A research note on the discovery of a prototype Hollerith machine in Paris

David Anderson, Janet Delve, H. Pufal

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Probably the oldest surviving example of the Hollerith Tabulating Machine is to be found in Paris as part of the collection of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers (CNAM). Unfortunately Hollerith’s device is not on general display but is in the CNAM reserves stored on a pallet at a height of almost 2 metres above floor level making examination on a first visit quite difficult. The authors, all members of the History of Computing Group at the University of Portsmouth, UK, visited the CNAM in January 2005 and were able to see the Hollerith machine at first hand. In contrast to the “classical” Hollerith machines as used in the 1890 census, this machine is comprised of three elements: the press desk, the counters, and the sorter. Each are wooden constructions but mounted on wrought iron legs. The principle of operation is, however, identical to the census machines. While dating Hollerith machines is not entirely a straightforward business, it can be said with some confidence that the machine pictured [right] (figure 1) is the oldest surviving Hollerith tabulator in the world, and is in any event better representative of Hollerith's early thinking than any other extant device.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Rutherford Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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