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Last edit: 07:53, 23 April 2013
  • === My comments begin, as this line does, with "===",
  • ... where sections of article text are omitted,
  • s/b Suggestion for what should be conveyed

Punched card tabulating equipment,

=== s/b Punched card keypunches, sorters, and tabulators,

why? The general audience will not be able to expand "tabulating equipment" to the 3 specific machines invented by Hollerith - the machines that are discussed throughout this article.

invented and developed by Herman Hollerith to process data from the United States Census of 1890, was the first mechanized means for compiling and analyzing statistical information.

=== is it "data from the Census" or "data for the Census"? The census was not completed until after Hollerith's data processing - Hollerith was doing work for the Census project.

=== what mechanized analysis was done? Truesdell p.v states "...mechanical devices which made possible the effective use of punched cards for statistical tabulation." Newcomb titled his 1901 booklet "Mechanical Tabulation of the Statistics of Agriculture in the 12th Census of the United States". These machines could only tabulate, and they tabulated only what was planned by the census workers - it's not clear just what mechanized analysis these machines did.

Through continual improvements, first by Hollerith and then by many others, punched card equipment created and expanded the worldwide information processing industry and continued to play a significant role in that industry for more than two decades after the first commercial electronic computers were installed in the early 1950s.

=== s/b Through continual improvements, first by Hollerith and then by many others, punched card equipment created and expanded the worldwide data processing industry until the early 1950s, when electronic computer systems began to replace punched card equipment.

Why? 1. Pugh, "Building IBM", p.246, states that "Information Processing" is "Widely used ... describes today's industry better than". He also states "Information processing is also an appropriate name for the business Hollerith established in 1889". Well, yes - "Information processing" is what humans have done for a long time. Cortada, in "Information Technology as Business History", begins with "Information Processing from Ancient Times to the age of Napoleon". There is also, in 1959, the Proceedings of the International Conference on Information Processing - note that this was the 1st international conference on the new topic.

2. However .... Punched card equipment was first seen as part of the Office Appliance Industry. A separate identity, the Data Processing Industry, specific to punched card equipment, was recognized during the 1920s (Cortada p.88). Frederick Brooks, Jr and Kenneth E. Iverson, in "Automatic Data Processing" define "automatic data processing" as tied to the machines - "This field includes methods for encoding and physically representing data, logic and procedures for manipulating information, techniques for performing such manipulations with automatic equipment, and methods of organizing equipment and procedures into data processing systems for the execution of specific tasks." They distinguish computers as "automatic", punched cards as "semiautomatic". The National Machine Accountants Association annual proceedings are titled "Data Processing" and in the 1961 forward reads "... we, in the field of Data Processing".

Some other titles:

  • (Bohme..., 1991) 100 years of data processing: the punchcard century
  • (Blodgett, 1968) Herman Hollerith, data processing pioneer (unpublished M.A. thesis)
  • (Cadow, 1973) Punched-Card Data Processing
  • (Feingold, 1969) Fundamentals of Punched Card Data Processing
  • (Hartkemeier, 1966) Data processing: how to program and operate punching, sorting, accounting, and electronic ...
  • (IBM) An Introduction to IBM Punched Card Data Processing
  • (ISO, 1980) Data Processing - Implementation of the ISO 7-bit and 8-bit Coded Character Sets on Punched Cards
  • (Levy, 1967) Punched Card Data Processing
  • (McGill, 1962) Punched Cards: Data Processing for Profit Improvement
  • (Rath, 1966) Punched Card Data Processing
  • (US Navy, 1971) Basic Data Processing
  • (Van Ness, 1967) Principles of Punched Card Data Processing

3. and one to end with

  • (Kistermann, 1991)IEEE Annals of the History of Computing v.13.3 1991) The Invention and Development of the Hollerith Punched Card: In Commemoration of the 130th Anniversary of the Birth of Herman Hollerith and for the 100th Anniversary of Large Scale Data Processing

4. The net of all this- Cortada, Brooks, Iverson, NMAA, ..., Kistermann- is that "data processing industry" is both history and specific to the machines, the more modern, all encompassing, "information processing industry" is neither history nor specific nor created by Hollerith.


=== NOTE: comments on Timeline items are not usually repeated on later detail text.

