Hollerith 45 column horizontal electrical sorting machine, c 1925.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
German inventor Dr Herman Hollerith (1860-1929) devised a mechanical system for recording data using the punched card device introduced by Joseph Jacquard (1752-1834) between 1801 and 1808. Initially, Hollerith produced three basic machines; a punch, sorter and tabulator, but later machines combined several functions in one. Hollerith designed his machines for use in the 1890 US Census to punch holes into coded cards, sort the cards, and count and analyse the information. Census information was recorded as a pattern of holes in the card. In 1896 he formed a company to market his products and services, and this later evolved into International Busines Machines, known today as IBM.