Columbia University Computing History

IBM Punch Cards

Until the mid-1970s, most computer access was via punched cards. Programs and data were punched by hand on a key punch machine and read into a card reader. Large computing sites such as Columbia University purchased cards by the truckload and furnished them free of charge to users. During the IBM 360 era (1969-80) Columbia's cards were embossed with the legend "CUCC 360" (Columbia University Computer Center IBM 360) and the Columbia shield (In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen).


This is a pink "job card" (the first card in a deck), preprinted with the essentials of JCL job-card syntax. Cards were available in assorted colors, allowing color coding of different sections of a deck such as JCL, program source, data. From the collection of Joe Sulsona. OS JCL Job-card fields are preprinted on the card. Columns 73-80 are reserved for sequence numbers, which can be used by a sorter to put a deck back in order after it has been dropped. The diagonal cut on the upper left facilitates proper orientation of the card (if the card is fed into the reader upside down or face down the data will be misinterpreted).

Here's another example, this one from the University of Karlsruhe (Germany) Computer Center, courtesy of Michael Hartmann, Technische Universität München:

Uni Karlruhe punch card


Frank da Cruz / / Columbia University Computing History / Jan 2001 - Apr 2003 - Sep 2013