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Herman Hollerith

Herman Hollerith

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Herman Hollerith was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 statistician
Statistician
A statistician is someone who works with theoretical or applied statistics. The profession exists in both the private and public sectors. The core of that work is to measure, interpret, and describe the world and human activity patterns within it...

 who developed a mechanical tabulator
Tabulating machine
The tabulating machine was an electrical device designed to assist in summarizing information and, later, accounting. Invented by Herman Hollerith, the machine was developed to help process data for the 1890 U.S. Census...

 based on punched card
Punched card
A punched card, punch card, IBM card, or Hollerith card is a piece of stiff paper that contains digital information represented by the presence or absence of holes in predefined positions...

s to rapidly tabulate statistics from millions of pieces of data. He was the founder of one of the companies that later merged and became IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

.

Personal life


Hollerith was born in Buffalo, New York
Buffalo, New York
Buffalo is the second most populous city in the state of New York, after New York City. Located in Western New York on the eastern shores of Lake Erie and at the head of the Niagara River across from Fort Erie, Ontario, Buffalo is the seat of Erie County and the principal city of the...

, where he spent his early childhood. He entered the City College of New York
City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...

 in 1875 and graduated from the Columbia University School of Mines with an "Engineer of Mines" degree in 1879. In 1880 he listed himself as a mining engineer while living in Manhattan, and completed his Ph.D. in 1890 at Columbia University. He eventually moved to Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, living in Georgetown
Georgetown, Washington, D.C.
Georgetown is a neighborhood located in northwest Washington, D.C., situated along the Potomac River. Founded in 1751, the port of Georgetown predated the establishment of the federal district and the City of Washington by 40 years...

, with a home on 29th Street and ultimately a factory for manufacturing his tabulating machines at 31st Street and the C&O Canal, where today there is a commemorative plaque placed by IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

.

Electrical tabulation of data



At the urging of John Shaw Billings
John Shaw Billings
John Shaw Billings was an American librarian and surgeon best known as the modernizer of the Library of the Surgeon General's Office of the Army and as the first director of the New York Public Library.-Biography:...

, Hollerith developed a mechanism using electrical connections to trigger a counter, recording information. A key idea was that data could be coded numerically. Hollerith determined that if numbers could be punched in specified locations on a card, in the now-familiar rows and columns, then the cards could be counted or sorted mechanically and the data recorded. A description of this system, An Electric Tabulating System (1889), was submitted by Hollerith to Columbia University as his doctoral thesis, and is reprinted in Randell's book. On January 8, 1889, Hollerith was issued U.S. Patent 395,782, claim 2 of which reads:

The herein-described method of compiling statistics, which consists in recording separate statistical items pertaining to the individual by holes or combinations of holes punched in sheets of electrically non-conducting material, and bearing a specific relation to each other and to a standard, and then counting or tallying such statistical items separately or in combination by means of mechanical counters operated by electro-magnets the circuits through which are controlled by the perforated sheets, substantially as and for the purpose set forth.

Inventions and businesses


Hollerith had left teaching and begun working for the United States Census Office
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

 in the year he filed his first patent application. Titled "Art of Compiling Statistics", it was filed on September 23, 1884; U.S. Patent 395,782 was granted on January 8, 1889.. Patents 395,781 395,782 and 395,783 was published in the Scientific American on January 18, 1889..
Hollerith built machines under contract for the Census Office, which used them to tabulate the 1890 census
United States Census, 1890
The Eleventh United States Census was taken June 2, 1890. The data was tabulated by machine for the first time. The data reported that the distribution of the population had resulted in the disappearance of the American frontier...

 in only one year. The 1880 census
United States Census, 1880
The United States Census of 1880 was the tenth United States Census conducted by the Census Bureau during June 1880. It was the first time that women were permitted to be enumerators...

 had taken eight years. Hollerith then started his own business in 1896, founding the Tabulating Machine Company. Most of the major census bureaus around the world leased his equipment and purchased his cards, as did major insurance companies. To make his system work, he invented the first automatic card-feed mechanism and the first key punch
Key punch
A keypunch is a device for manually entering data into punched cards by precisely punching holes at locations designated by the keys struck by the operator. Early keypunches were manual devices. Later keypunches were mechanized, often resembled a small desk, with a keyboard similar to a...

 (that is, a punch operated by a keyboard
Keyboard technology
There are many types of keyboards, usually differentiated by the switch technology employed in their operation. Keyboards are defined by the number of highly durable switches that are incorporated into the system...

); a skilled operator could punch 200–300 cards per hour. He also invented a tabulator
Tabulating machine
The tabulating machine was an electrical device designed to assist in summarizing information and, later, accounting. Invented by Herman Hollerith, the machine was developed to help process data for the 1890 U.S. Census...

. The 1890 Tabulator was hardwired to operate only on 1890 Census cards. A plugboard
Plugboard
A plugboard, or control panel , is an array of jacks, or hubs, into which patch cords can be inserted to complete an electrical circuit. Control panels were used to direct the operation of some unit record equipment...

 control panel in his 1906 Type I Tabulator allowed it to do different jobs without being rebuilt (the first step towards programming). These inventions were among the foundations of the modern information processing industry.

In 1911 four corporations, including Hollerith's firm, merged to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation (CTR). Under the presidency of Thomas J. Watson
Thomas J. Watson
Thomas John Watson, Sr. was president of International Business Machines , who oversaw that company's growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956...

, it was renamed International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) in 1924.

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