The new census of the United States—the electrical enumerating mechanism.

Publisher Information: 1890.

[Hollerith Machine.] The new census of the United States—the electrical enumerating mechanism. Wood-engraved illustration. In Scientific American 63, no. 9 (August 30, 1890): 122 [front wrapper]. Whole number. [122]-142pp. 395 x 277 mm. Original self-wrappers. Stab-holes in gutter margin (not affecting image), small marginal tear in one leaf mended with tape, but very good.

First Edition of one of the first descriptions of the Hollerith punched-card tabulator used for the first time to speed up computation of the 1890 U.S. Census. A large illustration of the tabulator is reproduced on the front wrapper of the August 30, 1890 issue of the Scientific American (the accompanying article, titled “The census of the United States,” is on p. 132). The image shows male and female workers using card-punch machines, tabulators and counting machines, while a group of clerks manually sorts and ties the printed data sheets.

The punched-card tabulator and its accessories, which reigned as the primary large-scale data-processing system until the advent of the electronic digital computer, was invented in the 1880s by Herman Hollerith, a onetime clerk at the United States Census Bureau. Acting on a suggestion by John Shaw Billings, the Bureau’s head of vital statistics, Hollerith perfected a system that used punched cards for recording statistical data; the cards were read by electrical sensors and the results tabulated by machine. In 1890 the Census Bureau contracted with Hollerith to use his tabulator in the 1890 census, an event that has been described as “a milestone in the history of modern data processing” (Cortada, Before the Computer: IBM, NCR, Burroughs, and Remington Rand and the Industry they Created, 1865–1956, p. 48). Hollerith’s machines, which could tabulate data for as many as fifteen thousand people a day, cut the time needed to complete the census by nearly eighty percent over manual methods; they also enabled the Census Bureau to process a larger variety of data than ever before. The age of mechanized data handling had begun.

In December 1896 Hollerith incorporated his business under the name of the Tabulating Machine Company, manufacturing and leasing his tabulators to government agencies and, increasingly, to commercial users such as banks, insurance companies and department stores. Hollerith sold his company in 1911 to industrialist Charles R. Flint, who merged it with several other manufacturing companies to form C-T-R (the initials stood for Computing, Tabulating and Recording). In 1915 Thomas J. Watson became president of C-T-R; nine years later Watson changed the name of the company to International Business Machines (IBM).

Book Id: 43137

Price: $950.00

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