Columbia University Computing History   
Translations  (see below for credits):

IBM Punch Cards

IBM 026 Card Punch
IBM 026 Card Punch
IBM 2501 Card Reader
IBM 2501 Card Reader
Until the mid-1970s, most computer access was via punched cards. Programs and data were punched by hand on a key punch machine such as the IBM 026 and fed into a card reader like the IBM 2501. 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). Here is a pink "job card" (the first card in a deck), preprinted with the essentials of Job Control Language (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.

Columbia University punch card
The punches are interpreted across the top line of the card; this is a feature of the key punch and it works as long as there's a good ribbon. 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.

Here is a card punched on a keypunch that either had no interpreter, or a broken one, or whose ribbon was dry.

Punched card with holes
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). When all the cards in a deck of the corner cut, misoriented cards will stick out.

Here's another customized card (without punches), this one from the University of Karlsruhe (Germany) Computer Center, courtesy of Michael Hartmann, Technische Universität München:

University of Karlsruhe punch card


Translations of this page courtesy of...

Language Link Date Translator Organization
Bulgarian български 2023/08/31 Kerstin Schmidt
Czech Čeština 2023/08/17 Vladyslav Byshuk | Владислав Бишук
Finnish Suomi 2023/08/31 Kerstin Schmidt
French Français 2023/08/25 Kerstin Schmidt
German Deutsch 2023/08/17 Vladyslav Byshuk | Владислав Бишук
Italian Italiano 2023/08/25 Kerstin Schmidt
Norwegian Norsk 2021/10/31 Stian Skjelbred Strø
Polish Polski 2023/08/17 Vladyslav Byshuk | Владислав Бишук
Portuguese Português 2023/08/31 Kerstin Schmidt
Russian Русский 2021/12/28 Anonymous E-ITA
Spanish Español 2023/08/25 Kerstin Schmidt
Swedish Swedish 2021/10/31 Peter Torman
Ukrainian Українська 2021/09/16 Ann Sole PapersOwl
Columbia University Computing History Frank da Cruz / [email protected] This page created: January 2001 Last update: 4 September 2023