Heide, Lars. Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion, 1880-1945. Baltimore: JHU Press, 2009.
Punched cards, also known as punch cards, were the ﬁrst technology to facilitate large, machine-readable registers that improved the abilities of the nation states to locate and control their individual inhabitants, for better and for worse.
In the 1910s, the ﬁrst bookkeeping systems using punched cards were designed, punched-card machines were launched that printed both the calculations computed by and the information stored on punched cards, and challengers to the Tabulating Machine Company emerged in the United States.
In the 1930s, the scope of punched-card applications started to expand from business statistics and bookkeeping to include record management. Until then, punched cards had been a data-processing tool to be discarded once the process was completed. Punched cards became a storage medium.
Thus punched cards were developed from an ad hoc technology by the end of the nineteenth century into a pivotal technology for managing advanced industrial nations in the 1930s and in the Second World War.
The tabulator was a combined calculating machine and printer that performed the additions—and, in advanced versions, the subtractions—needed to ﬁgure the total amount due before printing the invoice. Punched-card technology distinguished itself from the competing information technologies by facilitating more complex tasks, like producing statistics and printing invoices, with little human interference after the initial
setup of the machines.
From the 1920s, the advantages of punched-card machines increased as they acquired printing capability and gradually improved calculation capacity. However, it was not easy to introduce punched cards for a task. Their use demanded a high degree of standardization and for- malization of the tasks to be processed, which, in turn, made greater demands on the user organization than did competing technologies.
This book’s objectives cover three levels of analysis with diverse dynam- ics: Individual actions involving the design and manufacture of the technol- ogy, company-level decisions and strategies, and conditions on national levels. The shaping of punched-card technology is the focal point.
social historian Margo J. Anderson has shown that the introduction of punched cards to process census returns grew out of public demand for more and better census data, combined with Congress’s hesi- tation to establish a permanent census ofﬁce.
Therefore a large part of the statistics community in the United States came to work on the censuses, which promoted a network of statisticians.
In 1887, statistics was only taught at three universi- ties in the United States: Johns Hopkins (in Baltimore), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (in Cambridge, Massachusetts), and Columbia College (now Columbia University in New York).
Two basic changes in producing U.S. census statistics took place in 1850: the individual became the analytic unit and processing returns became
centralized at Washington, D.C. From 1790 to 1840, the household had been the key unit and the individual districts had tabulated the results.
Therefore, the main reason for introducing technical aids was the lack of a permanent census ofﬁce combined with the growing desire for statis- tics.
Census statistics were compiled from returned, completed census forms. Until 1840, enumerators recorded one row for each family, with columns for entering the number of persons of speciﬁed categories, such as white male from thirty to thirty-nine years of age. The totals for one schedule page could be obtained by adding the columns and writing the result on the form. Clerks transferred the totals to summary or consolidation sheets. Further additions gave totals for each census district, which were then transmitted to the census ofﬁce to be aggregated and published.
The ﬁrst attempt to introduce new technology in processing the information was made in 1870 by Charles W. Seaton, a manager in the 1870 Census Ofﬁce. His idea was to improve the way a clerk organized the tallying lists on his or her table. For this purpose, Seaton built a rela- tively simple mechanical device out of wood. It had parallel rollers by which a roll of paper was unwound so that a number of tallying columns were placed side by side.
At the 1890 census, punched cards became the cornerstone of a technological system consisting of the pro- ducer (Hollerith), the machine shops building his hardware, the printing shops supplying the cardboard cards, and the Census Ofﬁce as the only user of the technology.
This new technological system derived from three basic principles: representation of the information of each census unit on a single card or slip, mechanical tabulation, and electric card reading.
Both Pidgin and Hunt used cards sorted by hand, and they only differed in the way the census data were transcribed. Pidgin used specially designed cards, printed in different colors, to facilitate transcribing, sorting, and counting. Hunt transcribed the data onto slips of paper by use of various colored inks. 30Really, the three systems offered were very similar. All were based on the unit card concept. The difference lay in the way the data were rep- resented on the cards—and in Hollerith’s mechanized counting.
The 1890 punched-card system consisted of three components: punched card, punch, and tabulator. 34The card, made of thin cardboard measuring 65⁄ 8by 31⁄ 4inches (16.8 × 8.3 cm), featured twenty-four columns having twelve punching positions each.
The tabulator, with its electric card reading capabilities, was Herman Hollerith’s main contribution to the punched-card machine. It had three main parts: the press, the counters, and the sorting box.
