IPFW Hollerith Card

Punched Card

*.**** PROBABILITY OF A WELL PERSON BECOMING SICK FROM A CONTACT


Wow! I was cleaning up a drawer with 10,000 old warranty and instruction manuals and found a pile of these cards. I knew I’d kept them, I just didn’t know where until today.

It’s from a bygone era 35 years ago.

The text is “*.**** PROBABILITY OF A WELL PERSON BECOMING SICK FROM A CONTACT”

IPFW (was) Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. It’s become a victim of the two parent organizations who treat the school like a second class technical school. They decided that most of the curriculum isn’t profitable enough for IU so they’re splitting the university down the middle. In addition, the liberal arts programs don’t feed the coffers of wealthy (modern) robber barons quickly enough so they got slashed too.

I surprised myself in knowing that the card’s technical name is Hollerith, also known as IBM card or punched card. This one was from a summer project with a professor at IPFW simulating epidemic propagation using the language SimScript, a simulation language.

They’re based on a system where the pattern of holes in each column of the card represent different letters. In a way they’re an ancient form of SMS because they only old 80 characters, like a text message’s 160. They would be created with a punch card terminal that one would type on a keyboard and the correct holes would be selected. A program would be a stack (deck) of these cards and heaven help you if you drop them!

They’re similar in concept to Florida’s voting punched cards from the 2000 US presidential election. However, these cards never have “hanging chads” because that would cause data errors which weren’t acceptable in the world of technology.

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