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Herman Hollerith

Born in 1860 in Buffalo, NY, Herman Hollerith was the creator of the Hollerith Electric Tabulating System, the ancestor to computers as we know them today. The system used cards with punched holes to tabulate data. Though first used in 1887 for calculating mortality statistics, Hollerith's punch card system became widely known when it was used to tabulate the U.S population during the 1890 census.

Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896. His punch card machine, now fitted with automatic card feeders, was used again in the 1900 census. But by 1910, the US Census Bureau decided to build their own machines because Hollerith was charging too much money for use of his machines.

In 1911, Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company merged with another machine manufacturer to form Computer Tabulating Recording Company. The new company struggled to gain market share for nearly ten years, and it wasn't until 1920 that it became a leader in the counting machine industry. Hollerith retired in 1921. In 1924, under the direction of Thomas Watson, Sr., the company was renamed International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

As a primary form of data input for computers, the punch card existed well into the early 1970s before the interactive display terminal began its ascendance. Hollerith died in 1929 in Washington, D.C., and is widely known today as the father of information processing.

This was last updated in September 2005

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