4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Accounting / Business Machines Timeline


2,800,000 BCE – 8,000 BCE

In Mesopotamia Neolithic Tokens are Developed for "Concrete" Counting Circa 8,000 BCE

According to the theory about the origins of counting and writing developed by Denise Schmandt-Besserat, around 8000 BCE the Palaeolithic notched tallies representing the simplest form of counting — in one-to-one correspondence — were superseded by Neolithic clay tokens in various geometric forms suited for concrete counting invented in Mesopotamia. The significance of these tokens "as an operational device in Mesopotamian bureaucracy," was first grasped by archaeologist Pierre Amiet, teacher of Schand-Besserat in 1972 with respect to tokens found in Nuzi, an ancient Mesopotamian city southwest of Kirkuk in modern Al Ta'amim Governorate of Iraq, located near the Tigris river. (Schmandt-Besserat, Before Writing I [1992] ix.) 

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8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The First Securely Datable Mathematical Table in World History Circa 2,600 BCE

The world’s oldest datable mathematical table, from Shuruppag, c. 2600 BCE.  The first two columns contain identical lengths in descending order from 600 to 60 rods (c. 3600–360 m) and the final column contains the square area of their product.

The sequence continues on the reverse, and probably finished at 1 rod (6m).

Tablet from Shuruppag, now in the Vorderasiatisches Museum, Berlin.

"The first securely datable mathematical table in world history comes from the Sumerian city of Shuruppag, c. 2600 BCE. The table is ruled into three columns on each side with ten rows on the front or obverse side. The first columns of the obverse list length measures from c. 3.6km to 360 m in descending units of 360 m, followed by the Sumerian word sa ('equal' and/ or 'opposite') while the final column gives their products in area measure. Only six rows are extant or partially preserved on the reverse. They continue the table in smaller units, from 300 to 60 m in 60 m steps, and then perhaps (in the damaged and missing lower half) from 56 to 6 m in 6 m steps. While the table is organized along two axes, there is just one axis of calculation, namely, the horizontal multiplications. Around a thousand tablets were excavated from Shuruppaq, almost all of them from houses and buildings which burned down in a city-wide fire in about 2600 BCE, but sadly we have no detailed context for this table because its excavation number was lost or never recorded." (Eleanor Robson, "Tables and tabular formatting in Sumer, Babylonia, and Assyria, 2500 BCE-50," Campbell-Kelly et al [eds]. The History of Mathematical Tables from Sumer to Spreadsheets [2003] 27-29).

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The Most Famous Document of Babylonian Mathematics Circa 1,900 BCE – 1,700 BCE

Plimpton 322 (View Larger)

The most famous original document of Babylonian mathematics is Plimpton 322, a partly broken clay tablet, approximately 13cm wide, 9cm tall, and 2cm thick. New York publisher George A. Plimpton purchased the tablet from archaeological dealer, Edgar J. Banks in 1922 or 1923, and bequeathed it with the rest of his collection to Columbia University in 1936. According to Banks, the tablet came from Senkereh, a site in sourthern Iraq, corresponding to the ancient city of Larsa

This tablet has a table of four columns and 15 rows of numbers in cuneiform script, and has been called the only true mathematical table surviving from the period.

"The most renowned of all mathematical cuneiform tablets since it was published in 1945, Plimpton 322 reveals that the Babylonians discovered a method of finding Pythagorean triples, that is, sets of three whole numbers such that the square of one of them is the sum of the squares of the other two. By Pythagoras' Theorem, a triangle whose three sides are proportional to a Pythagorean triple is a right-angled triangle. Right-angled triangles with sides proportional to the simplest Pythagorean triples turn up frequently in Babylonian problem texts; but if this tablet had not come to light, we would have had no reason to suspect that a general method capable of generating an unlimited number of distinct Pythagorean triples was known a millennium and a half before Euclid.  

"Plimpton 322 has excited much debate centering on two questions. First, what was the method by which the numbers in the table were calculated? And secondly, what were the purpose and the intellectual context of the tablet? At present there is no agreement among scholars about whether this was a document connected with scribal education, like the majority of Old Babylonian mathematical tablets, or part of a research project" (http://www.nyu.edu/isaw/exhibitions/before-pythagoras/items/plimpton-322/, accessed 11-23-2010).

