Columbia University Computing History   

IBM Key Punches

IBM 029 keypunch

Columbia's Herman Hollerith pioneered punch card computation beginning in the late 1880s, when he chose punched cards as the medium for encoding and storing demographic data for the 1890 US Census, based on the ability to use a card as a "record" for each person, with sufficient capacity to hold all the needed information, and to rearrange the records into different orders or groupings without losing information. (Punched cards had first been used in the 1700s for controlling textile looms.)

At first cards were punched by hand, like railroad tickets. Soon Hollerith perfected a device to place punches in a precise grid arrangement. This was called the Pantographic Card Punch. Like the railroad punch, it punched one hole at a time, in the row and column selected by the operator, but with greater accuracy and less strain, and furthermore it allowed uniform access to the entire card, not just the parts near the edges.

In 1901 Hollerith patented his first key punch, a card punch machine that was operated by keys, like a typewriter, and that advanced the card automatically to the next column after each punch. The first models were mechanical and numeric only. Later models would be motor driven and would expand to a full typewriter keyboard, complete with digits, letters, punctuation, and other symbols, with automatic duplication, interpretation, and rudimentary programming features. The dimensions of the punched card stayed the same throughout the years, but the number columns progressed from 20 in 1890, through 45, to 80 in 1928. The number of rows was 12 from the beginning but the top two rows were generally not used until the 1930s. Here's a summary table. Click punch name for pictures and greater detail for each model:

Type Name Introduced Repertoire Cols Feed Print Remarks
  Pantographic Card Punch 1890 Holes 20 Manual No First accurate card punch
001 Mechanical Key Punch 1901 Numeric 32 Manual No First key operated punch
002 Port-A-Punch 19?? Numeric ?? Manual No Need info
010 Mechanical Punch 19?? Numeric ?? Manual No Need info
011 Electric Key Punch 1923 Numeric 45/80* Manual No First electric punch
012 Electric Duplicating Key Punch 1925 Numeric 45/80* Manual No First punch with duplicating capability
015 Motor Drive Punch 1929 Numeric 80 Auto No First automatic feed
016 Electric Duplicating Key Punch 1929 Numeric 80 Auto No First automatic feed
032 Printing Punch 1933 Alphanum 80 Auto Yes First printing punch
031 Alphabetical Duplicating Punch 1934 Alphanum 80 Auto Yes  
026 Printing Card Punch 1949 Alphanum 80 Auto Yes BCD
024 Card Punch 1949 Alphanum 80 Auto No 026 without printing
526 Printing Summary Punch 19?? Alphanum 80 Auto Yes 026 as output device
056 Verifier 1949 Alphanum 80 Auto No Checks 026 cards
797 Document Numbering Punch 1951 ?? 80 Auto ?? (Special project)
  Port-A-Punch 1958 Holes 80 Manual No Requires special cards
029 Card Punch 1964 Alphanum 80 Auto Yes EBCDIC for 360
059 Card Verifier 1964 Alphanum 80 Auto No Verifier for 029
129 Card Punch 1971 Alphanum 80 Auto Yes Editing, more smarts
* I believe the 011 and 012 used the 45-column round-hole format when first released, but were re-engineered without changing model number in 1928 to use the 80-column rectangular-hole format, but this is not confirmed. Bashe [4] says that in 1928 IBM "began adapting its product line to the new cards". Pugh [40] says, "To help customers convert their records to the new 80-column format, a 'reproducer' was offered that punched 80-column cards from existing decks of 45-column cards."

Herb Grosch confirms that Type 001 and 016 punches were in use at Watson Lab Scientific Computing Laboratory at Columbia University in the 1945-50 timespan, and I can attest personally to the multitides of 026s and 029s here in the 60s through mid-80s, both at the computer center and in various departments (Engineering School, Bureau of Applied Social Research, etc).

  1. Austrian, Geoffrey, Herman Hollerith: Forgotten Giant of Information Processing, Columbia University Press (1982).
  2. Bashe, Charles J.; Lyle R. Johnson; John H. Palmer; Emerson W. Pugh, IBM's Early Computers, MIT Press (1985).
  3. Pugh, Emerson W., Building IBM: Shaping an Industry and its Technology, The MIT Press (1995).

Also See:
Tabulators, Sorters, Collators, Reproducers, Interpreters, Calculators.
Columbia University Computing History Frank da Cruz / [email protected] This page created: January 2001 Last update: 29 March 2021