Tabulating EquipmentFrom Herman Hollerith to IBM
Herman Hollerith did undergraduate work at the School of Mines of Columbia University in New York. In 1879 he began work the U.S. Census Office, and soon was appointed a special agent charged with collecting statistics on the power and machinery used in manufactures. Hollerith quickly became intrigued by the problem of compiling Census statistics. By 1887 he had devised a tabulating system that included cards, a special punch for making holes in them at select locations to represent Census data, a tabulator that counted data on the cards, and a sorter that eased the task of sorting the cards for reuse. The system was tested in computing mortality statistics for the city of Baltimore. This proved sufficiently successful that Hollerith machines were selected to compile the data accumulated in the 1890 U.S. Census of population.
Hollerith’s system found use not only in the United States but in Britain, France, and Russia. By 1907 he had modified it to accommodate demands of business accounting. The new tabulating systems incorporated an adding machine; used punched cards with columns; had an improved card reader and a key-driven card punch; and offered a mechanical sorter. In 1911 Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company merged with two other firms to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company, soon renamed IBM. Related companies emerged in France, Germany, and Great Britain. From 1914 Thomas J. Watson headed the firm, cultivating ties to American science, government, and business. IBM constructed one of the first relay computers, used at Harvard University during World War II. It went on to dominate the business of making and selling mainframe electronic computers.
"Tabulating Equipment - From Herman Hollerith to IBM" showing 1 items.
- In the 1880s American engineer Herman Hollerith devised a system to compile statistical information by entering data on individuals onto punched cards, allowing holes in the cards to admit wires and complete electrical circuits, and using electric counters to accumulate totals.
- Hollerith devised this kind of punch, which he called a gang punch, to punch data that was common to several cards. For data on a census, this might be the enumeration district. For payroll applications, it would be the date of payday.
- In 1904 a British firm organized to lease Hollerith machines in Britain and much of the rest of the wold. A subcontractor manufactured punch cards. From the 1920s. the British Tabulating Machine Company manufactured punch card equipment itself. This gang punch is one of its products.
- This punch has a 12x10 array of holes.The rows of holes are labeled Y, X, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. Six metal cylinders fit into the holes for punching, with a manually operated press to push them down. Cards are fed and removed by hand, from right to left. On the left is a metal plate with zigzag rows of holes on its top front and top back edge. These may be used to indicate the position of the card before punching.
- A tag on the right side of the punch under the card bed reads: THE (/) BRITISH TABULATING MACHINE Co (/) VICTORIA HOUSE, SOUTHHAMPTON ROW, LONDON, W.C.1 (/) GREAT BRITAIN AND U. S. A. - BRITISH BUILT. A stamp on the press reads: 5390.
- M. Campbell-Kelly, ICL: A Business and Technical History, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.
- H. Hollerith, "Quick Setting Press," U. S. Patent 1,193,390, August 1, 1916. The machine shown in this patent has levers for setting the pins. This is not true with this object.
- Currently not on view
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- British Tabulating Machine Company
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- Data Source
- National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center