Though the consensus may be that the tablet contains a listing of Pythagorean triples, Eleanor Robson pointed out that historical, cultural and linguistic evidence reveal that the tablet is more likely "a list of regular reciprocal pairs": Robson, "Words and Pictures. New Light on Plimpton 322," American Mathematical Monthly 109 (2001) 105-121.

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How the Inca Quipu System of Mathematical Record-Keeping Worked Circa 1,500 BCE – 1912

In 1912 anthropologist Leslie Leland Locke published "The Ancient Quipu, A Peruvian Knot Record," American Anthropologist, New Series I4 (1912) 325-332. This was the first work to show how the Inca (Inka) Empire and its predecessor societies used the quipu (Khipu) for mathematical and accounting records in the decimal system. Locke stated his conclusions as follows:

"1. These knots were used purely for numerical purposes.

"2. Distances from the main cord were used roughly to locate the orders, which were on a decimal scale.

"3. The quipu was not used for counting or calculating but for record keeping. The mode of tying the knots was not adapted to counting, and there was no need of its use for such a purpose, as the Quichua language contained a complete and adequate system of numeration.

"4. Other specimens examined contain the same types of knots there being but ten variations in all, two forms for the single knot and eight long knots. These eight differ from each other and from the single knot only in the number of turns taken in tying. There is nothing about any specimen examined to give the slightest suggesion that it was used for any other than numerical purposes.

"5. If the hypothesis that this quipu is a record of the same classes of objects be correct, it would seem to indicate the colors in this case have no special significance, but were taken according to the fancy or convenience of the maker. This does not signify that there was not a rough color scheme in sue for some purposes.

"6. These specimens confirm in a remarkable way the accuracy with which [the Inca] Garcilasso [de la Vega] described the manners and customs of his people."

In 1923 Locke published an expanded version of his research in a monograph entitled The Ancient Quipu or Peruvian Knot Record.

According to "The "Storage Engine" website of the Computer History Museum, the quipu numerical record keeping system was in use by the Tiwanaku people, precursors of the Incas, perhaps as early as 1500 BCE:

"The Tiwanaku people lived in the Andes Mountains of South America around Lake Titicaca in today’s Bolivia from circa 1500 BCE until circa 1200 CE. Evidence suggests a sophisticated culture adept at astronomical timekeeping, architecture, agriculture, and social order. Shards of Tiwanaku pottery dated to around 400 CE bear artwork depicting a tribal elder or shaman with his arm extended horizontally. A series of knotted strings that today is known as a quipu dangles from the arm. Predating the Tiwanaku society, archeologists discovered the oldest known quipu made about 4,600 years ago at Caral on the Peruvian coast.

"The Inca civilization that emerged in the region in the 13th century adopted the quipu to record and transmit tax records, census data and other information across the great distances of the Inca Empire. “Quipu” means “knot” in the Peruvian Quechua language. Europeans learned of the quipu when Spanish colonizers arrived in the Inca capital of Cuzco in 1532. Suspicious of the purpose of these assemblies of knotted, colored cotton and wool cords, the conquistadors destroyed most of them. Less than 300 remain."

The first Spanish historian of Peruvian culture, conquistador Pedro Cieza de Léon, wrote in Parte Primera dela Crónica del Perú (1553) that “Each ruler of a province was provided with accountants, and by these knots they kept account of what tribute was to be paid … and with such accuracy that not so much as pair of sandals was missing.” However, the exact way that quipu were used was not understood until Locke's work in the 20th century.

Research on this topic was further advanced by mathematician Marcia Ascher and anthropologist Robert Ascher in Code of the Quipu. A Study of Media, Mathematics, and Culture (1981).

(This entry was last revised on 11-27-2015.)

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1,000 BCE – 300 BCE

The Egyptians Reckon with Pebbles and Probably Use the Sandboard Abacus Circa 440 BCE

Herodotus of Halicarnassus. (View Larger)

Because the numbering systems of the Mesopotamians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans were not convenient for extensive calculation, it is believed that they used some sort of mechanical calculating device. The simplest form of calculating device was a kind of table or tablet on which calculation couls be written in sand or dust, and then easily erased. This is the "sandboard abacus". One derivation of the Latin word abacus comes from the Greek abakos from the Hebrew word abaq, meaning dust.