55In the machine’s ﬁrst version a paper strip replaced Billings’ single cards. The electric telegraph transmitter, the Seaton device, or the Jacquard loom could all have been the inspiration, as all of these
In the 1880s, adding machines were not common. The slide-based Thomas de Colmar calculators had been batch-produced since 1821, and about 1,500 examples had appeared by 1878. 62The ﬁrst keyboard-driven adders emerged in 1850, but no big producer had yet been established.
Burroughs only started production in 1885 and the next year followed Felt and Tarrant, who were known for their comptometers. 63Most adding machines were related to bookkeeping, but the Lanston machine originated from statistics.
In 1882, Hollerith tried a working model of the Lanston adding machine in Charles Seaton’s ofﬁce. Shortly afterward Lanston lost interest in this calculator, as he became greatly occupied with machines for com- posing type and secured several patents in that ﬁeld. In 1887, Lanston resigned from his clerical job and set up a company to develop and pro- duce his machines for type composition. He then undertook the task of con- verting his patented idea into a practical machine for commercial use. For ten years he labored and, ﬁnally, in 1897 he launched a highly successful machine, the Lanston Monotype. Hollerith interest in the Lanston adding machine grew. In 1884, while drawing up the ﬁrst patent for his own census machine, he bought the rights to it.
During these trials, punching the cards proved a weak point. Hol- lerith perforated the cards with a conductor’s punch and strained his arm. Further, the conductor’s tool could reach only two rows of punch- ing positions along the edges. Therefore, Hollerith designed the lever- based pantograph punch, which was easy on the arm and enabled the operator to perforate the full card. 71Its design resembles an early kind of typewriter.
A key component of administrative coordination was establishing the managerial tool of upward communica- tion.
Hollerith pursued two paths toward processing addition-based statis- tics from the mid-1880s on: a keyboard-based adding machine and an adding tabulator.
Building an adding tabulator was the alternative path to processing addition-based statistics. In the mid-1880s, Hollerith invented his ﬁrst adding unit for a tabulator. 8Basically, this was an electric version of the step wheel from Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz’s mechanical calculating machine from the 1690s, of which an improved version was batch pro- duced as the Thomas calculator in the nineteenth century. This machine was well-known in the United States by the 1880s…
Life insurance companies were the ﬁrst businesses to emerge as commercial punched-card users. American life insurance companies had extended their strategy to address a wider public in the 1840s and the new policies, which were later called “ordinary insurance,” were written for relatively large amounts and premiums were generally paid yearly.
By that time, the life insurance companies had accumulated vast amounts of data from managing policies over several decades using index cards to process statistics. The information on each policy was copied to a written card, the cards were sorted by hand into piles according to the categories to be tabulated, and each pile was counted manually.
Gore and his brother-in-law started to build a punched-card system suited for life insurance statistics. They pos- sessed the necessary mechanical skills to build their own punched-card sorter, which became the core of their system. Their system used a smaller card, only 57 percent the size of the card in Hollerith’s ﬁrst punched-card system. Further, Gore’s card had only ninety punching positions, compared with the 288 positions on the Hollerith card.
Gore’s sorter introduced mechanical sorting and was the ﬁrst punched- card machine to be run by an electric motor.
In the big railroad companies of the 1890s, freight accounting and statistics had become huge tasks for the accounting departments. A major problem was to audit the freight shipments to ensure that each package reached its destination and that the shipments were paid for. This had previously been accomplished by comparing the goods shipment reports from the forwarded and the received stations. The waybills formed the basis for this task, but they were awkward to handle and sort. After the waybills had been audited, the shipment reports were ﬁrst used to compile the distribution of records of the freight incomes to the railroad’s own various track sections and to foreign companies. Subsequently, the reports were used to compile statistics on the frequency and length of the freight trains on all the railroad’s track sections.
Hollerith’s presentation to New York Central and Hudson River Railroad persuaded the company, in 1895, to improve their waybill audit by using a punched-card system supplied by Hollerith. The Pennsylvania Railroad, by contrast, chose to audit their waybills using typewriters.
Austrian Otto Schäfﬂer had introduced the ﬁrst plugboard to program a punched-card system in 1890.
