Institutional Punched Cards

Part of the Punched Card Collection
by Douglas W. Jones
THE UNIVERSITY OF IOWA Department of Computer Science

Bendix Corporation

 [Bendix Corporation Punched Card]

Allied acquired Bendix Corporation in 1983, so this card is relatively recent. In fact, the formatted space on the card contains space for 87 characters, plus numerous free-form blanks, so this card is almost certainly not intended for conventional punched-card data processing! It is noteworthy that Bendix Corporation, in the early 1960's, made the G-15 and G-20 computers, relatively low-cost machines that were purchased by many universities and were the first computers many students wrote programs for. A high resolution scan is available.

Recheninstitut der Technischen Universitat Berlin

 [Berlin University Punched Card]

Printing the institutional name across the bottom of the card was uncommon, but the length of the name, in this case, leaves few options. The card layout used on this card is unusual, giving no hint of the intended application but suggesting that columns 2 to 5, 7 to 12 and 16 to 72 formed three fields. It was quite common to reserve columns 73 to 80 for sequence numbers that were ignored by the appplication, and many assembly languages were based on three fields of this approximate layout, so it is reasonable to guess that this layout was developed for assembly language programming, but this is only a guess! A high resolution scan is available.

Control Data Corporation

 [Control Data Corporation Punched Card]

This card clearly states its corporate origins without any unnecessary artwork. Control Data Corporation, the last vestige of which was merged into a division of British Telcom in 1999, was one of the first companies to go to market with a transistorized computer (it shares this honor with Digital Equipment Corporation) and, with the CDC 6600, it built the fastest computers on earth through the late 1960's. This example card bears one line of Fortran code. A high resolution scan is available.

University of Illinois Department of Computer Science

 [University of Illinois Punched Card]

This card, from the late 1960's, does a utilitarian job of displaying institutional pride. Given the age and size of this department, the home of ILLIAC I and II, and the birthplace of ORDVAC and ILLIAC IV, it is surprising that they didn't come up with something more interesting!

University of Michigan Tabulating Service

 [University of Michigan punched card]

This card is arranged as 20 fields of 4 columns each, a very generic organization, with added spaces for handwritten data along one end. The original intended use is obscure, but these cards were widely used for both programs and data on the University of Michigan campus. The institutional identifier printed across the right edge of the card is the bare minimum needed to identify the card's source! A high resolution scan is available.

 [University of Michigan punched card]

The column binary format of this card is arranged to store 24 words of 36 bits each. This card format was used at the University of Michigan after they got their IBM 704 computer, the vacuum tube ancestor of the 709x series of machines. The hardware interface to the card reader read successive groups of 3 columns on the card into successive 36-bit words in memory, with the sign bit read from row 12 of the first column and the least significant bit from row 9 of the third column. It is noteworthy that, on the 709x family of machines, the top halfword of each 36-bit index register was referred to as the decrement field and could be used as an iteration counter for loop control, while the bottom halfword of the index register was the address field.

The format of a binary read combined with the format of the index register led naturally to the object format documented on the card. The first word of each object record was designed to load into an index register, with the shaded area (the low 15 bits) used as the address of the object block and the low 5 bits of the high half used as the count field.

The usual way of examining registers on this machine was in octal, so the data area on the card is divided int 3-bit fields. Columns 4-6 are the checksum, but one bit of the header word could be punched to force the loader to ignore the checksum -- useful when hand-patching an object deck, since it was far harder to recompute the checksum than to adjust the contents of a word on the card.

It is interesting to note that the data punched on this card has no relationship to the preprinted format on the card; this pattern of card use was quite common in the later 1960's, as users drifted away from applications that made use of the format information on the card and began to use whatever cards they could find. A high resolution scan is available.

Michigan State University Computer Laboratory

 [Michgian State University Punched Card]

This Michigan State University card attempts to provide an incredible amount of information on the face of the card! It contains two complete character sets, the CDC Display Code and the ASCII code, plus an assortment of other information, plus hints in columns 1, 2, 79 and 80 about the column binary object code format for the CDC 6500. A high resolution scan is available.