  • 1880 Hollerith works for U.S. Census and seeks ways to mechanize the census process

=== Mechanize the census process? No, that was a vast process, beginning with thousands of people knocking on doors. Looking at the 1880 Census Reports, Volumes 11 & 12 Report on Mortality and Vital Statistics, Part 2, Section XII.-- Conclusions and Recommendations, by John S. Billings, we can see the goals were very specific: "The compilation of statistical tables relating to deaths would be greatly facilitated by having the data for each individual death recorded on a separate strip of stout paper or card. ... It would also be quite possible to record many of the data on such cards by punching slots or holes in them in such a way that the several enumerations required could be made by electrical counting or by distributing the cards by machinery, thus insuring accuracy as well as speed." (Hollerith worked for Billings, in the Part 1 Letter of Transmittal, Billings wrote "I am also indebted to Mr. Herman Hollerith for valuable assistance in the compilation of the life tables and diagrams illustrating them.")

s/b "... and seeks ways to mechanize the compilation of statistical tables" or "... and seeks ways to mechanize statistical enumerations" or ...

  • 1884 Hollerith files first punched card processing patent

=== The 1884 patent was for "paper tape rather than cards" and "claims [were] broad enough to cover the use of cards as well". Pugh "Building IBM" p.8.

  • 1886 First practical test of Hollerith’s equipment at Baltimore Dept. of Health
  • 1890 Tabulation of the U.S. Census of 1890 is begun using Holerith’s equipment

=== s/b Hollerith's

  • 1896 Hollerith signs contract to supply equipment for NY Central Railroad
  • 1904 Tabulator Limited, established to market Hollerith products in Britain
  • 1910 Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft is established for German market
  • 1910 Punched card equipment developed by Census Bureau processes U.S. Census
  • 1911 First number-printing tabulator is built by the U.S. Census Bureau
  • 1911 John Powers leaves Census Bureau to establish punched card equipment company

=== s/b James Powers

  • 1911 Hollerith’s company is merged with two other companies to form CTR

=== s/b three. The public documents of 1911 describe the merger of 4 companies. See [1]. Describing the merger as three companies is something IBM chooses to do - without any supporting documentation. Elsewhere in this article the merger is described as 4 companies.

  • 1914 Thomas J. Watson, Sr., is hired to manage CT

=== s/b CTR

  • 1924 CTR is renamed IBM
  • 1927 Remington Rand, Inc., acquires the Powers Accounting Machine Company

=== From Unisys History Newsletter. Volume 4, Number 1 May, 2000 by George Gray "Powers merged with Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Cardex to form Remington-Rand Corporation in 1927." It may be that in 1927 Remington Rand was formed 1st and then acquired Powers, but stating it simply as Remington Rand acquires Powers implies that Remington Rand had been been an ongoing, established, company - when in fact it was a new, 1927, company.

  • 1928 The “IBM Card” is introduced with larger storage capacity and rectangular holes
  • 1931 Compagnie des machines Bull begins competitive punched card business
  • 1932 Bull produces first alphanumeric tabulator
  • 1936 IBM punched card equipment is adopted for new U.S. Social Security System
  • 1946 Vacuum-tube electronics are first used in a punched card product

=== s/b 1940 See First use of electronics in IBM unit record equipment - a gas triode vacuum tube replaces a relay on the card sorter. Phelps, B.E. "Early Computers at IBM", Annals of the History of Computing v.2.3, July 1980.

  • 1951 Electronic computers begin competing with punched card equipment

=== s/b "Electronic computer systems with magnetic tapes begin competing with punched card equipment" The computer alone isn't enough; magnetic tape or disk storage is required. See Pugh "Building IBM" p.156.

=== Note that this article is not consistent in use of "computer" or "computer system" - This is the only example I've flagged.


Soon after graduating in 1879, at age nineteen from the Columbia School of Mines, Herman Hollerith was hired to work for the U.S. Census of 1880. He and several other technically trained persons had been hired to help the U.S. Census Bureau ...

=== Is Hollerith working for the "U.S. Census of 1880" or for the "U.S. Census Bureau"?

=== The article references: Bureau of the Census, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Bureau of Census, Census Bureau, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Census, Census. It also references United States Census of 1890, U.S. Census of 1890, U.S. Census, Census of 1890, 1890 census. There may be more and I've not noted variations in case. Should these be consistent?

