View Full Version : Punch Cards

January 25th, 2013, 09:05 AM
I'm looking for a large stash (thousands) of unpunched IBM/Hollerith cards (new or NOS) if anyone knows where I might get them.

I can't seem to find anyone still making those and the standard sources have small piles for large dollars.

Does anyone know of a source or have any (or a friend with any) stashed in a warehouse/attic/closet?


Old Computers
January 25th, 2013, 09:15 AM
Back in the summer I found a company that still prints them, but I cannot find them again right now. They have a website and I think they are located in Indiana. I might have it stored in my favorites on another computer.

Here is the link: http://web.archive.org/web/20110911184932/http://www.cardamation.com/punchcardmedia.html actual site doesn't exist anymore.

January 25th, 2013, 09:21 AM
I was thinking the same thing about two months ago when I was working at a paper factory. Punching the actual cards isn't really rocket science. I'm sure my former employer might be able to make you cards so long as you order at least 100000. :P

Al Kossow
January 25th, 2013, 02:23 PM
I was thinking the same thing about two months ago when I was working at a paper factory. Punching the actual cards isn't really rocket science. I'm sure my former employer might be able to make you cards so long as you order at least 100000. :P

why the smiley? they came in cases of 2000.

January 25th, 2013, 04:46 PM
I don't think you'll burn through 100000 cards that fast.

January 25th, 2013, 05:22 PM
Well, I don't know. Back in the 70s, I was part of the volunteer group that gathered used paper (greenbar wide stuff) and cards at CDC Sunnyvale. Every night, I'll bet that we came close to 100K cards to recycle. When all that you have for permanent storage is tape and cards, you burn through a lot of both.

I suspect that any vendor of time cards or tab cards probably still has a die for Hollerith cards and would be happy to run up 100K for you.

Old Computers
January 26th, 2013, 08:43 AM
I found the place I mentioned earlier, but it appears that the company is defunct now. I can only find the website on the Way Back Machine: http://web.archive.org/web/20110911184932/http://www.cardamation.com/punchcardmedia.html

January 26th, 2013, 10:49 AM
I've got a couple thousand or so but last I looked they'd curled slightly; probably not enough to be worth while anyway.

January 26th, 2013, 06:33 PM
Well, I don't know. Back in the 70s, I was part of the volunteer group that gathered used paper (greenbar wide stuff) and cards at CDC Sunnyvale..

There's something in computing that you have not done? People come with the most weird stuff here, and you always have some experience, that's amazing!
I will begin to call you E. Chuck. The E. represents encyclopedia.:D

January 26th, 2013, 08:17 PM
There's something in computing that you have not done? People come with the most weird stuff here, and you always have some experience, that's amazing!
I will begin to call you E. Chuck. The E. represents encyclopedia.:D

No, I've just been around a long time. I remember the CDC episode because it was at the root of a more memorable lesson that illustrated very clearly basic human nature. A small group of volunteers had set up the recycling arrangement with one of the local recycling companies after watching tons of high-quality waste (green bar paper back then was really good stuff) go into the dumpster every evening. The proceeds went to the local chapter of the Sierra Club, so no individual was getting enriched and the custodial staff was very happy not to have to collect all of that stuff. We set up collection boxes near all of the programming offices to ensure that everything would be stacked very neatly as it accumulated. Collection was hard work.

Everything went well for years until the Sierra Club contacted the HR office to say that they wanted to honor the guy running the program for the generous donation. "What do you mean, generous?" was the first question of the HR director's mouth. Well, the local employee activity club people said that they wanted a piece of the action as well. We said okay, we'll split the workweek with you--you take three days and we'll take the other two--you provide your own volunteer labor.

They tried, but couldn't get dedicated people to hold up their end and so back to HR complaining that it still wasn't fair. So they said they'd hire an outside firm to do the collection and any profits would be split. Pretty soon the program was in the red as the price of pulp fell. The whole effort went to hell and the paper went back into the dumpster.

Just shows to go you how some productive efforts can be poisoned by greed.

(end of shaggy dog story)

March 10th, 2013, 10:45 PM
Is there a card reader that can use, used uk rail cards? probably to small but still? they are free and I could get 1000's?

nige the hippy
March 11th, 2013, 09:19 AM
With a magnetic stripe, there's no point punching them though!:)

March 11th, 2013, 10:25 AM
I sent "Chuck" an email months ago, asking him the same thing? I know he's not from the same planet as the rest of us.

March 11th, 2013, 10:47 AM
Not only am I not from the same planet, I'm not from the same country that issues UK Railcards. :)

There are plenty of magnetic stripe readers and writers on the market, so I suppose you could use each card to store a small amount of information (generally less than 40-50 bytes or so on two tracks). Black- or silverstripe cards are harder to write than brown ones.

But given the small amount of data capacity, what's the point?

March 11th, 2013, 07:29 PM
TransLink just phased out paper tickets with a magnetic ink stripe on the back in favor of RFID cards. They stored an incredibly small amount of data.

March 11th, 2013, 08:19 PM
The magnetic stripe cards of the TI-59 could store about 2000 bytes. I think credit cards have about the same amount of storage between all the tracks. Might be a fun replacement for paper tape.