In his Histories Herodotus of Halicarnassus, written about 440 BCE stated that the Egyptians "write their characters and reckon with pebbles, bringing their hand from right to left, while the Greeks go from left to right." D.E. Smith, in his History of Mathematics II, p. 160 quotes this statement by Herodotus and writes, "Right to left order was that of the hieratic script and there is probably some relation between this script and the abacus. No wall pictures thus far discovered give any evidence of the use of the abacus, but in any collection of Egyptian antiquities there may be found disks of various sizes which may have been used as counters."

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300 BCE – 30 CE

The Earliest Surviving Counting Board Circa 300 BCE

The Salamis Tablet. (View Larger)

Excluding counting on the fingers, counting boards are the earliest known counting device, and a precursor of the abacus. They were made from stone or wood and the counting was done on the board with beads or pebbles or or sand or dust.  These devices have also been called the "sandboard abacus." The earliest surviving example of a counting board or a gaming board may be a tablet found about 1850 CE on the Greek island of Salamis which dates back to about 300 BCE. It is preserved in the National Archaelogical Museum, Athens. 

"It is a slab of white marble 149 cm long, 75 cm wide, and 4.5 cm thick, on which are 5 groups of markings. In the center of the tablet is a set of 5 parallel lines equally divided by a vertical line, capped with a semi-circle at the intersection of the bottom-most horizontal line and the single vertical line. Below these lines is a wide space with a horizontal crack dividing it. Below this crack is another group of eleven parallel lines, again divided into two sections by a line perpendicular to them, but with the semi-circle at the top of the intersection; the third, sixth and ninth of these lines are marked with a cross where they intersect with the vertical line."  Three sets of Greek symbols (numbers from the acrophonic system) are arranged along the left, right and bottom edges of the tablet.

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The First Income Tax 10 CE

Emperor Wang Mang.

In 10 CE Chinese Emperor Wang Mang instituted an unprecedented tax— the income tax —at the rate of 10 percent of profits, for professionals and skilled labor. Previously, all Chinese taxes were either head taxes (poll taxes) or property taxes.

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1200 – 1300

The European Table Abacus Circa 1299

A woodblock from Gregor Reisch's Margarita Philosophoca, 1508, depicting a table abacus. (View Larger)

The European table abacus or reckoning table became standardized to some extent by the end of the 13th century. The pebbles previously used as counters were replaced by specially minted coin-like objects that were cast, thrown, or pushed on the abacus table. They were called jetons from jeter (to throw) in France, and werpgeld for “thrown money” in Holland.

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1300 – 1400

A Painted Wood Panel that Once Covered an Account Book 1343

A painted wood panel preserved in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and dated 1343 once covered an account book compiled by the biccherna of Siena, a committee who served as administrators and treasurers of the commune. 

"The scene at the top shows three of the five committee members, all of whose names are listed in the inscription below. The carmarlingo, or secretary, wearing the white robes of a Cistercian monk, counts a bag of money before two officers with record books. The painted book cover belongs to a long tradition of Sienese civic commissions. For some 500 years beginning in 1258, the commune hired local painters to decorate the covers of the financial books at the end of each fiscal term" (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/10.203.3, accessed 12-03-2013).

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1450 – 1500

"Arte dell’Abbaco", the First Dated Printed Book on Arithmetic and the Operation of the Abacus December 10, 1478

Page from Arte dell'Abbaco. 

This unpretentious little book could almost be taken as a symbol of the third component in the collection of George A. Plimpton: "reading, writing and ‘rithmetic." It intends to teach commercial arithmetic, starting from the most elementary level to explain numbers and their positions as designators of units, tens, hundreds, and so forth. On the page shown, a reader has noted the method for calculating differences in income for those who invest varying amounts of money at different times. Graphically clear are the various earnings of Piero, Polo and Zuanne. Their names, and indeed the entire text, are in the local vernacular: Venetian dialect, not Italian. Abbacus, or commercial arithmetic, was solidly vernacular, Latin being reserved for the abstract studies of the universities.

