Punched card

 

A punched card or punch card is a piece of stiff paper that can be used to contain digital data represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions. Digital data can be used for data processing applications or, in earlier examples, used to directly control automated machinery.
At the end of the 1800s Herman Hollerith invented the recording of data on a medium that could then be read by a machine. "After some initial trials with paper tape, he settled on punched cards...", developing punched card data processing technology for the 1890 US census. His tabulating machines read and summarized data stored on punched cards and they began use for government and commercial data processing. Initially, these electromechanical machines only counted holes, but by the 1920s they had units for carrying out basic arithmetic operations.
Hollerith's original system used an ad-hoc coding system for each application, with groups of holes assigned specific meanings, e.g. sex or marital status. His tabulating machine had up to 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 9,999. During a given tabulating run counters were assigned specific holes or, using relay logic, combination of holes.
One of the most common punched card formats is the IBM 5081 card format, a general purpose layout with no field divisions. This format has digits printed on it corresponding to the punch positions of the digits in each of the 80 columns. Other punched card vendors manufactured cards with this same layout and number.
The Powers-Samas card formats began with 45 columns and round holes. Later 36, 40 and 65 column cards were provided. A 130 column card was also available - formed by dividing the card into two rows, each row with 65 columns and each character space with 5 punch positions. A 21 column card was comparable to the IBM Stub card.