Origin of Data Storage: The Punch Card

Before hard drives, CD's, and USB's, data was stored on paper cards where the presence and absence of holes on these paper cards represented a piece of data. These cards were called: punch cards


Beginning in 1725, Punch cards were widely used the textile industry. They were used to operate and automate textile looms. The punched holes represented a set of instructions that controlled the patterns that were woven.


In 1832, Semyon Korsakov, a Russian inventor, was the first to propose the use of punch cards in informatics. He invented a device that would facilitate the search for information stored in punch cards.


In the late 1800's, Herman Hollerith expanded upon that idea. He suggested that punch cards could be used to record and process digital data. The presence or absence of a hole at a specific location on the card would represent a piece of data and these series of holes could be processed by a machine into meaningful statistics. This would be known as the tabulating machine and was first widely used in the 1890 US census.

Hollerith later on founded the Tabulating Machine Company, which manufactured tabulating machines used to create, sort, and tabulate punch cards. The Tabulating Machine Company would later on become the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM)


By the 1950's, Hollerith's method was the primary medium for data entry, storage, and processing which dominated the industry for nearly a century before becoming obsolete for the magnetic storage we know today.

Hollerith is widely known as the father of data processing and while punch cards are now obsolete, his machines and ideas paved the way for modern data computation.

In the age of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, and advancing digital security, Blockplate's seed storage method takes inspiration from Hollerith with its design returning to the roots of data storage. Blockplate allows seed storage on an offline, physical medium, independent of the increasing sophistication of cyber security threats.