Bequest of George Arthur Plimpton, 1936 to Columbia University.

One of a large number of diagrams illustrating how to use an abbacus from a copy of Treviso's Arte dell' abbaco bequeathed to the Cambridge University Library by J.W.L. Glaisher in 1928.

The first dated book on arithmetic is the anonymous Arte dell’Abbaco ..., printed in Treviso, Italy, probably by Gerardus de Lisa, de Flandria on December 10, 1478. It is possible that some undated pamphlets on Algorithmus may predate this work.

"Frank J. Swetz translated the complete work using Smith's notes in 1987 in his Capitalism & Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century. Swetz used a copy of the Treviso housed in the Manuscript Library at Columbia University. The volume found its way to this collection via a curious route. Maffeo Pinelli (1785), an Italian bibliophile, is the first known owner. After his death his library was purchased by a London book dealer and sold at auction on February 6, 1790. The book was obtained for three shillings by Mr. [Michael] Wodhull. About 100 years later the Arithmetic appeared in the library of Brayton Ives, a New York lawyer. When Ives sold the collection of books at auction, George [Arthur] Plimpton, a New York publisher, acquired the Treviso and made it an acquisition to his extensive collection of early scientific [i.e. mathematics] texts. Plimpton donated his library to Columbia University in 1936. Original copies of the Treviso Arithmetic are extremely rare" (Wikipedia article Treviso Arithmetic, accessed 01-10-2009).

ISTC No. ia01141000.

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Pacioli Issues "Summa de arithmetica", the First Great General Work on Mathematics November 10 – November 20, 1494

Page from Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita at the Libarary for Humanitities and Social Sciences at the Kobe University. (Click on the image to view the full page opening.)

Title page of Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. (Click on the image to view the full title page.)

Portrait of Luca Pacioli, traditionally attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495 (attribution controversial).  Please see the wikipedia article on Luca Pacioli.

Between November 10 and 20, 1494 Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published at the press of Paganinus de Paganinis in Venice Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. This was “the first great general work on mathematics printed” (Smith, Rara arithmetica, 56).

“[The Summa] contains a general treatise on theoretical and practical arithmetic; the elements of algebra; a table of moneys, weights and measures used in the various Italian states; a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping; and a summary of Euclid’s geometry. . . . Although it lacked originality, the Summa was widely circulated and studied by the mathematicians of the sixteenth century. Cardano, while devoting a chapter of his Practica arithmetice (1539) to correcting the errors in the Summa, acknowledged his debt to Pacioli. Tartaglia’s General trattato de’ numeri et misure (1556-1560) was styled on Pacioli’s Summa. In the introduction to his Algebra, Bombelli says that Pacioli was the first mathematician after Leonardo Fibonacci to have thrown light on the science of algebra. . . . Pacioli’s treatise on bookkeeping, ‘De computis et scripturis,’ contained in the Summa, was the first printed work setting out the ‘method of Venice,’ that is, double-entry bookkeeping. [Richard] Brown has said [in his History of Accounting and Accountants, 1905] that ‘The history of bookkeeping during the next century consists of little else than registering the progress of the De computis through the various countries of Europe” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

ISTC no. il00315000 points out the very unusual aspect of the edition that two re-issues of the first edition exist with some sheets reprinted. One of these is thought to date after 1509 and another after 13 August 1502. Nevertheless, these re-issues bear the original publication date.  

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of a copy dated 1494 was available from the Herzog Auguste Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link

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1600 – 1650

The Japanese Adopt the Abacus, Calling it the Soroban Circa 1600

Japanese soroban abacus 1x5 from Meiji period (1868-1912).

Diagram of Soroban.

About the year 1600 the Japanese adopted the Chinese 1/5 abacus via Korea. In Japanese the abacus is called soroban.

The 1/4 abacus appeared in Japan about 1630.

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Christopher Scheiner Invents the Pantograph, the First Copying Device? 1603 – 1605

Scheiner's Pantograph.

Christoph Scheiner, Jesuit priest, physicist and astronomer who in 1603, invented the pantograph.

Image showing how a pantograph works.

