WOWSERS! What I saw today! Or, outdated technology.

I was at work, taking a tour of the facility I am spending the next bit of time at, and there is a computer that I saw there… the machine operates on punch cards, and it’s still part of the daily operations of the location. Honestly, I had never seen a working one before, and I doubted that I ever would. :eek:

Anyone else seen a working machine that uses these in the last 10 years or so?

I’ve heard of places that still use punchcards. I’ve never even seen a real punchcard myself.

I used a stack of old IBM punchcards as bookmarks for a long time, but I ran out of them years ago. Think you could flow me some? They’re so… retro.

I heard they tried to do an election with them last year, and f**ked it up big-time.

I’ve seen them work, I’ve seen a working one in the last ten years at the University, and my mother’s first real job was as a keypunch operator. Heh.

Hey, Anth. It doesn’t happen to run off of this OS, does it? Or perhaps one of its precursors?

I was told when I arrived there that Virginia Tech’s fugliest building is designed after a Fortran punch-card, which states the name of the college. Frankly, I think that’s bullshit.

That was my mom’s first job, too, circa 1966.

When I was a kid, my parents kept punch cards (used ones fascinated me) for things like bookmarks, grocery lists, etc.


And when I arrived at the University of Missouri, I was told that one of the buildings on White Campus was designed after a punch card stating “Beat KU.”

Either there are a lot of punch card buildings out there, or there is some serious bullshit going on during the campus tourguide info sessions.

Now that I think about it, those two things are definitely not mutually exclusive…

I literally teethed on Punchcards while my mother was working on school projects. :slight_smile: In highschool the electronics room had an old Altair with a punchcard reader next to it, though I am not sure they were connected. (Weren’t allowed to inspect too closely, teacher knew me and my lab partner too well.)

At my school they still had a punch card machine (one of the older sociology teachers used to walk around with a program on punched cards that filled a few shoeboxes) and so I wrote a program on IBM assembler using punched cards, just to say I’d done it.

Of course I lost the program during a move. :frowning:

When I bought my first personal computer (a Macintosh) I posted in an Apple newsgroup “Who makes a punched card machine for the Macintosh?” I was laughed out of newsgroup.

I refused to touch a computer until they got rid of those things, but spent plenty of time in the computer lab with friends who were babysitting the IBM 360.

My last company had CAM machines that used punched paper tape.

As a young lad in the mid-80s I went to work for a certain Defense company. (Cowboy Greg, you there? :wink: ) The supervisor had this “thing” for punch cards. He felt that they provided a permanent record for the “database” (printouts in big folders). He also said that should a job need updating in the middle of the night, the punch card would allow the console operator to rerun the job by making a new, corrected card.

It was pointed out to the supervisor that the console operator could easily use TSO to change a line of JCL if the JCL were online. It would be much quicker and more efficient than making a new card. It was also pointed out that the team could run more jobs, with better accuracy, if the jobs were submitted from TSO. But no, the cards remained. Long boxes of them, stored in card cabinets.

Eventually, the team were permitted to process the data online. And still the cards remained. The supervisor finally gave up on the cards, reluctantly, when IBM informed him that they would no longer maintain/support the card punch machines or the card reader. Around 1991 or 1992.

I’m using a punch card to post to these boards.
Now you know why it takes me so long.


When I first started programming in Basic, I dreamed of the day we would get punch cards! I used to walk around campus, with rolls of punch tape trailing out of my pockets. Whenever I hear my daughters complaining about bandwidth issues, I try to explain the outdated concept of ‘time-share’ to them. They blink hard, and start thinking “Yeah, I bet she had to walk uphill in a blizzard to get to the one-room schoolhouse, barefoot!”

Yeah, and I ate dirt, and I was grateful, you whippersnappers!!

While I might curse my current system at times, I always try to remember the old days. And THEN I’m grateful…

I went to University of Missouri - Rolla (GO MINERS!) in the early 80’s. For the first two years we had to do everything on punch cards. After that we could use the 3270’s or the teletype terminal. We also had a Data General mini-computer that had a paper tape punch/reader that we could play with. In the 8080 assembler course we once wrote a small program, hand translated it to machine code, and entered it by setting the switches on the front of the Altair 8080 box.

Speaking of outdated technology… a friend and I were window shopping in Seoul about 3 years ago (keep in mind, circa 1997!), in an electronics market.

We saw a strange-looking air conditioner, and stopped to check it out. Many buttons and dials and computer-controlled gadgets on the front… we oohed and ahhed appropriately. Then the salesman came over to show us the door in the back WHERE YOU DROP IN THE ICE!!!

It was several minutes before we stopped laughing…

When I applied at the New Jersey Dept of Employment 7 years ago, they tried to convince me to take a minimum wage job located 15 miles and two buses from my house that started at 7:00 in the morning as a data entry clerk using those cards because it was a job with a good future. When I refused to take it, they told me to go on welfare cause they were not going to deal with me.

Your tax dollars at work, people!

Hmmm. Surprised at so much recent experience with 'em. I think I wrote my first program in, <gulp>, 1971 or there abouts. Even in those days, I worked mostly on teletypes. I had to deal with card decks, but I never had to hand punch more than a few JCL control cards. For a while, I DID have a bunch of stuff from school that I saved on punch card. I don’t know where that box of card decks got to.

The later generations of card readers in common use were pretty damn fast for mechanical devices - I can’t remember the rates, but they would suck through HUGE decks in the blink of an eye.

Paper tape - when I was in grad school, they were doing some projects based on topo maps drawn on Tektronix storage tubes hooked up to an HP minicomputer (late 70’s). Trouble is, the damn topo map info had to get entered. There was this huge bed digitizer owned by the Civil Eng department which they used to have students painstakingly click around the topo map contours to enter the data (at about $3/hr, IIRC). The rub was that the thing was hooked up to some very obsolete little discrete logic computer with a teletype, and CE was distrustful of having their fancy digitizer connected to anything else. The ONLY way to transfer the data was paper tape punched out by the teletype. Have you ever seen paper tape reels over a foot across - shelf after shelf of them? Yuck.

Of course card readers and card punches are peripherals, and could concievably be hooked to anything you wanted if it supported a standard data protocol (or you could manage to convert it) and you were willing to write a driver for it. I used to know a guy who was a real packrat and had 3 rooms of a house and a garage filled with various strange junk from garage sales and so on. He owned a card reader. I never did convince him to write a driver for it and hook it up to his Commodore, so he could have a PC capable of reading punch card decks.

Used a punchcard last week, sort of. The company I work for has engineering microfilm drawings mounted on punchcards. We have two printers. One has a cardreader/scanner mounted on a 286 running Windows 3.1. It usually needs rebooting so most people print from an old optical mechanical mircofilm printer. I do not remember the model number offhand but believe it is IBM from the 1970’s. Considering the many thousands of drawings we have, this is probably the best way for now. It is secure. Can’t download everything and email it to your buddies in China.