Collection of Computer Punch Cards

Physics

Accession Number: 2019.ph.829

Description:

A collection of hundreds of computer punch cards. The cards are the same rectangular size but of several kinds.

Several stacks of these cards have been attached together with masking tape to form metric spacers of different sizes (typically 1 cm, 1.5 cm, and 2 cm). These sizes have been marked on the outside of the bundle, usually in pen.

Several loose cards have been folded. Several cards have notes, diagrams, or messages drawn on the outside.

Primary Materials: Paper.

Markings:

The height of several bundles of cards has been marked on the outside surface of the stack. Several cards have notes, diagrams, or messages drawn on the outside.

Some cards are labelled with relevant information, for instance as “FORTRAN STATEMENT CARD”, or “FORTRAN STATEMENT // COBOL STATEMENT”

Some are printed with provenance information, for instance:
“UTCC C/370 // JOB CARD”
or,
“UWO COMPUTING CENTRE// UWO COMPUTING CENTRE FORM – UWO 750523”

Dimensions (cm):

Height = 8.2, Length = 18.7; Together these cards form a stack ~ 23.5 tall.

Function:

Punch cards are an obsolete storage medium used in data processing. They were used to store data or to input information into early digital computers, tabulating machines, and other electronic machines.

Condition:

Some cards have been folded. Many cards are in excellent condition. Some have been marked with pen or pencil. The bundles of cards, meant to be used as spacers, have not been deliberately opened, though some have come open with time.

Associated Instruments: 2019.ast.117

Manufacturer:

Control Data Corporation, Bloomington, Minnesota, and others.

Date of Manufacture: c. 1970s

Provenance:

This collection was acquired from Professor David Bailey on January 11, 2019. They were kept in the Advanced Physics Laboratory, where they had been bundled at some point and used as spacers for levelling scientific equipment.

The cards are out of order and are from various sources. As a result, they likely do not represent a contiguous program or data set. At least some include geophysical data. (See “Historical Notes” below).

Additional Information and References:

Naomi Adeboboye, a student in the HPS401H1 “Scientific Artifacts” class in 2019, has written a detailed research guide to this artifact that includes research resources and local archival sources.

Historical Notes:

Information from Dr. Gordon West, a leading geophysicist at the University of Toronto Department of Physics for several decades, suggests that some of these cards may contain temperature measurements of boreholes made by Professor Allan Beck. Beck was a former professor at the Western University who did research with his students at a number of west coast sites. At least one card is from UWO, contains temperature measurements, and is marked “Victoria Island”. [Adeboboye 2019]

  • Donated to UTSIC