Paper cards

Perforated paper cards were one of the earliest data storage media. They could store low quantity of data, usually one line of code per card or few values. They were used to feed relatively large amounts of data to early computer or to load a program. First data processing systems operated on paper cards only, using separate devices for making, selecting, evaluating (tabulator), splitting and concatenating (collator) data stored ont hese cards. Later mainframes used card readers to feed functions for programs, for example as optimized function by mathematical software.

Paper cards  
Manufactured by: ??

Type: Paper media
Capacity: Low
Most of my cards conatin numerical data or program lines in Fortran (some are program initialization for CDC CYBER 72 machine, which was used in Cyfronet in Cracow, another seem to be initialization for unknown Unified System machine). Most cards have prints suggesting that they come from Cyfronet, but these cards were used widely in Cracow, not only in Cyfronet, as I have about 50 blank Cyfronet cards from former Architectural Office in Cracow. Some single cards contain "COBOL" or "FORTRAN" remarks, but they all contain data or Fortran code.

Another interesting item I got with these cards are two printouts from unknown computer and probably Polish Mera lineprinter (see Russian Sh letter used for filling character in big text). They have big, figlet-like headers with program name and version.
The first one was too damaged to be read (moisture, fungus, water and soil), and contained printout of NURA1Q (? - even header was unreadable) software, probably launched for or in Jagiellonian University.
Second one seems to be complete and contains MINUIT numerical optimization program result, description and Fortran source code of minimized function. Program seems to be ported to one of Polish machines, as description is in Polish. Below you can see first pages, the last photo is the last page. Some pages with optimization passes are not photographed.

Quick translation of Polish text from printout:

version 2.77, Adapt. DOS1.82.

In current version we deleted interactive processing,
automatic computing time estimation and actions performed
by listed commands. Furthermore, if covariance matrix is badly
conditioned, the HESSE subroutine is not called by MIGRAD.
In these cases it's suggested to use the following sequence of commands:

List of commands not accessible in this version:
       *** MINOS    ***

 [Update: 2017-01]
Here are two other interesting items related to perforated cards. the first one is a complete Fortran program made on cards, stored in a cardboard box. I found it in my University dump. From what I understood, it is for optimizing work parameters of steel rolling mill. It was perforated on accessible cards, means there are different templates printed on them, not related to programs. Most are blank ones, some "Fortran" and "Data". However, interesting templates are printed on cards used for registering products in "Huta im. Lenina" in Cracow, Poland, later "Sendzimir Steelworks", now probably Mittal Steel (if owner haven't changed again). You can see this template as the last in pictures above.
Another interesting item is a postcard on perforated card. I found it in old book I bought from second-hand bookshop. The numbers side can be seen in the picture on the left. On the other side of the card there is a full address and validated post stamp. The recipient was Professor from Jagiellonian University in Cracow (unfortunately died in 2011). The postcard was sent probably in 1986, stamp is not easily readable. 
The text perforated and printed is: "Pozdrowienia ze Szkoły Letniej przesyła NKI".
Translated to English: "Greetings from Summer School from NKI". Let's figure out what is it about. Summer School is a summer course of computer science organized to help people interested in IT and computers learn basics. These courses were organized in 1980s and were quite popular among late school students who wanted to start academic IT education easier.
Now what is NKI? The only thing linking "NKI" to Jagiellonian University and recipient of postcard is in History Page of Computer Science Student's Association. NKI figures there in late 1970s and 1980s, yet this abbreviation is not expanded. I think it may be "Naukowe Koło Informatyków" - Computer Science Student's Scientific Association. 

So we can see that perforated cards were not used only to store programs and data...


As usual, here are some photos from old books, catalogues and magazines:

Card copier Edge-type perforator connected to typewriter. Manual perforator


Typical perforator used with mainframes and data processing systems Mechanical card reader Perforated card containing microfilm - so-called aperture card.


Perforated card reader Another reader A stand-alone perforator


Card reader Regnecentralen card reader And now something completely different - cards with magnetic tracks - reading/writing and selection mechanism.

Most photos come from a book "Nowoczesne biuro - organizacja i technika" (Modern office - organization and technology) from early 1970s.

Processing without computer

Perforated cards could be processed without expensive computer-like device, by processing in a series of separate devices. This type of data processing was used in searching by elimination or sorting/classification.
Click on a link to see photo of a device. First, data was transferred to cards using perforator. Next, it was checked in verifier to be sure that it's correct. In this step cards could be placed in labeler (for printed descriptions) or collator (to conactenate with other card set). Ready set was used in sorter, which sorted and classified cards. From sorter, cards could be moved to reproducer (to make copies), result perforator, to make temporary sums in helping card set, or directly to tabulator, a large, programmable (via electrical plug board) device which performed simple actions on data such as summing, computing basic values (sometimes with external calculator) or completing a query. Results were printed out in a form of tabulogramme.