The pantograph punch was slow to operate, and its punching positions were imprecise and caused false readings. To alleviate this problem, Hollerith devised a new punch that operated like a one-handed typewriter and was radically dif- ferent from his old pantograph punch. Using the new punch, the card was placed on a carrier and moved, column by column, under the punches as the keys were operated. Eleven keys were provided, ten for punching the numerals zero to nine and an additional key for skipping over and leaving a column blank. The new punch was more precise than the pantograph punch was, thus enabling a narrower column width, but it was harder to operate as there was no ampliﬁcation of the punch operator’s pressure.
He went to the Library Bureau in Boston and arranged that they would market his punched-card system abroad for ten years. 36The Library Bureau had been founded in 1876 as an offshoot of the American Library Association and had built up a good business in supplying library equipment and supplies. By the mid-1890s it was a general ofﬁce supplier and had established ofﬁces in London (1894) and Paris (1896)…
As well as the systems proposed, two alternatives had emerged during the 1890s: John K. Gore’s punched-card system in the Prudential Insur- ance Company and keyboard-based adding machines.
Hollerith started to expand the scope of his applications to attract additional business customers in 1901. He used a lot of energy to attract private industry’s interest in his punched cards, and the preserved corre- spondence paints a picture of Hollerith as his company’s sole salesman, an impression substantiated by other sources. First, he responded to the insurance approach he had received the year before by circulating bro- chures to several life insurance companies. 62In addition, he started to develop punched-card applications for three business applications: wage administration, sales analysis, and cost accounting. He found customers for punched-card-based cost accounting and sales analysis, and he used this customer base to attract additional business customers.
In the old pin box, the reading took place while the card was halted and functioned as a stop to the collapsible reading pins, whereas in the new system the card acted as an electric insulator.
The First World War provided growing revenues to the Tabulating Machine Company.
The task of mobilizing men and society for warfare was approached according to the experience of the various nations in government regula- tion and in organizing business. To a large extent, this task was accom- plished by blowing up to a national scale known ways and tools of organizing big production and distribution. A key tool was operational statistics processed by using punched cards…
The First World War in the United States became a showcase for the application of punched cards for various operational statistics. Punched- card processing was quick and exact, but neither the army nor the govern- ment applications could be distinguished from the statistics processed at the Census Bureau and the operational statistics produced by private companies. Over the next two decades, improved punched-card systems would mirror changing bookkeeping practices.
The traditional American ofﬁce before the Civil War was staffed by male clerks, who wrote everything by hand in pen and ink. Their work was done in bound volumes, like account ledgers, copy books of outgoing letters, and minutes of the board of directors’ meetings, when the com- pany became incorporated and a board was appointed. Bound volumes had the advantage of keeping things together, and they prevented fraud. Incoming letters were loose leaf, which was considered a problem. Some companies bound incoming letters, others kept brief records in bound letter journals, while a third answer was just to keep the loose-leaf letters stitched on strings or as a stack in a drawer or a box. Vertical ﬁling systems were marketed for this purpose around 1900, and accu-
rate ﬁling was ensured by trusted clerks and through records in bound volumes.
…a large proportion of the workers in the new-style ofﬁces were assigned narrow duties involving routine work, like typing, punching, or shorthand, based on training in these ﬁelds. Female ofﬁce workers were often employed in this kind of routine job, and most of them remained in such positions. Routinization, formal hierarchies, and ofﬁce machines became crucial components in the organization of big ofﬁces.
Remington of Ilion, New York, started to produce typewriters in 1874. Their success encouraged competitors to enter the market, so that by 1890 thirty typewriter producers existed in the United States, growing to eighty-ﬁve producers by 1910.
…the ﬁrst reliable keyboard adding machines started to be produced in the United States by Dorr E. Felt and William S. Burroughs in the 1880s. In 1887, Felt began to market his nonprinting adding machine, in which the total was displayed on a visible result register…
…in 1887, he added what became his adding machines’ outstanding accomplishment: printing the numbers as they were entered and the totals. 6A printout enabled the operator to check an addi- tion much more easily; previously operators had had to repeat their cal- culation until they got the same result twice.
By 1900, separate typewriter and adding machine industries had emerged, each based on a machine stabilized in one or a few versions, and each market segment was highly competitive.