Seeking Solutions

In his role as a special agent of the U. S. Census of 1880, Hollerith was encouraged by the superintendent of the Census, Francis A. Walker


He began conducting experiments during his spare time while teaching for one year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

=== There is a link, essential, ESSENTIAL, to this story that is missing from the text here. MIT is no accident; Walker is now president of MIT - in bringing Hollerith to MIT Walker is really supporting the development of Hollerith's census machines.


Later that year he filed his first punched card patent application. The device described in the patent made use of tape rather than cards, but the patent claims were broad enough to cover either case. Later that year, he divided the patent into two patents.

=== See Pugh "Building IBM" p.8 for correct dates.

Hollerith could not claim the invention of punching holes in cards or tape to store information or the electrical reading of these holes because these concepts had already been used in the telegraph system. Furthermore, half a century earlier, the British mathematician Charles Babbage had proposed (but never completed an operational model of) an “analytical engine” driven by data and instructions stored in punched cards; and even a quarter of a century before that, the Frenchman Joseph M. Jacquard, had used a sequence of cards with holes punched in them to cause an automated loom to reproduce very intricate patterns.

=== ... Jacquard used a paper tape, cleverly constructed from punched cards, to cause ...

What Hollerith could and did claim was a novel use of concepts well known to others to create new and useful capabilities “not obvious to those skilled in the art.” (It is interesting to note that Hollerith’s decision to use punched cards in his tabulating equipment was influenced by several contemporary sources, including telegraph transmitters, library index cards, and probably the Jacquard looms, but Hollerith had no knowledge of the work of Charles Babbage.)

=== The text above re what influenced Hollerith, seems to ignore Hollerith's own writing on the subject - his Aug 7, 1919 letter to J.T. Wilson - and should be revised based on Hollerith's text.

With the help of Dr. Billings in 1886, Hollerith arranged for a practical test of his recently designed equipment in recording and tabulating vital statistics for the Department of Health in Baltimore, Maryland. Information about each deceased person was recorded by holes punched in selected locations in cards 3 1/4 by 8 5/8 inches (8.26 by 21.9 centimeters) on a side.

Information was read from each card by placing it on a hard rubber mat that contained an array of tiny cups of mercury, so spaced that there was a cup directly under each of the possible hole locations. A hinged “pin box” that held an identically spaced array of spring-loaded pins was pulled down upon the card on the rubber surface. Where holes had been punched in the card, pins passed through them and made electrical contact with the mercury. Each cup of mercury was electrically connected to a dial with two hands that rotated in a manner analogous to the hands on a clock and were able to record numbers from 0 to 9999. After many cards had been processed, the operator manually wrote down the number incrementally recorded by each dial.

=== It's unlikely that T.C. Mits can translate "number incrementally recorded" to "total". Replace "number incrementally recorded" with the simpler "total displayed"

=== This paragraph describes - almost - the tabulation process. All it needs to be complete is a description of the counters being incremented (existing text only describes the counters). If "Information was read" is changed to "Information was tabulated" and "After many cards had been processed" to "After many cards had been tabulated" then readers will know what a tabulator does and the next paragraph's "Each time a card was tabulated ..." will present no difficulty.

=== The above text is about the Baltimore test, described in both Truesdell p.36 and Love p.39. They describe the card as having 6 rows, 32 punch locations in each row - so 192 possible hole locations. The text above seems to state the tabulator used thus had 192 dials, "a cup directly under each of the possible hole locations" ... "Each cup of mercury was electrically connected to a dial" but that 192 dials is difficult to believe. This text is so unexpected it really should have a reference in the text "As reported in ..." or something like that.

Hollerith had also devised an apparatus for sorting cards into categories; it consisted of a wooden box with many compartments. Each time a card was tabulated, the electrical signals generated when the pins passed through holes in the card were used to open the lid of one of the compartments.

=== The text "Each time a card was tabulated" asserts that every card tabulated was sorted. No, not every card tabulated needed to be sorted.

=== "electrical signals generated" s/b "electrical contacts made". There is no "generation"; "contacts made" is consistent with prior text.

The operator manually removed the card from the rubber mat and placed it in the open compartment and closed the lid. Using this method, it was possible to sort cards based on many attributes and also on combinations of attributes.


Figure 3. Pantograph punch used for the 1890 census.

=== Truesdell p.44 states it was called a "Keyboard punch" when used for the 1890 census. "Pantograph" was used later.


