herman hollerith

Science Dictionary
Hollerith   (hŏl'ə-rĭth')  Pronunciation Key 
American inventor who in 1880 created a system of recording and retrieving information on punched cards, an important step in the development of modern computer science. In 1896 he founded his own company, and later merged with two others to form the International Business Machines corporation (IBM) in 1924.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Computing Dictionary

Herman Hollerith definition

The promulgator of the punched card. Hollerith was born on 1860-02-29 and died on 1929-11-17. He graduated from Columbia University, NewYork, NY, USA. He joined the US Census Bureau as a statistician where he used a punched card device to help analyse the 1880 US census data. This punched card system stored data in 80 columns. This "80-column" concept has carried forward in various forms into modern applications.
In 1896, Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company to exploit his invention and in 1924 his firm became part of IBM. The Hollerith system was used for the 1911 UK census.
A correspondant writes:
Wasn't Hollerith's original machine first used for the 1990 US census? And I think I am right in saying that the physical layout was a 20x12 grid of round holes. The one I have seen (picture only, unfortunately, not the real thing) did not use 'columns' as such but holes were grouped into irregularly-shaped fields, such that each hole had a more-or-less independent function.

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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