Three years later, Burroughs launched a machine that could print identiﬁcation numbers and dates in addition to the ﬁgures posted, enabling a bank, for example, to print the account number for each entry. Both machines had a wide carriage that allowed the use of wide sheets or forms. This eased the use of adding machine prints as pages in loose-leaf l…
The integration of typewriters and adding machines emerged in several variants. One type consisted of invoicing machines based on combinations of typewriters and adding machines, for example the Ellis adding-type- writer and the Moon-Hopkins billing machine. They were complex designs and slow to use, as the operator had to type the full name and address for every invoice. The design of the Ellis adding-typewriter was ﬁnalized in 1906 and subsequently produced. Production of the Moon-Hopkins bill- ing machine started in 1908. 12An alternative was to use a set of separate machines to calculate, issue, and address invoices. For example, addressing could be performed by use of an addressograph, but then the alphabetic capability was only used for writing invoice speciﬁcations. Further, it was necessary to perform multiplications either by hand or by use of a separate multiplication machine.
In the decade after 1905, three challengers to Hollerith emerged: the Census Bureau machine shop, John Royden Peirce’s punched-card systems, and the Powers Accounting Machine Company.
Compared with the key-set bookkeeping machines built during the next couple of decades, the core advantage of the punched card was the need for only one data entry for several jobs. The cost of attaining this was higher standardization requirements and more rigorous organization.
For the ﬁrst time, a tabulator could print the result on paper.
A programmable and printing tabulator proved hard to build. The ability to print and program was essential to attract bookkeeping jobs, as several tabulator settings were needed in a bookkeeping installation. Pow- ers’ ﬁrst tabulator was a prototype that was based on the technology of the printing Felt and Tarrant adding machines, which greatly eased his work, but he never was able to make these machines reliable.
The Powers tabulator’s ability to print was a requisite for most book- keeping tasks. Also, printing became a useful capability of actuarial sta- tistics, which was the reason the Actuarial Society of the United States chose Powers equipment for their big mortality investigation, which was processed from 1916 to 1918.52
Punched cards did not always have the best quality. They could hold electric conductive particles, metal, or carbon grains, which became false holes in electric reading. Small cracks or fallen out bits could cause false reading for both kinds of machines, but the conductive particles only caused problems on electromechanical machines.
The major advantage of punched-card-based printing was the auto- matic execution, but in advance of being printed, all cards had to be packed in a deck of cards. Further, the paper applied was advanced by rubber rollers, which had limited precision.
Soon, he engaged his own team of engineers, ﬁrst and foremost William Walter Lasker, who brought expertise in typewriter design.
This was the ﬁrst successful printing tabulator that both listed information from punched cards on a sheet or paper roll and printed totals. The operation of the machine, either listing all cards or printing the totals, was selected by shifting a switch.
Numeric printing had been the Powers company’s original competitive advantage, but only in 1919 did it attain a full set of reliable punch, sorter, and tabulator machines to make the best of this advantage—which they then lost two years later when the Tabulating Machine Company intro- duced their numeric printing tabulator.
First, the Powers Accounting Machine Company worked to develop bookkeeping applica- tions requiring letter printing in 1924.
Punched-card-based letter printing was ﬁrst marketed by the British Powers company in 1921. However, this feature could only manage a reduced alphabet, and letter printing was restricted to separate printing positions, which could not print numbers. The British Powers company developed this feature at the instigation of the Prudential Insurance Com- pany in London that wanted names as well as amounts to be represented in the perforated cards.
As early as 1916, the British Powers company ﬁled a patent applica- tion on letter printing, but at the same time the American company refused to adopt this facility. The American company ﬁrst embraced alphabetic printing in 1924. Lasker implemented the British design by developing a new tabulator that could print letters and numbers in sepa- rate printing positions like the British model.
The ﬁrst American alphabetic printing tabulator was installed in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York in 1925.
In 1925, the Powers company’s system with a reduced alphabet was the only other punched-card system with letters available in the United States. However its success was very limited, and Remington Rand chose not to implement it on the 90-column punched card, when it introduced this card as its standard between 1929 and 1935. This history indicated that the Powers company and Remington Rand perceived a very weak demand for letter printing until the mid-1930s.
It was planned to use punched cards in issuing customer statements, as opposed to address plates that were usually used for this purpose in the Remington Rand applications at that time. The addresses were to be pro- duced by use of the reduced Remington Rand alphabet with twenty-three letters and three cards for every address, each corresponding to one of the lines: name, street number and name, and city and state. This application was to be based on the old 45-column card, as the new 90-column card could not yet hold letters. This project was never implemented, and Rem- ington Rand did not pursue a comparable integrated system until the end
of the Second World War. Mistakes due to technical imperfections were highly probable, but Remington Rand’s subsequent nonpursuance of this promising application indicates a lack of demand rather than technical difﬁculties.