March 11th, 2013, 09:44 PM
Credit-card type magnetic strips don't really store much--three tracks, all low density. Track 2 is the most important--it has your card number, expiration date and CVV. It's recorded at only 75 bits per inch. Tracks 1 and 3 have your name, mailing address and other goodies, but are less reliable--they're recorded at 210 bits per inch. You can see at those densities that 2000 bytes would be pretty hard to do--but neither do you carry your TI-59 cards in your wallet or loose in a pocket, nor do you use it to scrape the frost off your windshield. Cradit cards have a tough life.

March 12th, 2013, 11:07 AM

Found these on the fleabay... 10 bux for 100, and guy seems to have over 20 sets avail, maybe you could hammer out a deal for all? I dunno just happened to run across them on my weekly grind of locating IBM stuff I need.

March 15th, 2013, 03:55 AM
When I was considering what peripherals to use on my Honeywell 200 project I discounted building a card reader as I couldn't find a card supplier in evidence. There are still vintage computer installations around using cards, so there must be a collective need. It just needs someone altruistic enough to maintain a stockpile at a reasonable price.

Regarding burning through a lot of cards, I am reminded of the story about the company that paid its punch operators by the number of boxes of cards that they drew from stock -- until they discovered that people were taking unused boxes of cards home to supplement their income.

Apart from permanent storage, in an installation using only cards they had to be used for work files as well. I seem to remember that the Honeywell Easycoder A assembler created an intermediate work deck of cards from the source deck, then the final loadable deck from that. That loadable deck was still one-to-one with the original source deck, so a compression program then created a final compressed executable file about a fifth of the size of the original and that was the one actually used to run the program. Considering how many times a program might be reassembled, that added up to a lot of cards only going through the reader once before being scrapped. It's no surprise that a lot of program corrections were patched in on the computer's control panel or manually changed in machine language within the executable decks themselves rather than going to the expense of a reassembly.

Regarding collecting greenbar paper, there was once a panic at our company when it was discovered that the local fish and chip shop was wrapping its product in our old computer listings, including ones possibly containing confidential client information. At the time it was traditional and practical for fish and chips to be wrapped in newspaper to keep it hot, but you couldn't expect people in Tunbridge Wells to eat their fish and chips out of newspaper, could you?

March 15th, 2013, 08:56 AM
Yup. IBM 1620 FORTRAN on a diskless/tapeless system. You read in pass 1 of the compiler, then your source program. An intermediate deck was punched. You then read in pass 2 of the compiler, then the intermediate deck, then the run-time library. A run-time deck was punched, which you then read in to execute your program.

Look at some old 1960s databooks--the standard medium for specifying masked ROM contents was the punched card. It was a universal medium.

March 15th, 2013, 09:37 AM
I know it's getting late in the day here when I get messages from people on the Pacific coast -- and I've only just had afternoon tea.

The last time that I saw anything about specifying masked ROM they were asking for paper tape. Punched cards seem risky. I remember someone accidentally emptying a boxful down the central spiral staircase of our office. That must have started an impromptu sorting job apart from the hunt on every landing. Cards could be pretty aerodynamic when you didn't want them to be.

I'm afraid my "old" reference is a 1950s book on English computing. Punched cards barely get a mention there although in the chapter on computers in America the IBM CPC is described, albeit as being slower than most of the other machines in the book. However, given the number produced they reckoned that the total processing done by CPCs probably equated to that done by the fewer number crunchers of the day. As many early computers were used for number crunching the amount of data involved was probably small in comparison to D.P. operations, so storage media wasn't a big issue.

I noticed the remark about the possibility that you were from another planet. I have never been able to trace the origin of my paternal grandfather, allegedly somewhere in South America, but my sister once told me that he had a very gruff accent, so I suspected that he was actually Klingon. Then I realised that my mother was seven of nine; it was a big family. That's not the right image to have of one's mother.

March 15th, 2013, 10:12 AM
Take a look in the Motorola late 1960s databooks for, say, the XC170 read-only memory. Admittedly, at only 128 bits, the entire contents fit on a punched card, but you get the idea. Paper tape was for printer carriage control, Telex and Western Union operators and CNC machine shops. Cards were cheap and robust--and more to the point--can be easily edited.

The usual custom when working on large programs was to copy a deck of cards to tape using a source librarian program. Then, you could simply add corrections by referring to a card or range of card's identifier. (No folks, Unix didn't invent CVS). There were only two really critical paths for a large card deck--between one's filing cabinet and the card reader and the return trip. The "hit a filler strip in the raised floor and tip the cart" accident collateral damage could be ameliorated somewhat by marking the top of the deck using a felt-tip marker diagonally.

You didn't want to use a deck of cards too much, particularly if it was developing dog-eared symptoms. The 1200-card-per-minute CDC 405 reader could really make a mess if a card got caught. It had this unique capability to nicely accordion-pleat successive cards after a jam.


The 415 card punch, on the other hand, was a piece of junk--it ran hot and when it got really hot, it'd start throwing verify errors.

March 15th, 2013, 10:56 AM
On the aerodynamics of cards and the habits of readers, the Honeywell 223 card reader could throw cards a long way across the room if you removed the stacker pressure plate. Operators would demonstrate their prowess by ejecting cards from the reader in this way and deftly catching them, but it wasn't a good idea to try it with the reader running at full speed, which I don't recollect but I read somewhere that it was 800cpm.