The TABULATING MACHINE was an electromechanical machine designed to
assist in summarizing information stored on punched cards . Invented
Herman Hollerith , the machine was developed to help process data
for the 1890 U.S. Census . Later models were widely used for business
applications such as accounting and inventory control . It spawned a
class of machines, known as unit record equipment , and the data
The term "Super Computing " was used by the
New York World
New York World newspaper
in 1931 to refer to a large custom-built tabulator that
IBM made for
Columbia University .
* 1 1890 census
* 2 Following the 1890 census
* 3 Operation
* 4 Selected Models and timeline
* 5 See also
* 6 Notes
* 7 References
* 8 Further reading
* 9 External links
The 1880 census had taken eight years to process. Since the U.S.
Constitution mandates a census every ten years to apportion both
congressional representatives and direct taxes among the states , a
larger staff or faster method was required.
In the late 1880s
Herman Hollerith , inspired by conductors using
holes punched in different positions on a railway ticket to record
traveler details such as gender and approximate age, invented the
recording of data on a machine readable medium. Prior uses of machine
readable media had been for lists of instructions (not data) to drive
programmed machines such as Jacquard looms . "After some initial
trials with paper tape, he settled on punched cards ..." Hollerith
used punched cards with round holes, 12 rows and 24 columns. His
tabulator used electromechanical relays (and solenoids ) to increment
mechanical counters. A set of spring-loaded wires were suspended over
the card reader. The card sat over pools of mercury , pools
corresponding to the possible hole positions in the card. When the
wires were pressed onto the card, punched holes allowed wires to dip
into the mercury pools, making an electrical contact that could be
used for counting, sorting, and setting off a bell to let the operator
know the card had been read. The tabulator had 40 counters, each with
a dial divided into 100 divisions, with two indicator hands; one which
stepped one unit with each counting pulse, the other which advanced
one unit every time the other dial made a complete revolution. This
arrangement allowed a count up to 10,000. During a given tabulating
run, counters could be assigned a specific hole or, using relay logic
, a combination of holes, e.g. to count married females. If the card
was to be sorted a compartment lid of the sorting box would open for
storage of the card, the choice of compartment depending on the data
in the card.
Hollerith's method was used for the 1890 census. Clerks used
keypunches to punch holes in the cards entering age, state of
residence, gender, and other information from the returns.
FOLLOWING THE 1890 CENSUS
The advantages of the technology were immediately apparent for
accounting and tracking inventory . Hollerith started his own business
as The Hollerith Electric Tabulating System, specializing in punched
card data processing equipment . In 1896 he incorporated the
Tabulating Machine Company. In that year he introduced the Hollerith
Integrating Tabulator, which could add numbers coded on punched cards,
not just count the number of holes.
Punched cards were still read
manually using the pins and mercury pool reader. 1900 saw the
Hollerith Automatic Feed Tabulator used in that year's U.S. census. A
control panel was incorporated in the 1906 Type 1.
In 1911, four corporations, including Hollerith's firm, were
amalgamated (via stock acquisition) to form a fifth company, the
Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR). The Powers Accounting
Machine Company was formed that same year and, like Hollerith, with
machines first developed at the Census Bureau. In 1919 the first Bull
tabulator prototype was developed. Tabulators that could print, and
with removable control panels, appeared in the 1920s. In 1924 CTR was
International Business Machines
International Business Machines (IBM). In 1927 Remington Rand
acquires the Powers
Accounting Machine Company. In 1933 The Tabulating
Machine Company was subsumed into IBM. These companies continued to
develop faster and more sophisticated tabulators, culminating in
tabulators such as the 1949
IBM 407 and the 1952
Remington Rand 409
Remington Rand 409 .
Tabulating machines continued to be used well after the introduction
of commercial electronic computers in the 1950s.
Many applications using unit record tabulators were migrated to
computers such as the
IBM 1401 . Two programming languages, FARGO and
RPG , were created to aid this migration. Since tabulator control
panels were based on the machine cycle, both FARGO and RPG emulated
the notion of the machine cycle and training material showed the
control panel vs. programming language coding sheet relationships.
IBM Type 285 tabulators in use at U.S.
Social Security Administration circa 1936 Early
Powers-Samas accounting machine
In its basic form, a tabulating machine would read one card at a
time, print portions (fields) of the card on fan-fold paper , possibly
rearranged, and add one or more numbers punched on the card to one or
more counters, called accumulators . On early models, the accumulator
register dials would be read manually after a card run to get totals.
