• FA-108710 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Information & Communication
Data Processing
medien.welten (media.worlds)
1910 - 1919

Lochkarten-Sortiermaschine Vertical sorting machine

The Tabulating Machine Co., Washington around 1910


Punch card

Punch cards make it possible to quickly process large amounts of data. They are used for civilian as well as military purposes.

In the emerging modern administrative state, population censuses are performed regularly and the statistical attributes of the citizens – like gender and age – are recorded. As the counting of millions of registration sheets is a tedious process, a punch card procedure developed by Hermann Hollerith is introduced in 1890 for the census in the USA. A hole is punched into a particular area of a card for each attribute of an interviewee. In order to sort the cards according to certain attributes, a machine is used for determining the position of the hole and sorting the cards. In the same year, the Hollerith procedure is used for the national census in Austria. In World War I, replenishment supplies are managed using punch cards, in subsequent years the system is used by commercial enterprises and the developing social state. In the Third Reich, the system is used for sorting out people for labour duty and military service, finally also for deportation and holocaust purposes.

Inv.Nr. 7434
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