Termatrex Card Punch

This "drill" punched cards for the Termatrex, an optical data storage and retrieval system designed in the mid-20th century as a less expensive alternative to contemporary computers. Each card in the system represented a characteristic used to describe items of interest. Each item had an assigned position on a group of cards. If it had the characteristic represented by the card, a hole was drilled at the appropriate position. Lining up cards associated with one group of objects and placing them on a card reader, holes transmitting light corresponded to those objects in the group with all the characteristics of interest.
This particular Termatrex system was used at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Analytical Laboratory to retrieve treatment reports. Cards represented such characteristics as materials, treatment techniques, and methods of inspection. A different set of cards indexed the reprint file of literature on conservation.
The Dutch-born engineer Frederick Jonker (1919–2002) developed the Termatrex system in his basement in the mid-1950s. He formed Jonker Business Machines in 1960, and sold this system to the Smithsonian Institution in 1969. After the company went bankrupt in 1969, REMAC International Corporation took over distribution and maintenance. The Termatrex remained in use at CAL until 1986, when it was replaced by microcomputers.
The card punch has a metal base painted white and an outer case painted green. A cylindrical housing in the center holds the punch. Two wheels on the right front rotate to move the mechanism horizontally, either from side to side (the top wheel) or from front to back (the bottom wheel). A black plastic tray below the mechanism holds the card to be punched. A plastic sticker across the front of the machine reads: TERMATREX. A tag attached to the back reads: MODEL NO. 301 SERIAL NO. 364. A mark stamped on the bottom of the base reads: D-001237-1
For the card reader and card rack, see 1993.0132.02 and 1993.0132.02. For related documentation, see 1993.3065.
F. Jonker, "Selection Method and Apparatus for Indexing Documents and the Like with Extreme Rapidity," U.S. Patent 3,092,113, June 4, 1963.
F. Jonker, "Integration of Superimposable Cards," U.S. Patent 3,162,468, December 22, 1964.
F. Jonker, "Printing of Superimposable Card systems," U.S. Patent 3,171,021, February 23, 1965.
F. C. Porter, "New Departure in Data Retrieval," The Washington Post, March 18, 1960, p. B4.
R. J. Samuelson, "Jonker Corp. Files for Bankruptcy," The Washington Post, December 16, 1969, p. D7.
Accession file.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1969
Jonker Business Machines, Inc.
place made
United States: Maryland, Gaithersburg
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
glass (overall material)
overall: 53.5 cm x 56 cm x 63.5 cm; 21 1/16 in x 22 1/16 in x 25 in
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Transfer from Smithsonian Institution Conservation Analytical Laboratory
Conservation History
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Science & Mathematics
Tabulating Equipment
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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