Columbia University Computing History

Early Card Punch Machines

Old card punch models, 1890 through the 1930s. These are machines that that punch holes in stiff paper cards in selected positions within fixed rows and columns to record information that can be read back or interpreted later by other machines called card readers, which are integrated with tabulators, computers, or other devices. Punched cards were invented about 1750 for the control of textile looms, and were adopted for use in Herman Hollerith in the 1890 US census. From there they quickly spread to business and eventually government and science applications, where they dominated information processing and computation until about 1980, and even for some decades after that were used in voting machines.

Pantographic Punch
Hollerith Pantographic Card Punch 1890
Pantograpic punch Herman Hollerith's Pantographic Card Punch, developed for the 1890 US census. Photo: [74]. Prior to 1890, cards were punched using a train conductor's ticket punch that allowed holes to be placed only around the edge of the card, and was not
Pantographic Punch
Pantographic punch 1920 census
terribly accurate, and tended to induce strain injuries. The Pantographic punch allowed accurate placement of holes with minimum physical strain, one hole at a time, and also provided access to the interior of the card, allowing more information per card. A skilled Pantograph operator could punch 700 cards per day (compared to electric keypunch operators in the 1950s, who could work at a sustained rate of 200 cards per hour).

Hollerith Type 001 Numeric Key Punch

Type 001 punch patent diagram
Hollerith Type 001 punch
IBM 001
The photos show Herman Hollerith's Type 001 manual (non-electric) numeric key punch. The nameplate indicates it was manufactured by The Tabulating Machine Co., Hollerith's company that was to become IBM. The 1901 patent diagram [44] is shown at left (CLICK image to magnify). This was the first key punch (i.e. card punch operated from a keyboard), allowing a skilled operator to punch must faster than on previous models. Also see Baehne [91] Plate 3. Photo: [74]

Two punches
Key-punching contest
In this uncredited photo found on the Web, we see the Pantographic Card Punch and the Type 001 Key Punch side by side, in what is probably a reenactment of the 1890 and 1920 US Census recording techniques. The IBM 001 was approximately twice as fast. I believe the lady on the left is the same as in the photo above labeled Pantographic punch 1920 census, so although Wikepedia says that photo was taken in 1919, this one looks more like 1940s. The IBM 001 could have been used in either the 1910 or 1920 census. By 1930 (see below) much faster punches were available, e.g. the 016 with automatic feed.

IBM 011 Electric Key Punch

IBM 011 Key Punch
IBM 011 Key Punch - Click image to enlarge
This shot is from the Stanford University History Exhibits, which identifies it as the IBM Electric Key Punch (1923): "Adding relays and magnetic coils to the punches that were used to enter data greatly reduced the data entry effort. This machine is from the 1930s. The card had 80 columns, to hold 80 digits. Punching the X-key, above the digits, indicated minus. We still find many data files in commerce today that are 80 characters wide. Alphabetic characters could be entered by punching the top key and a digit 1-9 in the same columns for A-I, the X-key and 1-9 gave J-R, and 0 and 1-9 gave S-Z."

Austrian [44] says, "Although this IBM key punch resembles earlier Hollerith models, electricity has been added to lighten the job of punching. ... Hollerith's systems opened up an important new field of employment to women, starting with the 1890 Census."

(IBM 002 Port-A-Punch... IBM 012 Duplicating Punch... IBM 797 Document Numbering Punch... Note: there was also a later-model Port-A-Punch in 1958.) The Type 10 Card Punch similar to the one shown above was listed in a "2-21-56" sales manual as an electric, non-duplicating, numerical card punch available in 80, 66, or 51-column models with skip bar. (SEE SCAN; thanks to Dick Weaver for finding this.)

IBM 012 Electric Duplicating Key Punch

IBM 012 punch
Photo: IBM Archives, Machine Files; click image to enlarge
IBM 012 punch
IBM 012 punch
The IBM Type 012 tabletop key punch (1925) was the first model capable of duplication; that is, automatically copying columns from one card to another. Left: What appears to be a Type 012 Electric Duplicating Key Punch in the Crystallography Lab at the California Institute of Technology. The only puzzle is it seems to be handling 80-column cards with rectangular holes (see closeup), which were introduced in 1928, whereas the 012 pictured above uses 45-column round-hole cards. In any case, it appears that this punch was procured for the lab through a request from Linus Pauling to IBM's Director of Pure Science, Columbia's Wallace Eckert in 1947.

