Museum for the historical development of calculator, computer and communication technology

Punch card computing

Punch cards are used since the beginnings of the 20th century as storage media. They are handy, can be labeled automatically or by hand, and can be sorted quickly. Therefore they were used until the late 1980s. Indeed they were mainly used in the 1960s, when EDP conquered the world. Today's folk is astonished at the size, the clearness and functionality of these machines. At technikum29 most of these archaic devices still work.

Card puncher devices

Various card punchers

For punching cards only occasionally, the small bottom device was quite sufficient, e.g. for small companies. The device in the middle of the picture is a puncher from BULL and the topmost device is a so-called "magnetic puncher" that is equipped with solenoids that punch the holes. For even higher amounts of punching requirements, there were quite more expensive "motor-driven punchers".

A typical machinery consists of a card puncher which punches the information and data on the cards, a card collator which sorts the cards from different stacks (for instance adresses and bills), a sorter which sorts with specified loads and possibly a punch card interpreter that writes the punched information on a prescribed position on the punch card.

IBM 029 und Juki

IBM 029 and JUKI card puncher.

On the left hand in the picture there is the legendary IBM 029 (build since 1964), on the right hand the JUKI puncher (made in Japan). The JUKI puncher is not accidentally looking like the IBM: In 1971 IBM brought the puncher 129 on the market which buffers the content of the whole punchcard while reading. Therefore IBM selled the license to reproduce the machine. In 1971, the IBM 029 costed about 15.500 DM.

UNIVAC 1710 Verifying Interpreting Punch

UNIVAC 1710 Verifying Interpreting Punch (VIP)

The Univac 1710 VIP was released at the same time like the UNIVAC 9400 mainframe in the year 1969. This device is very fast and versatile and works mostly electronically. Most likely, Univac wanted to trump IBM with this trendsetting device. The device's internals are very elaborate, but offer many advantages, compared to usual apperatures at that time:
It featured a core memory with 12 x 80 x 2 cells for both data and programs. It could handle two programs and one data storage. Programming was performed automatically once program cards have been inserted, and programs could be changed at the touch of a key. The device furthermore featured program-controlled printing during punching. Keypunching errors were electronically corrected, since cards were punched only after all entries were in storage. Verifying and correction comprised a one-pass operation. Verified cards were uniquely notched while error cards were automatically ejected to a separate stacker.
The device also features a large illuminated digital display that indicates which program is in control, furthermore the device could be used for subsequent card labeling. However, the device had always mechanical problems: The type wheel print was of bad quality and the card feeding could easily stop working when the adjustment wasn't perfectly fitting.


IBM 082 sorterIBM 082 sorter (without cover)

IBM 082 punch card sorter, Built since 1949
The function of the punch card sorter

IBM 083 punch card sorter

IBM 083 sorter
Compared to the IBM 082 the sorting mechanics were greatly improved. The machine can sort 1000 cards per minute. Much more than 16 cards per second are not possible, due to the mechanic's inertia. This type was built since 1958.
The function of the punch card sorter


IBM 077

IBM punch card collator 077

The picture above shows the back of a collator, year of manufacture 1959. The collector reads 480 cards per minute. It is capable of changing the order of the cards, looking for copies (and seperating them out) or comparing two stacks and finding out the differences. Compared to today's database storages this card collator is a kind of mechanical database query language interpreter.
The electronics comprises of relays and camshafts which control switches. Early engineers had to use oilcans for the bearing's maintenance as often as a checking device.
The programs could be changed by replacing the programing field.
The function of the punch card collator

Bull punch card collator 56.00

Bull punch card collator 56.00.

This very big device features very much chrome and almost 1000 relays, assembled to allow developers to implement varoius mixing algorithms with wired panels. Thus collating and sorting could be performed in only one working cycle. Depending on the task, the device could process about 250 - 500 cards per minute.

Card interpreter

IBM 548

IBM 548

A huge punch card interpreter made by IBM. This machine can label 60 cards per minute in 60 cols and two rows, according to the settings which you can set.