Herman Hollerith


The world of computing, as we know it today, was born thanks to the contributions of Herman Hollerith , an American inventor who developed the first electromagnetic tabulating machine used in its early days to collect information for the 1890 census.


Personal information

  • When was born?  02/29/1860
  • When he died?  11/17/1929
  • Nationality:  American
  • What is it famous for?  For inventing the electromagnetic tabulating machine

Who was Herman Hollerith?

Herman Hollerith was the American inventor who created the first electromagnetic punch card tabulating machine to process data . This creation marks the beginning of the semi-automatic era of information processing. The main use of his artifact was to summarize information and it was later used in the field of accounting. He is the founder of the Informatica Tabulating Recording Company, a company that years later would take the name of International Business Machines (IBM). In the world of technology he is known as the first computer scientist because he knew how to handle information automatically for the first time with his great invention. In addition to his contributions to computing, he was a main pillar in the construction of the first computer.


He is considered by many as the creator of the first computer and who gives value to the origin of the word computing since it constitutes the fusion of information and automatic.

Thanks to Herman Hollerith , one of the best-known computing companies in the world, IBM (International Business Machine), was created in 1924 , which sells computers of all kinds anywhere in the world.

  • Herman Hollerith Biography
  • Herman Hollerith inventions
  • Herman Hollerith contributions

Herman Hollerith Biography

Herman Hollerith was born in Bufallo, New York, on February 29, 1860.

As a child he had speech problems because his pronunciation was not fluent. This resulted in a tutor being assigned to him for his studies. Despite this problem, he always stood out for his intelligence and that is why he managed to enter Columbia University in 1875, where he would study mining engineering and graduate with honors.

In 1882 Herman worked as a professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He then moved to Missouri, where he began designing electric trains. From 1884 to 1890, he worked at the United States Patent Office in Washington.

By studying the census questions Herman Hollerith realizes that they are all closed “yes” or “no” questions. This prompted Herman to create an 80-column poster board, on which the questions could be punched out at certain positions . The machine created by Hollerith was considered by many to be the first computer and was used by the United States government for the 1890 census . The drilling of 56 million cards took 3 years.

The tabulating machine was patented in 1889 by Herman Hollerith . In 1890, the machine had the addition operation which allowed it to be used in the accounting of the Central Railways of New York.

Six years later, in 1896 he created the Tabulating Machine Company to publicize his invention. Years later, Herman’s company joined the Computing Scale Company, International Time Recording Company and Bundy Manufacturing Company to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, a company that changed its name in 1924 to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

Herman Hollerith dies at the age of 69 of a heart attack, on November 17, 1929, in Washington DC

Herman Hollerith inventions

Herman Hollerith was the first to use paper tape to encode data . This tape consisted of fields marked with ink, in which data could be encoded by perforating it or not, depending on the data to be recorded.

The use of punch cards was first used by J. Jacquard in 1902 to control the operation of looms mechanically. But Hollerith was the one who used them to work on information and for computing, using electromechanical tools.

This first invention of Herman Hollerith evolved to the punch card , a system for computing data that was patented in 1889.

These cards were used by Hollerith in his tabulating machine – the second best-known invention of this inventor – to process the data of the 1890 census in the United States, in which the data of 60 million Americans were processed in a period of three years .

The tabulating machine could analyze the content of 300 cards per minute , and greatly reduce the data analysis.

After the success of the tabulating machine in the 1890 census, Herman Hollerith oriented his invention to commercial purposes, adapting it to work in commercial areas.

Herman Hollerith contributions

The contributions generated by the inventions of Herman Hollerith were very representative for the area of ​​computer science worldwide. Not only for his inventions or for the founding of the world’s best-known computer company, IBM; but because of the scope in the different disciplines where computing represents an indispensable tool for the processing and storage of information.

Hollerith is one of the pioneers , from a punch card, of computing that we know today and that is why he is known by many in the world of technology, as the father of computing.

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