Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion, 1880–1945
Publication Year: 2009
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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In the 1930s and 1940s, three large-scale registers of citizens that relied on punched cards were initiated in the United States, France, and Germany, demonstrating that industrial nations—whether democracies, autocratic states, or dictatorships—found use for and began to establish huge administrative systems from the 1930s onward. ...
1 Punched Cards and the 1890 United States Census
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The first major application of punched cards—processing information from the 1890 United States census—was hailed on the front page of Scientific American and praised in other contemporary science and technology publications as a great advance over earlier, manual methods of processing and as a manifestation of American efficiency and technical ingenuity.1 ...
2 New Users, New Machines
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American business enterprises radically changed their scale and scope between the Civil War and the First World War. The small local firms that had previously dominated production were complemented by big corporations. Also, the new industrial society was based on large transportation, communication, and insurance companies that only had ...
3 U.S. Challengers to Hollerith
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American offices in the turn of the twentieth century, as they do now, processed the information needed to produce, distribute, sell, and purchase products and services in the country’s private enterprises and public organizations. They recorded sales and purchases in financial accounting, administered wages and salaries, and compiled information ...
4 The Rise of International Business Machines
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The Tabulating Machine Company had its origins in Herman Hollerith’s punched-card business in the 1890s and became the prime mover for the use of punched cards in statistics processing. As punched-card systems were developed to handle bookkeeping between 1907 and 1933, the Tabulating Machine Company and its successor company, the International Business ...
5 Decline of Punched Cards for European Census Processing
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In the spring of 1889, Hollerith was struggling to attain the order to process the United States census in 1890.1 He eventually succeeded in this endeavor in late 1889, but in the spring of that year his limited income derived from his only customer, the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army. Late the previous year, Hollerith had postponed ...
6 Punched Cards for General Statistics in Europe
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Europe embraced Herman Hollerith’s technology for processing general statistics as the technology became stabilized in the 1900s. This contrasted with the lukewarm reception of his first punched-card system in the 1890s. The positive reception was the result of improvements ...
7 Different Roads to European Punched-Card Bookkeeping
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Mechanization of bookkeeping in Western Europe was similar to expansions of offices in the United States between the late nineteenth century and the Second World War. This mechanization enabled the Tabulating Machine Company and the Powers company to extend their positions in the United States to Great Britain, Germany, and France. ...
8 Keeping Tabs on Society with Punched Cards
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The Social Security Act of 1935 was a core part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal policy to raise the United States out of the economic crisis that had started in 1929.1 The act authorized a national system of contributory old age benefits for people who turned ...
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The first punched-card system grew out of problems with census processing in the United States in the late nineteenth century. This first version was extensively reshaped during the following half century in diverse ways and in the four major industrial societies of that age, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, and France. This development was ...
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The idea of doing a comparative history of the punched-card industry grew out of a discussion with Arthur L. Norberg of the Charles Babbage Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during a conference back in 1989. Shifting affiliations over the years would allow me to implement the idea only very slowly, but each time we met Arthur encouraged me to ...
Appendix: Financial Information: Tables and Figures
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Essay on Sources
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The shaping of punched-card technology is the focal point of this book. Individuals shaped the technology and, in most cases, they worked in groups of engineers and craftsmen. Their options and choices were based on their training and professional experience as well as their interaction with people in their ...
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Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 21 halftones, 15 line drawings
Publication Year: 2009
Series Title: Studies in Industry and Society
Series Editor Byline: Philip B. Scranton, Series Editor Published with the assistance of the Hagley Museum and Library