Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion, 1880–1945

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JHU Press, Mar 20, 2009 - Computers - 369 pages
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At a time when Internet use is closely tracked and social networking sites supply data for targeted advertising, Lars Heide presents the first academic study of the invention that fueled today’s information revolution: the punched card.

Early punched cards helped to process the United States census in 1890. They soon proved useful in calculating invoices and issuing pay slips. As demand for more sophisticated systems and reading machines increased in both the United States and Europe, punched cards served ever-larger data-processing purposes. Insurance companies, public utilities, businesses, and governments all used them to keep detailed records of their customers, competitors, employees, citizens, and enemies.

The United States used punched-card registers in the late 1930s to pay roughly 21 million Americans their Social Security pensions, Vichy France used similar technologies in an attempt to mobilize an army against the occupying German forces, and the Germans in 1941 developed several punched-card registers to make the war effort—and surveillance of minorities—more effective. Heide’s analysis of these three major punched-card systems, as well as the impact of the invention on Great Britain, illustrates how different cultures collected personal and financial data and how they adapted to new technologies.

This comparative study will interest students and scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including the history of technology, computer science, business history, and management and organizational studies.

  

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Punched Cards and the 1890 United States Census
15
2 New Users New Machines
38
3 US Challengers to Hollerith
68
4 The Rise of International Business Machines
105
5 Decline of Punched Cards for European Census Processing
128
6 Punched Cards for General Statistics in Europe
138
7 Different Roads to European PunchedCard Bookkeeping
164
8 Keeping Tabs on Society with Punched Cards
211
Conclusion
252
Acknowledgments
269
Financial Information Tables and Figures
271
Notes
279
Essay on Sources
351
Index
361
Copyright

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About the author (2009)

Lars Heide is an associate professor at the Centre for Business History at Copenhagen Business School.

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