Feeding Information to Machines to Speed Up Processing

Hollerith card as shown in the Railroad Gazette in 1895

Hollerith card as shown in the Railroad Gazette in 1895

Today in 1886, the first Linotype machine in the U.S. was installed at the Tribune newspaper in New York City. Invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler, a Linotype machine could produce five lines per minute compared to the one line per minute typically produced by typesetters. Steven Lubar in InfoCulture: “Mark Twain, who lost a great deal of money investing in an automatic typesetting machine, suggested its value when he wrote that a Linotype ‘could work like six men and do everything but drink, swear, and go out on strike.’” A competitor to the Linotype, the Monotype, was invented in 1887 by Tolbert Lanston. It produced higher quality type and was controlled by a punched paper tape.

On July 1, 1890, two thousand clerks began processing the results of the 1890 U.S. Census, employing ninety-six of Herman Hollerith’s  tabulating machines, using a punched card system where a hole punched in a specific place on the card signified a fact about an individual. The information on the population of the United States (62,947,714 in 1890) was processed in one year, compared to the eight years it took to process the 1880 Census.

Kevin Maney in Making the World Work Better: “Hollerith gave computers a way to sense the world through a crude form of touch. Subsequent computing and tabulating machines would improve on the process, packing more information unto cards and developing methods for reading the cards much faster. Yet, amazingly, for six more decades computers would experience the outside way no other way.”

About GilPress

I launched the Big Data conversation; writing, research, marketing services; http://whatsthebigdata.com/ & https://infostory.com/
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