shaping, beam homogenizing, and projection optics. But the maturity of this technology belies the fact that the scientific understanding of the laser ablation process is still far from complete. This paper briefly reviews the engineering and scientific accomplishments, both within and external to IBM, that lead to the commercial utilization of the laser ablation process. Current technical tissues are discussed, in addition to alternative IBM applications of polyimide ablation. The paper concludes by discussing the relative merits of excimer vs. solid-state lasers, and how each may impact future manufacturing technology.