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

THINK: 1941

December 1941. "Washington apartment house turned into office space for the Foreign Function Bureau." Acetate negative by John Collier, Office of War Information. View full size.

December 1941. "Washington apartment house turned into office space for the Foreign Function Bureau." Acetate negative by John Collier, Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Safety fan

in 2004 I worked in an industrial setting that still had a floor fan with a blade guard you could put your fist through. Even then, given the hot summer temps, it took me a while to bring it to the manager's attention.

No snark intended

But the wee lass in front needs a self-care day. Lose the frazzled look. Get a manicure (her polish appears chipped but it's understandable given the circumstances) and visit the hair salon. Maybe a bubble bath and early night with a few fashion magazines. She's cute.

Logo Looks Familiar

The logo on the machine looks like one I had on my tool bag as a teletype tech in the Air Force about a hundred years ago. The machine is definitely used to create punch cards. Punch cards were used in data processing as early as the 1930s and while I couldn't find this particular machine listed in any Teletype Corp listing I have access to, I suspect this is an IBM design, the construction of which was contracted out to Teletype Corp, and was part of the expansion of the government taking place both before and after the U.S. entry into WWII.

[The IBM machines in our photo have nameplates reading MOTOR DRIVE DUPLICATING KEY PUNCH. They appear to be Model 016 punches, introduced in 1929. - Dave]


My first summer job was stock-taking for IT&T in The Hague. We had to enter our results onto Hollerith cards but the machine to do that with was a lot smaller than the ones in the picture. Guess we were a lot slower in doeing so as well.

This was in 1971, in 1980 I was enrolled in a programming course where they still used cards. No holes to punch though, you had to mark the spot with a pencil (and again and again ...).

After that was Teletype. Pity they are gone as well, we used to have nice parties with the extra money we got from selling the mountains of used paper.

Three Horses Brooch

The woman in the middle is sporting a very cool brooch depicting three horses. You can get one on eBay for about $40!

Looking forward to it!

I bet the office parties are really wild!


By the 1960's, the standard issue THINK sign came glued onto an IBM blue plastic easel, with an angled back support. We found that the angle of the support made the sign a perfect doorstop to the computer room door, 9 edge face down. Once the metal sign came off the easel, I took it home, along with the red CHECK STOP light from the 1620 when it went to its reward.

Preferred the massive 026 keypunch, you couldn't move the 029's keyboard around far enough to be comfortable.

I think, therefore I am

bored ... really, really bored. And my right hand is killing me. The woman in the middle has a cord attached to the side of her machine (on her right) that the other two don't have. I wonder why the difference.

I remember typing computer punch cards in college. Fortran was clearly not the future, but it was the only system they had to teach. If you made a mistake typing, the mainframe rejected your entire submission and you had to search out the flawed card, retype, and resubmit the whole thing ... only to learn your next typing mistake was three cards later.

I think the most brilliant feature ever invented for any computer is "undo." It's one of the first things I ask about on any new program. I think we should have it in real life. "Oh, did I say that? Let me just hit undo."

Best behavior

No folding, spindling or mutilating going on there!

Foreign Function Bureau

I had never heard of the Foreign Function Bureau so I did an internet search. Curiously, every link is to this photo, or other photos by the same photographer from the same series.

[The FFB does get a shout-out in this 2016 romance novel set in 1942. - Dave]


Honey, after work my right hand and the right side of my neck are sore and cramped. I wonder why? Can you rub them a little?

On another note, what are they entering? What kind of machines are those?


I love black crinkle finish equipment. Seems very heavy duty, and at the same time very attractive.

Somebody out there ...

must know what these machines are -- they don't look like anything I've ever seen. The have some sort of adjustable scale device on the right, but not a standard keyboard so I don't think it's for making address labels or dog tags. The labels are too blurry and indistinct to read. I'm stumped.

[They look to be Hollerith tabulators (punch-card machines) made by IBM, a technology that goes back to the 1890s. - Dave]

Now I see it! On the girl's right is a stack of cards held down by a weight, and on her left is a collection tray. Thanks Dave!

Just a small thing

I like their nails – practical and efficient yet still pretty.

"THINK" ... maybe not so much.

It looks like they are using IBM Type 016 Electric Duplicating Key Punch machines. That has to be a tedious and boring job.


Looks like an IBM logo on the back of the machines they are using. I wonder if the 'Think' sign was some swag provided by IBM.


Foreign Function Bureau: an agency so obscure that a newspaper search actually turns up no matches (Not entirely surprising, perhaps, as it looks like they're working with some kind of encrypters punch machines.) OK, I'll be grateful if I even get partial credit on this one, tho I guess one could make an argument a punch card is in a sense 'encrypted'; and even worse I may have actually operated something like this: Cal was still using cards in the early 80's and one of the perks of being an upperclassman was knowing there were places where you could go and DIY cards, rather than waiting in line.


Once again I can't help but think about my own mother who went from Ohio to Washington, D.C. to work for the government during the war. She met my father there and eventually they wound up back in Ohio!


I’m sorry but that sign is just a little bit insulting. And what would it say today? Hydrate. De-stress. Work harder. If I could put such signs in the workplace, I might do: Awake and sing!

["THINK" is an IBM mantra that goes way, way back. - Dave]

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2024 Shorpy Inc.