Although facts and information are used interchangeably in common usage,
the above distinction does exist, and is important in terms of computers and
what they do.
e. Significance of the Vertical Sorter. With this new use of the punch card,
Hollerith made an important step toward automated computation. Earlier applications of
the punch card had been uniquely for process control. In Jacquard's loom, the punch
card controlled the weaving pattern (a process). Hollerith was the first to use the punch
card as a medium for data processing. So just 19 years after Charles Babbage's death,
an element of his Analytical Engine, punch cards, appeared in a functioning machine.
f. Features of the Vertical Sorter. Hollerith's census machine or vertical sorter
could automatically "read" the information that had been punched into cards, without
human intermediation. The card passed through a reading station equipped with
special brushes and a contact roller to convert the holes in a card into electric impulses.
The electric impulses were then processed by the machine to obtain the desired output.
g. Advantages of the Vertical Sorter. With automation, reading errors were
greatly reduced, workflow was increased and, most important, stacks of punch cards
could be used as an accessible memory store of almost unlimited capacity. In addition,
different problems could be stored on different batches of cards and worked on, as
h. Later Implications. Hollerith won prizes, praise, and a doctorate from
Columbia University for his invention. "The apparatus, marveled 'The Electrical
Engineer,' works as unerringly as the mills of the Gods, but beat them hallow as to the
speed.` Hollerith went on to form his own company to promote the commercial use of
his machines, successfully adapting his census machine for commercial use. He sold
his inventions to the railroads, government offices, and even Czarist Russia. The
company was immediately and lastingly successful. Over the years it passed through a
series of mergers, to eventually become IBM.
1-13. OTHER PUNCH CARD APPLICATIONS
a. Business and Science. For the next 50 years, punch card machines did the
bulk of the world's business computing and a considerable portion of the computing
work of science. With Hollerith's success, improved punch card machines were
developed by IBM, Remington-Rand, Burroughs, and other corporations.