SHORPY Historic Photo Archive & Fine-Art Prints
The Shorpy Archive
9000+ fine-art prints suitable for framing. Desk-size to sofa-size and larger, on archival paper or canvas.
Join and Share

Support Shorpy

Shorpy is funded by you. Help by purchasing a print or contributing. Learn more.

Social Shorpy


Join our mailing list (enter email):

Member Photos

Photos submitted by Shorpy members.

Colorized Photos

Colorized photos submitted by members.

About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2019 SHORPY INC.

[REV 25-NOV-2014]

JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Traffic Channel Control: 1942

Traffic Channel Control: 1942

June 1942. Washington, D.C. "U.S. Office of Defense Transportation system of port control and its traffic channel control." IBM printer connected to a punch card machine. Photo by Albert Freeman, Office of War Information. View full size.

To stay online without a paywall or a lot of pop-up ads, Shorpy needs your help. (Our server rental alone is $3,000 a year.) You can contribute by becoming a Patron, or by purchasing a print from the Shorpy Archive. Or both! Read more about our 2019 pledge drive here. Our last word on the subject is: Thanks!

First came punch cards...

and then came punch card wreaths and stars at Christmas. I wonder how long the cards existed before someone folded them into Christmas decorations.

[Here's an example from 1966. -tterrace]

In the spirit of the season

This reminds me of the last day before Christmas Break in college. Every year this guy would come in to the computer lab and submit a job with three drawers of punch cards. About 30 minutes later, the line printer would start playing Christmas carols. With harmony.

Ear protection?

I wonder, how loud was this contraption in full swing?

It's an IBM 405 alphabetical accounting machine

This machine seems to have been able to process up to 150 cards per minute, or 80 alphanumeric cards per minute. It could make sums of data stored on cards, and print the results on wide paper.

Moving to the machine on the right, it's interesting to note that the frame was made with curved legs, then the machine's rectilinear covers were cut out to fit around the legs.

From Many, One

There is cautionary narrative here for the tyrants of the world.

It is just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War 2. In Europe and the Orient, the Axis powers and their minions are busily impressing multitudes of subject peoples into slavery, building munitions, roads, fortifications and the like. (And those are the lucky ones -- the ones not starved, gassed and incinerated.)

Yet here in America is this lady -- a civil servant almost certainly the descendant of slaves herself, now the master of this latest arcane and inscrutable mechanism from the International Business Machines Corporation. Calmly overseeing the scheduling of, let's say, the departure of Liberty Ships from their East Coast ports to destinations in England and the Soviet Union.

And thousands more like her, gathering in their makeshift offices across the United States, day after day slowly and methodically planting the seeds of Hitler's doom.

Doing her bit

A competent, assured, and lovely young woman doing a skilled task for the war effort.

What a wonderful contrast to the KKK twit in the previous post. Dave, did you sync 'em up like that on purpose??

It's a tabulator.

Don't know the model number, the ones I worked on were of a later generation.

Data from 80-column punched cards were printed in neat columns on the printer. The plugboard to the left of the machine is used to program which card columns map to the printer character positions, for example: card columns 1 - 10 are printed in positions 20 - 29 on the printer. The ones I worked on could calculate running, intermediate and grand totals for specified card fields and also print running page and column headers.

In the early 1960s the functions of this sort of machine were taken over by the newer, cheaper IBM mainframes (1400 series, for example) using the RPG program. RPG was basically a report generator program which allowed the mainframe to emulate a card tabulator and sorter.

I dare say there are still some older IBM sites running ROG programs under some sort of emulation.

Precious memories

Notice the toggle switch on the tray receiving the processed cards. If too many cards come from the hopper above, the steel plate in front of the cards will nudge the toggle switch to "Off" and shut the machine down. I was running a job on a variant (IBM 402) of the machine pictured one afternoon in the railroad yard office I worked in. I was making small talk with a train conductor while running the job, and the phone rang at the other end of the office. I took the call as I watched the conductor bid me farewell with a wave, and went back to the printer. It was dead. I tried a few tricks I knew and finally gave up, calling for a service rep from IBM. The guy came in and never opened his tool kit. He walked over to the printer, looked me straight in the eye, and flipped the toggle switch to "On." Then he sat down and did his paperwork, never uttering a word all the time he was there. Never knew I could feel so small. The conductor had turned the switch to "Off" while I was on the phone. A week or two later it was my turn. Paybacks are sweet.

The frame at the end with the mini entrails is the program. Our office had about five or six of these things hanging on the wall, each one for a particular job.

Back when you could see the bits

This mechanical computing machinery helps us to see how far we've come in the last 70 years. Every bit of data is big enough to see on the punch cards, and every signal path is visible on the programming plugboard.

Yet, somehow, they used this stuff to get the job done.

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

Syndicate content RSS | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Photo Use | © 2019 Shorpy Inc.