Category Archives: IT

Underwood Samas Punched Card Sales Brochure

This is a sales brochure from the Samas punched card division of Underwood. Before electronic computers a lot of companies did their data processing on punched card machines.

Underwood Samas Punched Card Brochure 03

In 1915 the American company Powers Tabulating Machine Company established European operations through the Accounting and Tabulating Machine Company of Great Britain Limited, in 1929 renamed Powers-Samas Accounting Machine Limited (Samas, full name Societe Anonyme des Machines a Statistiques, had been the Power’s sales agency in France, formed in 1922).

In 1952, Underwood, the typewriter manufacturer,  acquired the American punched card tabulating equipment assets of the British Powers-Samas company.

Unlike IBM equipment Powers-Samas equipment was entirely mechanical. Rectangular holes in punched cards were converted into electrical signals as they passed under a row of wire brushes. Pins that could drop through round holes in cards were connected to linkages and their displacement when a hole was present actuated other parts of the mechanism to produce desired results.”


Underwood Samas Punched Card Brochure 04

Samples of cards

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IBM Port-A-Punch

Punched cards were  first used in the 18th century to store the programs used to control silk looms.  In the late nineteenth century they were  used by Hollerith to process census data, then widely in government and business  in the era of punched card data processing. Until about the mid 1970s they  were also used as an input medium in the early electronic computers.

The pocket sized Port-A-Punch was introduced by IBM in 1958 to allow  the ad hoc production of small numbers of punched cards. For example, if an operator or engineer needed to introduce one or two extra control or data cards  in a run they could be quickly produced on a Port-A-Punch. Another use was in program testing. A programmer might submit a thousand card programme and on its first run have it fail at, say, card 54 because of a mistake on that card. The Port-A-Punch  allowed the programmer to quickly produce a new card and submit the batch of cards for their second run.

IBM claims that ‘The product was also intended for “on-the-spot” recording operations — such as physical inventories, job tickets and statistical surveys — because it eliminated the need for preliminary writing or typing of source documents. Among the Port-A-Punch’s customers and applications were: Ford Motor Company, to locate new car prospects and other marketing data; New York State Department of Public Works, to conduct traffic surveys in the field; Reynolds Metals Company, for sales personnel call reports; U.S. Army Ordnance Tank Automotive Command, to report on vehicle R&D tests; Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, for time reporting by field installers and repairmen; Jackson Brewing Company, to invoice customers at time of delivery; Thompson-Ramo Woolridge Corporation, for faster production line reporting; Varina Wholesale Builders Supply Company, for point-of-sale recording of chain store sales and inventory data; and Peckham Road Corporation, to prepare job tickets on customer shipments leaving various plants.’

I doubt if Port-A-Punchs were used to produce more than a few cards at a time.  They were too slow. For larger volumes of data it was faster and easier to enter the data on  coding sheets and then have cards produced on a machine such as a IBM 029 Card Punch by a skilled operator.


The images below show the plastic mask used on the Port-A-Punch to ensure accurate punching, the card holder and the punching tool.

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Hewlett Packard Circuit Board Yield Calculator

HP Board Yield Calculator 1 HP Board Yield Calculator 2

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IBM Punched Card Machine Load Computer

This slide chart was produced by IBM and is approximately 7.5 inches by 3 inches. It was used to calculate how long it would take to process a certain number of punched cards through different punched card machines [punches, verifiers, sorters, collators and accounting machines].

punched card load calculator 01

punched card load calculator 02

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Paradise Mill’s Jacquard Looms

Paradise Mill is a former silk mill in Macclesfield. It is now part of the town’s Silk Museum.  It holds 26 Jacquard Looms; possibly the largest collection of such looms in the world [unless Jacquard’s home town of Lyon has more].

Macclesfield was a silk processing town. One hundred and twenty mills and dye house were built in  there between 1740 and 1940.  There were 600 garreted houses [houses where the top floor had been fitted with extra large windows and was used as a workshop].

Macclesfield_Paradise_Street_Garreted houses

Paradise Mill was operated by the firm of Cartwright & Sheldon from 1912. The looms were restored in the early 1980s and the mill and museum opened to the public.  Tours of the mill are organised by the Silk Museum and conducted by a very knowledgeable guide. [The museum itself is well worth a visit. It has a lot of interesting exhibits and is very well presented.]

Jacquard Looms  transformed the silk industry. They are also considered an important part of the history of computing because they incorporate two important ideas.

1. The stored program concept – the program to operate a loom was stored separately from the machine  in a set of punched cards.

2. Punched cards – silk weaving programs were stored in punched cards. Punched cards were later used extensively to store programs and data both in punched card processing and in early electronic computing.

You can read more about this here.  Link

Paradise Mill Jacquard Looms 07 Continue reading

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Jacquard Loom Card Duplicator

Jacquard Loom card duplicators in the collection of the Macclesfield Silk Museum

Jacquard Loom Card Duplicator  1xx Jacquard Loom Card Duplicator  2xx Jacquard Loom Card Duplicator  3xx

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Jacquard Loom Card Stitcher

Jacquard Loom card stitching machine in the collection of the Macclesfield Silk Museum.

After cards had been punched they were put on this ladder like frame to sort them into the correct order.

Jacquard Loom Card Stitcher 0xx

They were then stitched together on this machine.

Jacquard Loom Card Stitcher 1xx

Jacquard Loom Card Stitcher 3xx

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