Computer Desktop Encyclopedia: Hollerith machine
The first automatic data processing system. It was used to count the 1890 U.S. census. Developed by Herman Hollerith, a statistician who had worked for the Census Bureau, the system used a hand punch to record the data as holes in dollar-bill-sized punch cards and a tabulating machine to count them. The tabulating machine contained a spring-loaded pin for each potential hole in the card. When a card was placed in the reader and the handle was pushed down, the pins that passed through the holes closed electrical circuits causing counters to be incremented and a lid in the sorting box to open.
It Only Took Three Years
Using manual methods, it was estimated that the 1890 census would not be completed until after 1900. With Hollerith's machines, it took less than three years to count 62 million people and saved the government $5 million dollars.
The Start of IBM
Hollerith formed the Tabulating Machine Company and sold his machines throughout the world for a variety of accounting functions. In 1911, his company was merged into the company that was later renamed IBM.