Later models could print totals directly. Cards with a particular
punch could be treated as master cards causing different behavior. For
example, customer master cards could be merged with sorted cards
recording individual items purchased. When read by the tabulating
machine to create invoices, the billing address and customer number
would be printed from the master card, and then individual items
purchased and their price would be printed. When the next master card
was detected, the total price would be printed from the accumulator
and the page ejected to the top of the next page, typically using a
carriage control tape .
With successive stages or cycles of punched-card processing, fairly
complex calculations could be made if one had a sufficient set of
equipment. (In modern data processing terms, one can 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.) A human operator had to retrieve, load,
and store the various card decks at each stage.
SELECTED MODELS AND TIMELINE
Hollerith's first tabulators were used for the U.S. 1890 Census.
The first Tabulating Machine Company (TMC) automatic feed tabulator,
operating at 150 cards/minute, was developed in 1906.
The first TMC printing tabulator was developed in 1920.
TMC Type IV
Accounting Machine (later renamed the
IBM 301), from the
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
H.W.Egli - BULL Tabulator model T30, 1931
IBM 401: From the
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
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
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 the 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
IBM 402 and 403, from 1948, were modernized successors to the 405.
Control panel for an
BULL BS-PR tabulating machine
The 1952 Bull Gamma 3 could be attached to this tabulator or to a
Introduced in 1949, it was later adapted to serve as an input/output
peripheral for a number of early electronic calculators and computers.
Its printing mechanism was used in the
IBM 716 line printer for the
IBM 700/7000 series and later with the
IBM 1130 through the mid-1970s.
Accounting Machine was withdrawn from marketing in 1976,
signaling the end of the unit record era.
* List of
British Tabulating Machine Company
Accounting Machine Company , Powers
Accounting Machines Ltd aka. "Acc and Tab"
* Remington Rand Tabulating Machines
* UNIVAC 1004 80/90 Card Processor
For early use of tabulators for scientific computations see
Wallace John Eckert
* ^ The "sorting box" was controlled by the tabulator. The
"sorter", an independent machine, was a later development. See:
Austrian, Geoffrey D. (1982). Herman Hollerith: Forgotten Giant of
Columbia University Press. pp. 41, 178–179.
ISBN 0-231-05146-8 .
* ^ Later
IBM tabulators provided multiple, small, counters of 2 to
8 positions. When a larger counter was needed multiple counters could
be grouped to function as a single counter. For example, a control
panel could be wired to group a 4 position and a 6 position counter,
forming a 10 position counter.
* ^ Before direct subtraction was available, negative numbers were
entered as complements or were listed and totaled in separate columns.
* ^ Eames, Charles; Eames, Ray (1973). A
Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. p. 95. The 1920 date on
page 95 is incorrect, see The Columbia Difference Tabulator - 1931
U.S. Census, 1880#Results
Columbia University Computing History - Herman Hollerith
* ^ Truedsell, Leon E. (1965). The Development of Punch Card
Tabulation in the Bureau of the Census 1890-1940. US GPO. p. 51.
* ^ Holerith 1890 Census Tabulator
Columbia University Computing
* ^ An Electric Tabulating System, The Quarterly, Columbia
University School of Mines, Vol.X No.16 (April 1889)
IBM Archive: Hollerith Tabulator & Sorter Box
* ^ (Austrian, 1982, p.153)
IBM Tabulators and
* ^ "
Columbia University Computing History -
IBM Type 285".
* ^ U.S. Census Bureau: The Hollerith Machine
IBM Archive: 1906
* ^ "
IBM Archives: 1920". IBM.
* ^ Bull Gamma 3
* Fierheller, George A. (2014). Do not fold, spindle or mutilate:
the "hole" story of punched cards (PDF). Stewart Pub. ISBN
1-894183-86-X . An accessible book of recollections (sometimes with
errors), with photographs and descriptions of many unit record
machines. The chapter It all adds Up describes
IBM tabulators and
* Hollerith, Herman (December 1894). "The Electric Tabulating
Journal of the Royal Statistical Society . Blackwell
Publishing. 57 (4): 678–682.
JSTOR 2979610 . doi :10.2307/2979610 .
From (Randell, 1982) ... brief... fascinating article... describes the
way in which tabulators and sorters were used on ... 100 million cards
... 1890 census.
* Kistermann, F.W. (Summer 1995). "The way to the first automatic
sequence-controlled calculator: the 1935 DEHOMAG D 11 tabulator".
Annals of the History of Computing. 17 (2): 33–49. doi
* Randell (ed.), Brian (1982). The Origins of Digital Computers,
Selected Papers, 3rd ed. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-11319-3 . CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link ) Chapter 3, Tabulating
Machines, has excerpts of Hollerith's 1889 An Electric Tabulating
System and Couffignal's 1933 Calculating Machines: Their Principles