Tabulating machine

Tabulating machine

The tabulating machine was a machine designed to assist in tabulations. Invented by Herman Hollerith, the machine was developed to help process data for the 1890 U.S. Census.

The term "Super Computing" was first used by the "New York World" newspaper in 1929 [cite book |last=Eames |first=Charles |coauthors= Eames, Ray |title=A Computer Perspective |year=1973 |publisher=Harvard University Press |location= Cambridge, Mass |pages = 95 . Page 95 identifies the article as cite news |title= Super Computing Machines Shown |publisher=New York World |date= March 1, 1920 . However the article shown on page 95 references the Statistical Bureau in Hamilton Hall and an article at the Columbia Computing History web site states that such did not exist until 1929. See [ The Columbia Difference Tabulator - 1931] ] to refer to large custom-built tabulators IBM made for Columbia University.

1890 census

The 1880 census had taken seven years to tabulate, and by the time the figures were available, they were clearly obsolete. Due to rapid growth of the U.S. population from 1880 to 1890, primarily because of immigration, it was estimated that the 1890 census would take approximately thirteen years to complete—an immense logistical problem. Since the U.S. Constitution mandates a census every ten years to apportion taxation between the states and to determine Congressional representation, a faster way had to be found.

Hollerith had been inspired by a railway ticket. Conductors used a hole punch to mark information on a ticket (for example, the destination and age of the traveler). Hollerith realized the card would act as an electrical insulator, except where the holes were punched.

Hollerith used punched cards which were the same size as 1887 U.S. paper currency, as receptacles of that size were readily available. (Cards of the same size were used for computing until punch cards were phased out in the 1980s, but punch card voting systems using the same sized cards lasted into the 21st century). The cards were coded for age, state of residence, sex and other information, and clerks could punch holes in the card to enter informaton form returns.

Hollerith's machine was rather simple. A set of spring loaded wires were suspended over the card reader. The card sat over several pools of mercury, one pool corresponding to each hole in the card. When the wires were pressed onto the card, holes allowed the wire to dip in the mercury, completing an electric circuit, which would advance a counter and set off a bell to let the operator know the card had been read. Simultaneously, a receptacle would open for storage of the card, the choice of receptacle depending on the information in the card [ [ IBM Archive: Hollerith Tabulator & Sorter Box] ] .

Coding the cards and entering them into the counter could be done by clerks. As such, the process was much faster than assembling census returns by hand. With Hollerith's machine, the 1890 census was completed in eighteen months, after the count was double-checked.

Following the 1890 census

The advantages of the technology were immediately apparent for accounting and tracking inventory. Hollerith started his own business in 1896, founding the Tabulating Machine Company. In 1911, four corporations, including Hollerith's firm, merged to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR). In 1924 CTR was renamed IBM. IBM developed faster and faster tabulators until the invention of the electronic computer in the 1940s.

With successive stages or cycles of punched-card processing, fairly complex calculations could be made if one had a sufficient set of equipment. One could roughly think of each stage as an SQL clause: SELECT (filter columns), then WHERE (filter cards, or "rows"), then maybe a GROUP BY for totals and counts, then a SORT BY; and then perhaps feed those back to another set of SELECT and WHERE cycles again if needed. Still, a human operator usually had to store, load, and monitor the various card stacks over each stage. After the passing of the mechanical computing era in the 1950s, the card stacks would eventually be replaced by magnetic tape, drums, disks, and "core" memory.

Models and Time-Line

The first automatic feed tabulator, operating at 150 cards/minute, was developed in 1906 [ [ IBM Archive: 1906] ] .

IBM 301 (Type IV) Accounting Machine: From the [ IBM Archives] :

The 301 (better known as the Type IV) Accounting Machine was the first card-controlled machine to incorporate class selection, automatic subtraction and printing of a net positive or negative balance. Dating to 1928, this machine exemplifies the transition from tabulating to accounting machines. The Type IV could list 100 cards per minute.

IBM 401: From the [ IBM Archives] :

The 401, introduced in 1933, was an early entry in a long series of IBM alphabetic tabulators and accounting machines. It was developed by a team headed by J. R. Peirce and incorporated significant functions and features invented by A. W. Mills, F. J. Furman and E. J. Rabenda. The 401 added at a speed of 150 cards per minute and listed alphanumerical data at 80 cards per minute.

IBM 405 ( [ photo] ): From the [ IBM Archives] :

Introduced in 1934, the 405 Alphabetical Accounting Machine was the basic bookkeeping and accounting machine marketed by IBM for many years. Important features were expanded adding capacity, greater flexibility of counter grouping, direct printing of entire alphabet, direct subtraction and printing of either debit or credit balance from any counter. Commonly called the 405 "tabulator," this machine remained the flagship of IBM's product line until after World War II.

IBM 407 was introduced in 1949.

ee also

* List of IBM products#Tabulators, Accounting machines
* British Tabulating Machine Company
* Powers Accounting Machine Company
* Powers-Samas Accounting Machines Ltd aka. "Acc and Tab"

For early use of tabulators for scientific computations see

* Leslie Comrie
* Wallace John Eckert


External links

* [ Free Online Javascript Tabulator]
* [ Columbia University Computing History: Hollerith & IBM Tabulators and Accounting Machines]
* [ IBM Archives: Electric tabulating machines (1930)]
* [ IBM Archives: Electric accounting machines (1932)]

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