From Paper Tape to Data Sticks: The Evolution of Removable Storage

Over the years, people have tried to transfer information from one computer to another in a dizzying number of ways. Here's a look at some of the best, along with others that time forgot

The Punch Card

Punch cards trace their origins to textile looms of the 1800s, where they conveyed instructions that defined and controlled machine weaving operations. In 1890, Herman Hollerith applied the punch card idea to tabulating US Census data. He founded a company (which grew to become IBM) that used the cards in tabulating machines.

When IBM began building general-purpose computers in the 1950s, it used the cards for data storage and input, and soon many other computer manufacturers adopted punch card formats of various kinds. Many used 80-column cards, which stored one character per column. As late as 2002, IBM was still researching punch card technology, in the form of a system capable of storing 25 million pages of data on a surface the size of a postage stamp.

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