Between 1603 and 1605 German astronomer Christoph Scheiner invented the pantograph. This was probably the first copying device. Scheiner did not publish an account of this invention until 25 years later, when he issued Pantographice, seu ars delineandi res quaslibet per parallelogrammum lineare seu cavum mechanicum mobile in Rome, 1631.

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Depiction of Record Keeping by Pieter Breughel the Younger 1620 – 1640

The Village Lawyer by Pieter Breughel the Younger.

Pieter Breughel the Younger

A painting by Pieter Breughel the Younger, of which one copy dated 1621 entitled the Village Lawyer is in the Museum voor Schone Kunster, Ghent, Belgium, and another copy dated 1620-40, and entitled Paying the Tax is in the Armand Hammer collection at the Fisher Museum of Art, University of Southern California, perhaps caricatures the way paper accounting or legal records were maintained at the time. Records are shown in piles of bundles on tables, in bundles on shelves, in what appears to be sacks of bundles hanging on walls, in sheets of paper bundled together that may be tacked up on walls, and in piles on the floor. In short the methods of organizing and storing information appear sloppy, inefficient, and possibly chaotic.

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1650 – 1700

More Affordable and Easier to Use than the Pascaline 1671

Pierre Petit's Arithmetic Cylinder.

Pascal's Pascaline calculator.

In Dissertations academiques. . . avec un discours sur. . . un cylindre arithmetique published in Paris in 1671, Pierre Petit described an arithmetic cylinder, which he said was more affordable and easier to use than Pascal’s Pascaline.

John Napier (1550-1617) invented several mechanical methods to simplify and speed up the arithmetic calculations, especially multiplication.  His most famous invention was his Napier Rods, later known as Napier’s Bones.  Pierre Petit improved on Napier’s Bones by devising an arithmetic cylinder using long bands of paper strips with all of the multiples of John Napier’s rabdology.  The long bands were then attached end to end and mounted on a wooden cylinder the size of a child's drum or a hat. The reckoning principles were identical to Napier's bones.

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The First Book on a Calculating Machine Published in English 1673

Title page of Samuel Morland's The Discription and Use of Two Arithmetick Instruments.

Samuel Morland.

The adding device of Samuel Moreland, made by Humphry Adamson.

Morland's multiplication machine, based on the principle of Napier's bones.

In 1673 English diplomat, mathematician and inventor Samuel Morland published in London The Description and Use of Two Arithmetic Instruments. This was the first monograph on a calculating machine published in English, and after Galileo's Compasso, and Napier's Rabdologiae, the first book a calculator in any language, apart from Pascal's 18-page pamphlet on the Pascaline.

After entering government service in 1653 Morland was chosen to accompany a British diplomatic mission to the court of Sweden's Queen Christina. The Swedish Queen was a noted patron of the sciences, and Blaise Pascal had presented her with one of his Pascaline calculators in 1652. It is likely that Morland had the opportunity to familiarize himself with the Pascaline while in Sweden.  

During the 1660s Morland devised  three calculating machines—one for trigonometry (1663), one for addition and subtraction (1666) and one for multiplication and division (1662). In his book Morland described two calculating devices, which worked "without charging the memory, disturbing the mind, or exposing the operations to any uncertainty." Morland's device is regarded by some as the first multiplying calculator.

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1800 – 1850

The Thomas Arithmometer, the First Commercially Produced Mechanical Calculator 1820

Charles Xavier Thomas' Arithometer.

Charles Xavier Thomas

In 1820 Charles Xavier Thomas of Alsace, an entrepreneur in the insurance industry, invented the arithmometer, the first commercially produced adding machine, presumably to speed up and make more accurate, the enormous amount of daily computation insurance companies required. Remarkably, according to the Wikipedia, Thomas received almost immediate acknowledgement for this invention, as he was made Chevalier of the Legion of Honor only one year later, in 1821.  At this time he changed his name to Charles Xavier Thomas, de Colmar, later abbreviated to Thomas de Colmar.

"Initially Thomas spent all of his time and energy on his insurance business, therefore there is a hiatus of more than thirty years in between the first model of the Arithmometer introduced in 1820 and its true commercialization in 1852. By the time of his death in 1870, his manufacturing facility had built around 1,000 Arithmometers, making it the first mass produced mechanical calculator in the world, and at the time, the only mechanical calculator reliable and dependable enough to be used in places like government agencies, banks, insurance companies and observatories just to name a few. The manufacturing of the Arithmometer went on for another 40 years until around 1914" (Wikipedia article on Charles Xavier Thomas, accessed 10-10-2011).