Though the new Remington Rand card had capacity to become alphanumeric, the ﬁrst new machines only served the double-deck card with numeric representation.The American Powers system of reduced alphabet representation from 1924 had not been a sufﬁcient success to be included into Remington Rand’s new line of machines. However, it was possible to use a part of a punched card for letters to be printed, by using the old standard 45-column positions, and the rest of the card for the numeric double-deck standard.
The difﬁculties of visual reading of the numeric double-deck standard, distinguished it from the old numeric 45-column standard. To alleviate this problem, Remington Rand produced an “interpreter” that printed the meaning of the punched holes on the card.
For all the applications considered by Peirce, the card was the original form that recorded the transaction. This shows that Peirce saw punched cards in a different role than his competitors did. He was the ﬁrst to realize that a punched card could contain the original entry.
Already during the negotia- tions in 1913, Peirce had proposed a system based on a “master card” on every policy that held punched information of the policyholder’s name and address along with the relevant numerical information indicating
amount insured, amount to be paid, date of payment, and other relevant information. The punched information was also to be printed on the card, which would be used to generate invoices, receipts, and other transaction documents.
The master card revived Peirce’s original vision of punched-card systems with letters, but no one had any experience using letter codes in punched cards in 1913. A suitable code was needed, together with a punched card holding sufﬁcient information.
Further, Peirce proposed preparing various internal records, including a register of policies issued and an agent’s list of notices. The planned alphanumeric punch was a modernized version of his punch design from 1907 and resembled a typewriter.
By 1922, this system included a prototype tabulator that implemented the ﬁrst alphanumeric representation in punched cards, needed for address- ing letters to policyholders.
In contrast to the two other challengers, John Royden Peirce was a visionary and from the outset worked for punched-card-based bookkeep- ing and alphanumeric systems to gain access to business of much greater volume. By doing this, he opened a renegotiation of the very nature and purpose of punched cards and which abilities punched-card technology should have. However, Peirce ran into problems caused by his inability to implement his ideas and designs and to produce reliable machines…
To solve the problem of increased errors from brush reading, Hollerith invented a speck detector in 1914 that located ﬂaws in card stock using an electric test current.
In 1908, the ﬁrst printing tabulator in the Census Bureau had demonstrated the feasibility of such a design. This printing tabulator required manual release by the operator for each print and only printed totals.
By 1911, the listing and total printing Burroughs adding machine had been a great success for two decades. Furthermore, a listing and total printing tabulator was a major feature of John Royden Peirce’s punched-card system, marketed in 1912.
The development of a printing tabulator was the ﬁrst instance in which the Tabulating Machine Company pursued several competing develop- ment paths, but the scope of what inventors were developing remained limited to the capability to print numbers and the implementation of automatic group control. Watson assigned both Clair Lake and Fred Car- roll the task of independently developing printing tabulators.39
Key ofﬁce machines could subtract, multiply, and print letters. Address plate technology was a well-established, though cumbersome means to address letters and other correspondence.
Before joining the Tabulating Machine Com- pany, Peirce had built a “notice writing” machine for the insurance divi- sion of the United States Veterans Bureau (Bureau of War Risk Insurance until 1924). This machine issued and addressed notices to be sent to poli- cyholders, with a punched stub to be detached when paid to facilitate subsequent bookkeeping. After Peirce had joined the Tabulating Machine Company, a similar machine was built and supplied to the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company in New York. 63During the 1920s Peirce con- tinued this line of development at IBM, and it was only terminated in 1930 after an additional tabulator had been supplied to Metropolitan. This tabulator could print numbers and letters in separate printing posi- tions and it used Peirce’s double-deck 86-column card.
Lake’s design was based on the representation of each character by up to two perforations, which was much simpler than Peirce’s repre- sentation. The ability to store alphabetic information in addition to num- bers was judged, as yet, to be not sufﬁciently important to the customers.
66The age of the standard 45-column card was over and was about to be succeeded by proprietary cards.
68The dismissal of the Lake group’s work on an alphanumeric tabulator in 1928 and the termination of Peirce’s alphanumeric system in 1930 disclosed the IBM management’s low assess- ment of the importance of this feature for its customers.
A new drive for alphabetic tabulator capability started in 1930. While Peirce had built punched-card machines with letters for insurance compa- nies between 1916 and 1930, IBM now focused on chain stores that were undergoing a roaring expansion.
