An 80-by-10 grid punched into a paper card helped drive us out of the Industrial Age and into the Data Age.
By Caleb Scharf, June 23, 202112:53 PM
From The Ascent of Information: Books, Bits, Genes, Machines, and Life’s Unending Algorithm by Caleb Scharf published on June 15, 2021 by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2021 Caleb Scharf.
In 1889, a mechanical engineer named Herman Hollerith persuaded the United States government to use machine‑readable paper punch cards and electric counting machines to conduct the national Census, saving the U.S. Treasury about $5 million in the costs of handling data for 62 million people.
By 1891 Hollerith was designing machines to be used in censuses in Canada, Norway, and Austria, as well as by railroads to tabulate fare information.
As a result, Hollerith’s fledgling company quickly became part of the growing data landscape, and eventually, in 1924, it became the International Business Machines Corporation, or IBM.