The success of the Arithmometer, which to a certain extent paralleled Thomas's success in the insurance industry, was, of course, in complete contrast to the problems that Charles Babbage faced with producing and gaining any acceptance for his vastly more sophisticated, complex, ambitious and expensive calculating engines during roughly the same time frame. Thomas, of course, produced an affordable product that succeeded in speeding up basic arithmetical operations essential to the insurance industry while Babbage's scientific and engineering goals initially of making mathematical tables more accurate, and later, of automating mathematical operations in general, did not attempt to meet a recognized industrial demand. 

"The [Arithmometer] mechanism has three parts, concerned with setting, counting, and recording respectively. Any number up to 999,999 may be set by moving the pointers to the numbers 0 to 9 engraved next to the six slots on the fixed cover plate. The movement of any of these pointers slides a small pinion with ten teeth along a square axle, underneath and to the left of which is a Leibniz stepped wheel.  

"The Leibniz wheel, a cylinder having nine teeth of increasing length, is driven from the main shaft by means of a bevel wheel, and the small pinion is thus rotated by as many teeth as the cylinder bears in the plane corresponding to the digit set. This amount of rotation is transferred through one of a pair of bevel wheels, carried on a sleeve on the same axis, to the ‘results’ figure wheel on the back row on the hinged plate. This plate also carried the figure wheel recording the number of turns of the driving crank for each position of the hinged plate. The pair of bevel wheels is placed in proper gear by setting a lever at the top left-hand cover to either "Addition and Multiplication" or "Subtraction and Division." The ‘results’ figure wheel is thereby rotated anti-clockwise or clockwise respectively.  

"Use. Multiplying 2432 by 598 may be performed as follows: Lift the hinged plate, turn and release the two milled knobs to bring all the figure wheels to show zero; lower the hinged plate in its position to the extreme left; set the number 2432 on the four slots on the fixed plate; set the lever on the left to "multiplication" and turn the handle eight times; lift the hinged plate, slide it one step to the right, and lower it into position; turn the handle nine times; step the plate one point to the right again and the turn the handle five times. The product 1,454,336 will then appear on the top row, and the multiplier 598 on the next row of figures" (From Gordon Bell's website, accessed 10-12-2011).

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Typing a Letter Takes Longer than Writing by Hand 1829

Replica of Burt Typographer.

William Austin Burt.

William Austin Burt of Detroit, Michigan invented an early typewriter, called the Typographer in 1829. The machine that Burt invented was cumbersome and difficult to use. Writing a letter with Burt's "Typographer" took longer than writing by hand.

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The First of the Industrial Insurance Companies that Processed Immense Amounts of Data May 30, 1848

The Prudential Mutual Assurance, Investment and Loan Association was founded in Hatton Garden, London on May 30, 1848. The Prudential was the first of the great industrial life insurance companies that handled the insurance policies of millions of people, and processed an immense amount of data, initially by hand.

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1850 – 1875

David Edward Hughes Invents a Mechanism for Printing Telegraph Messages 1855

The Hughes telegraph, the first telegraph printing text on a paper tape; this one was manufactureed by Siemens and Halske, Germany (Warsaw Muzeum Techniki).

David Edward Hughes.

In London in 1854 David Edward Hughes invented the first perfected mechanism for printing telegraph messages, using a keyboard in which each key caused the corresponding letter to be printed at a distant receiver. Hughes's printing mechanism worked something like a "golfball" typewriter, but it was produced before the typewriter was invented.

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Origins of the Internal Revenue Service July 1, 1862

Text of first page of HR 312 also known as the Revenue Act of 1862.

Letter dated July 3, 1862 from Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to President Lincoln recommending George S. Boutwell for the newly created post of Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

During the American Civil War, on July 1, 1862 President Lincoln and the United States Congress and passed the Revenue Act of 1862, creating the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacting a progressive rate income tax to pay war expenses.

