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Herman Hollerith: Electric Tabulating Device, 1890

Stated Aims

When given the task of tallying and sorting large amounts of information, individuals will devise a system which involves an original design stage (counting hierarchy), a repetitive operation stage (actual counting) and a final "results gathering in" (register of tally) stage.

Herman Hollerith's stated aims in creating his tabulating system were to "reduce labor, increase rapidity of tallies and insure accuracy." He accomplished this by providing an unambiguous input profile, mechanizing the repetitive sorting stage, and including an indicator of output tally results.

After unsuccessful experiments with punched paper tape inputs, Hollerith fixed on a punched card system, echoing their previous similar use in Jacquard looms and Babbage's imagined analytical engine. The manila cards were durable and non-conductors of electricity.