Because of the limited opportunities for processing census returns, Hollerith turned to commercial applications and focused on railroads. To obtain the business of the New York Central (the second largest railroad system in the U.S.) he made significant modifications to his equipment. Unlike cards used for census work, in which punched-hole locations represented personal characteristics such as age or marital status, the new cards were entirely numeric; a single digit could be recorded in each column by a hole in one of ten positions.

=== Looking at "Recording Waybill Statistics by Machinery", reprinted from the Railroad Gazette of 4th July 1902 [2] we see on page 122 a New York Central Traffic Card. Printing on the card identifies punch locations in all 12 rows and the rightmost column has 4 holes punched.

No longer did simple counting suffice. Hollerith made substantial modifications to his tabulating equipment

== "substantial modifications to his tabulating equipment" is redundant with the prior paragraphs "significant modifications to his equipment" - both paragraphs are about railroad applications.

to perform addition—that is, to add a number recorded in a field on one card to those in the same field on preceding cards. The dials were replaced with accumulators having sufficient digit positions to handle sums from the assigned fields. He also replaced the pinbox card reader with a mechanized card feeder and the manually operated sorter with a fully mechanized sorter. In September 1896, Hollerith signed a contract agreeing to supply the New York Central with sufficient punched card equipment to audit up to four million waybills during the next year.

=== "... handle sums". Elsewhere in this document referred to as "totals", "results", even "numbers". Consider choosing one.

In 1897, he incorporated his business as the Tabulating Machine Company, and he continued improving his general statistics processing equipment over the next many years. Several of his improvements became industry standards: the 45-column card and dynamic reading of the cards while in motion introduced in 1907 and automatic group control, a facility to control generation of subtotals and grand totals which significantly eased the processing of punched cards. It was the earliest example of conditional programming of a punched card machine, that is, control of processing of punched cards based on information on the cards.

=== A program is an ordered list of operations, be it program for a symphony concert - listing both the works to be played and the order - or your morning program 1) get up 2) take shower 3) go to work. A tabulator without a control panel is not a functioning machine - more like an "Erector Set", wiring the control panel is constructing a specific machine. Even when a tabulator's control panel wiring is completed there is no sequenced list of operations. Thus punched card tabulators were not programmed - only punched card calculators have control panels that specify a sequence of operations. Delete the "programming" claim.

=== Earlier in this article we find "Hollerith had also devised an apparatus for sorting cards into categories; it consisted of a wooden box with many compartments. Each time a card was tabulated, the electrical signals generated when the pins passed through holes in the card were used to open the lid of one of the compartments." Sorting - based on the holes punched in the card - is "control of processing of punched cards based on information on the cards." Delete the "earliest example" claim.

=== Should the preceding argument re "control of processing ..." be rejected then please see Truesdell p.53-54 "Relays" where the use of relays (in the 1890 census machines) to determine which counters are incremented is described. Which counters are incremented is based on information on the cards. Delete the "earliest example" claim.

Hollerith had filed a petition for this in 1914, but his patent on “Automatic Group Control for Tabulating Machines” was not granted until 1931 because of conflicts with other patent applications.

=== There is not sufficient detail here for the general reader to understand it. "filed a petition"? With who? For what? Simply stating when Hollerith first filed the patent application would be better.



But ultimately, the census of 1910 was taken using equipment designed by employees of the U. S. Census Bureau combined with several rebuilt sorters originally built by Hollerith and sold to the Census.

=== taken??? No, the census was tabulated using equipment designed by employees of the U. S. Census Bureau. Reword for plural "tabulations" as there was more than one!


In 1911, Hollerith had received an attractive offer to sell his company that he accepted

=== Probably received an attractive offer to buy the company; only Hollerith could offer to sell it. Also- delete "had".

Printing of entered numbers and results was the most important advantage of Powers’ tabulators. This relieved an operator from recording manually the numbers recorded in dials or accumulators.

=== "results" and the second "numbers" might better be "totals", consistent with prior use of "subtotals" and "grand totals".


An important coup for IBM was acquiring the huge the data-processing jobs of the old-age pension system introduced by the U.S. Social Security Act of 1935. Two years later, the administration of Social Security established a system recording the frequent payment of 33 million people based upon IBM punched card equipment. Subsequently, all recipients of Social Security payments received checks written on IBM Cards with numerous rectangular perforations for automatic data processing. For many recipients, it was their happy introduction to the punched card era, the workings of which were generally confined inside large organizations, out of sight of the general public. For IBM, it was the end of the economic depression that had begun in 1929.

