Punched Card Systems
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When data came on cards
Long before electronic computers became available, many offices were already mechanised and used sophisticated punched card machines for the production of payroll, accounts, and stock control. Highly trained operators punched data on the cards that could be repeatedly sorted and used to produce reports.
A typical office suite would consist of a punch, a sorter, a collator, and a tabulator. In payroll, for example, the card was punched with the employee number, the total hours worked and their hourly rate. The Electronic Multiplying Punch (EMP) would then calculate the total pay and punch it back onto the same card. The cards were mechanically sorted into employee number and payslips then printed by the tabulator. The stacks of cards were carried from machine to machine by operators, who carefully avoided dropping them!
TNMOC’s punched card equipment display is a suite of machines produced by the British company Powers-Samas. Part of it was used by Blackpool Corporation in its transport department in the 1960s for wages, stores and mileage records. Using cards with 40 columns rather than the more standard 80 columns, it was programmed using hard-wired program boards and required eight machine operators to punch the cards and produce the reports.
The equipment is being restored to full working order by TNMOC volunteers and is on semi-permanent loan from Liverpool Museum.