Manual Card Punch
Hermann Hollerith, in an effort to win the United States Census
Bureau competition, began experimenting with mechanical tabulation
methods, and in 1884 he patented the first "Census Machine."
Hollerith won the competition. The machine was used to tabulate
the 1890 United States Census in record time.
Hollerith formed a company to produce a series of improved
machines incorporating the tabulator and punched cards. He
built an international clientele which included railway offices,
the Czarist government of Russia and other foreign governments,
department stores, insurance offices, and United States government
The Hollerith tabulating system was the first to make practical
use of the punched card in data processing. His machines became
the nucleus of today's computing industry.
Hollerith developed the tabulator in response to the need
to expedite and simplify the tabulating of statistical information
gathered in the 1890 United States Census. Statistical data
on sex, age, location, family size, birth date and nationality
were punched in predetermined locations on the card.
The cards were automatically tabulated and semi-automatically
sorted. Electric wires in the card reader made contact with
mercury in a cup through holes in the cards to complete an
electric circuit and "read" the data. The electric
signal from the contact activated the relevant counter on
the panel and caused the hand to register the count. Each
cabinet tabulated one type of data. The count appeared first
on dials representing each state and then in an overall national
After its initial use in the 1890 census, the Hollerith system
was adapted by commerce and industry for accounting, cost
distribution, inventory control, time and payroll records.
Hollerith developed and patented many related devices and
in 1896 established the Tabulating Machine Company to manufacture
his inventions. The company grew and prospered. In 1911, it
merged with others to form the Computing, Tabulating and Recording
Company. In 1915, Thomas J. Watson, Sr. was made president
and in 1924, the company became International Business Machines
IBM made the punch-card technology into the business standard
of the 1950's and 1960's.
Donor: Barrie Adsett, Barrie Adsett Computer Services