=== automatic data processing??? Frederick Brooks, Jr and Kenneth E. Iverson, in "Automatic Data Processing" define "automatic data processing" as referencing computers (see earlier note above). Assuming that I'm the machine operator handling the returned Social Security checks: I first use a sorter to sort them by check number. I then use either the sorters "Card Matching Device" or the collator to match the returned checks to the master file and so on. "I use ..." is me working, not "automatic"! Change "automatic" to "later".

=== There is extensive text earlier about the IBM card and rectangular holes. Change "rectangular perforations" to "rectangular holes" so that the general reader has a chance of matching this reference to the earlier discussion.

=== numerous rectangular perforations? The punched card check example in Machine Methods of Accounting, IBM, 1939?, p.3-11 has 16 punched columns out of 80 possible. The Shorter OED 5th ed lists "numerous" as "many, great in number, crowded". 16 out of 80 is difficult to describe as "crowded".

=== From the Social Security FAQ site: "Keep in mind, however, that the Social Security Act itself was much broader than just the program which today we commonly describe as "Social Security." The original 1935 law contained the first national unemployment compensation program, aid to the states for various health and welfare programs, and the Aid to Dependent Children program." Delete "of the old-age pension system"

During World War II, punched card equipment was used by the United States and its allies to keep personnel records and payroll information for large companies, government organizations, and the armed services; to facilitate the design and manufacture of munitions, airplanes, warships, and other equipment; to handle the logistics of supplying armed forces operating throughout the world; to decipher enemy codes; and to predict the weather. The Germans used punched card equipment to monitor and manage munitions and armament production so as to achieve increasing war production until the summer of 1944 despite relentless bombing of its factories and transportation systems.

=== Reference to "its factories" would seem to require "Germany" rather than "The Germans" at the beginning of the sentence.

Thus it can be stated that, on both sides in the war, punched card equipment successfully performed many activities now associated with electronic computers.

=== Reduce to "Punched card equipment successfully performed many activities now associated with electronic computer systems." and separate from WWII paragraph. This claim should not be restricted to wartime. ...

References of Historical Significance

Herman Hollerith. 1884. Art of Compiling Statistics. U.S. Patent 395,782, filed 23 September 1884 and granted 8 January 1889.

Herman Hollerith. 1914. Automatic Control for Tabulating Machines. U.S. Patent 1,830,699, filed 11 March 1914 and granted 3 November 1931. Automatic group control described in this patent was a facility to control the generation of sub and grand totals. It is the earliest example of conditional programming of a punched card machine, a facility subsequently essential for stored-program computers.

=== See earlier comments. Not programming and not earliest. Delete the sentence beginning "It is".

=== Historically significant references to consider include:

  • Hollerith's "An Electrical Tabulating System" (accessible online)
  • The essential Truesdell "The Development of Punch Card Tabulation in the Bureau of the Census 1890-1940" (accessible online) (Truesdell could be listed in "Further Reading")

Both far more useful for a general audience than the patents. There is also

  • T.C Martin - "Counting a Nation by Electricity" in "The Electrical Engineer" 1891.11.11 (accessible online).

References for Further Reading

Lars Heide. 2009. Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Provides the most complete coverage available of the development and usage of punched card equipment.

Emerson W. Pugh. 1995. Building IBM: Shaping an Industry and Its Technology. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. Early chapters of this book describe Hollerith’s inventive activities and his role in the creation of IBM.

Geoffrey Austrian. 1982. Herman Hollerith: Forgotten Giant of Information Processing. New York: Columbia University Press. This is a good history of the life and inventions of Herman Hollerith.

=== I'd include Cortada's "Before the Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, & Remington Rand & The Industry They Created 1865 - 1956".

=== You may object to these additions as exceeding some length restriction for this article. For a general audience, these references should be more useful that the academic patent references (which can be deleted!) (and with deletion of the "earliest" claims, the 2nd patent is of little interest).

=== Of course I make mistakes; you'll need to verify my comments. Thanks for listening (well, reading). dick w

    Rw07:29, 25 March 2013

    Railroad use of Hollerith's equipment is described in Pugh "Building IBM" pp.14-15 and varies somewhat from the referenced New York Central card.

      Rw20:46, 10 April 2013