This development was based on the invention in 1927 at the Danat Bank in Germany of a simple reduced alphabet printing unit, which substituted the ten numbers on a numeric type bar with ten selected letters. This Ger- man invention had been acquired by IBM in New York by 1930. 72First, IBM implemented a reduced alphabet by substituting the ten digits on several type bars in a tabulator with ten selected alphabet characters.
The ﬁrst of a series of full alphabet tabulators followed two years later, in 1933. A perforation in one of the top three rows combined with a per- foration in one of the bottom nine rows were used to designate letters, which supplemented the old standard for representing digits on punched cards. This alphanumeric code provided for ten numeric and twenty-six nonnumeric characters, and it survived to the end of the punched-card era. 76This was sufﬁcient for the English alphabet, but the German alphabet, for example, has several additional characters, which caused problems. Later types of tabulators enabled twenty-eight alphabetic characters in addition to two special characters, for example, & and * and were sufﬁcient for most national alphab…
Addressing letters later became an important punched-card task, but IBM did not perceive sufﬁcient demand for this application in the United States in the 1930s to prioritize production of this feature. The ﬁrst alphanumeric tabulators could only print one line per card. This was not adequate, as three lines were needed for an address and one card of eighty columns could hold all the information needed for an address. In 1937, IBM began production of a tabulator for the French market, which could print two lines from a single card, possibly to attain a contract on a conscription and mobilization register. However, a tabulator that printed three lines from a single card only appeared on the American market in 1941.
While in Europe in the spring of 1889, Hollerith exhibited his tabulator in Paris at the Great Exhibition commemorating the centenary of the French Revolution.
March’s classi-compteur had a full keyboard of sixty keys, each con- nected to a counter that consisted of four ten-digit printing wheels placed in the rows on the lid behind the keyboard, enabling the counting of up to 9,999 entries in each of its sixty positions. 69When the classi-compteur was used to compile a table, each of its keys corresponded to one entry in the table. Processing was accomplished by the operator keying in the rel- evant information from a form. During this process the key or keys pressed stayed locked in a lower position, and the operator could correct an error by ﬁrst unlocking the key or keys and then entering the information cor- rectly. When all the information from the form was entered, the operator pulled a handle that made the counters connected to the pressed keys advance one unit, and the operator proceeded to the next form.
When the operator had completed entering the information for a table, she placed a sheet of carbon paper above the counters and tilted the mov- able frame that held a series of rollers between which paper ran from a large roll. This left an impression of the printing wheels on the white paper. The rollers moved the paper along to a new zone of blank paper,…
The lack of demand in the 1890s was caused by the exclusive focus on processing census statistics. This was an area in which Europe had efﬁcient organizational structures—in contrast to the United States.
The ability to print processed numbers and results was considered essential by several punched-card users in Germany and Great Britain and became a crucial competitive advantage for the Powers company in Great Britain.
Prudential used typewriters to produce the lists of policies for the frequent collection of industrial insurance premiums. In 1914, Frank P. Symmons of Prudential suggested to the British Powers agency that they could ease production these lists by using punched cards. This would require letter representation and a tabulator that could print the names of policyholders in addition to policy numbers and amounts to be collected. Charles Foster, an engineer working at the Powers agency, accepted the challenge and designed an alphabet printing unit for the standard numerical American produced tabulators. The alphabet printing unit was completed in 1916 and could print a reduced alphabet of twenty- three letters but not digits. The remaining three letters of the English alphabet were provided through double use of three letters. 5This alphabet printing unit could print the names of policyholders for internal use in the company, but it was not able to print full addresses, as these required a combination of letters and digits. This limited the alphabet printing unit’s usefulness in policy administration, but the unit was used to print speciﬁ- cations in bookkeeping projects else…
Punched-card production at the Powers-Samas Company in London, 1937. Production of the cards themselves contributed up to a third of the punched- card producers’ revenues.
The state’s majority share of the punched-card business in the 1930s distinguished France from Germany and Great Britain, with the French state gaining a signiﬁcant role in shaping punched-card systems.
Through the development of these different punched-card systems, European punched-card producers contributed signiﬁcantly to shaping punched-card technology. The most noticeable examples were the British Powers company making the ﬁrst letter printing tabulator, Dehomag pro- ducing punched-card machines with advanced calculation facilities, and the Bull company making alphanumeric tabulators that used printing wheels.