012 at Caltech
Photos: (all but the IBM one at top left) circa 1947, Gates and Crellin Laboratories, Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, Caltech; courtesy Larry Henling, Beckman Institute, Caltech.

IBM Punch Cards

IBM round-hole punch card
Prior to 1928, IBM cards were punched with round holes; originally in 20 columns, but by the late 1920s, 45 columns, as shown in this New York University registration card, reproduced from Baehne [91]. All punches introduced prior to 1928, including the 016, used round holes and 45 or fewer columns.

IBM 80-column punch card
Beginning in 1928, IBM cards had rectangular holes 80 columns across, as shown in this Iowa State University registration card, also reproduced from Baehne [91]. All punches introduced after 1928, including the Types 016, 31, and 32 and possibly the 011, and of course the later 026, 029, and related models, produced 80-column cards.

IBM Type 016 Motor Driven Electric Duplicating Punch

IBM 016 Punch
Photo: [50]; CLICK to enlarge. The IBM Type 016 Motor-Driven Electric Duplicating Key Punch, introduced in 1929, the kind used in Columbia's Statistical and Astronomical Laboratories, and later in Watson Scientific Laboratory. This was IBM's first punch with automatic feeding and ejecting mechanisms; it was marketed until 1960 (there was also an 015 model that lacked duplicating feature). The punching is done magnetically, and information from one card can be transferred automatically to another by a duplicator. The keyboard contains 12 punching keys, one for each row on the card. There are also space and eject keys. A master (program) card can be used to control automatic tabbing and duplication of fields. A skilled operator could punch 100-200 cards per hour on this model. Herb Grosch recalls, "You put a stack of blank cards in the feed [right], a single card, part of which you wanted to duplicate ('master card'), in the to-and-fro rack, and clipped a skip bar to the front of the carriage (p.82). A notch said skip, a deeper notch said copy."

IBM Type 032 Printing Punch

IBM 032 keypunch
IBM 032, NY State Tax department, Albany, 1941
IBM 032 Punch
Photo: [74]; click to enlarge
This is the IBM 032 Printing Punch of 1933. The first model capable of punching letters as well as digits (except by multipunching) and of printing the punched characters across the top of the card (each keystroke activated the typewriter type bar and the card puncher simultaneously). The photo at left was found at the Flickr page of Dr. Shaiyan Keshvari; it's a photo of his Mom Katy at an IBM 032 (see finder's credit at bottom).

IBM Type 31 Alphabetical Duplicating Punch

IBM 031 Punch
Photo: [40]; CLICK to enlarge.
IBM 031 Punch
Photo: Computer History Museum
The IBM Type 31 Alphabetical Duplicating Punch, a motor-driven key punch from 1934, with a typewriter-like keyboard and a separate numeric keypad [40]. This model (which was current with the release of the IBM 405 accounting machine, used the new (1928) standard 12x80 cards and was almost certainly in use at the statistical and astronomical laboratories, BASR, and elsewhere at Columbia prior to the introduction of the 024 and 026 models in 1949. CLICK HERE for a closer view of the alphabetic keyboard, "similar to a conventional manual typewriter except that the shift, tab, backspace and character keys were eliminated, and a skip, release, stacker and '1' key were provided" (IBM History Archive).

IBM 031
CLICK HERE for a gallery of a recently excavated IBM 031 at the Iowa Department of Transportation, and the story behind it.
Social Security punches
Type 31 punches at the US Social Security Administration, circa 1935. Photo: [103], CLICK to enlarge.

 
Also see the "mature" key punches: IBM 024 and 026 punches, The IBM 029 Card Punch, The IBM 129 Key Punch.

Thanks to Paul Varnum, Iowa Department of Transportation, for the color IBM 031 photos from 2011, and to Henry "Strontium Black Cat" for finding the Katy/IBM032 photo in 2019.

Frank da Cruz / fdc@columbia.edu / Columbia University Computing History / 2001 / Most recent update: 30 May 2019