"Annual income above $600 was taxed at a 3% rate, but those earning over $10,000 per year were taxed at a 5% rate. This Act repealed the flat rate income tax that had been established by the Revenue Act of the previous year."

"To assure timely collection, income tax was 'withheld at the source' by the employer, with the Act specifying that Federal income tax was a temporary measure that would terminate in 'the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six' " (Wikipedia article on Revenue Act of 1862, accessed 12-27-2008).

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Sholes, Soule, & Glidden Invent the First Device to Allow the Operator to Write Faster than a Person Writing by Hand 1868

Sholes and Glidden typewriter documentation.  The machine, patented on June 23, 1868, resembled "a cross between a piano and a kitchen table."

Sholes and Glidden typewriter as produced by E. Remington and Sons.


In 1868 American inventor, newspaper editor and politician Christopher Latham Sholes, and Samuel Soule, and Carlos Glidden invented the first practical typewriter in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This was the first device to allow the operator to write faster than a person writing by hand.

"Following a strike by compositors at his printing press, he tried building a machine for typesetting, but this was a failure and he quickly abandoned the idea. He arrived at the typewriter through a different route. His initial goal was to create a machine to number pages of a book, tickets, and so on. He began work on this at Kleinsteubers machine shop in Milwaukee, together with a fellow printer Samuel W. Soule, and they patented a numbering machine on November 13, 1866.

"Sholes and Soule showed their machine to Carlos Glidden, a lawyer and amateur inventor at the machine shop working on a mechanical plow, who wondered if the machine could not be made to produce letters and words as well. Further inspiration came in July 1867, when Sholes came across a short note in Scientific American describing the "Pterotype", a prototype typewriter that had been invented by John Pratt in England. Sholes decided that the pterotype was too complex and set out to make his own machine, whose name he got from the article: the typewriting machine, or typewriter.

"For this project, Soule was again enlisted, and Glidden joined them as a third partner who provided the funds. The Scientific American article had described a "literary piano"; the first model that the trio built had a keyboard literally resembling a piano. It had black keys and white keys, laid out in two rows. It did not contain keys for the numerals 0 or 1 because the letters O and I were deemed sufficient:

3 5 7 9 N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

2 4 6 8 . A B C D E F G H I J K L M

"with the first row made of ivory and the second of ebony, the rest of the framework being wooden. It was in this form that Sholes, Glidden and Soule were granted patents for their invention on on June 23, 1868 and July 14. The first document to be produced on a typewriter was a contract that Sholes had written, in his capacity as the Comptroller for the city of Milwaukee. Machines similar to Sholes's had been previously used by the blind for embossing, but by Sholes's time the inked ribbon had been invented, which made typewriting in its current form possible" (Wikipedia article on Christopher Sholes, accessed 05-22-2009).

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The Sholes & Glidden Type Writer, with the First QWERTY Keyboard 1873 – 1874

Latham Sholes's 1878 QWERTY keyboard layout

In 1872 the patent on the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer (U.S. patent 79,265, issued on June 23, 1868) was sold for $12,000 to Densmore and Yost, who licensed it to E. Remington & Sons, then famous as manufacturers of rifles and sewing machines. Remington started production of their first typewriter on March 1, 1873 in Ilion, New York. The machines, as first produced, were problematic in their operation.

The action of the type bars in the early typewriters were very sluggish and tended to jam frequently. To fix this problem, printer and publisher Christopher Sholes of Milwaukee, Wisconsin obtained a list of the most common letters used in English, and rearranged his keyboard from an alphabetic arrangement to one in which the most common pairs of letters were spread fairly far apart on the keyboard. Because typists at that time used the "hunt and peck" method, Sholes' arrangement increased the time it took for the typists to hit the keys for common two letter combinations enough to ensure that each type bar had enough time to fall back into place before the next one came up. This new arrangement, which Sholes invented in 1873, was named the Sholes QWERTY keyboard, and is still used today. Though Sholes had never imagined that typing would ever be faster than handwriting, which is usually 20 words per minute (WPM) or less, his invention with the QWERTY keyboard was the first machine to allow the operator to write faster than a person writing by hand.

When produced by Remington & Sons in 1874 Sholes's improved machine was called the “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer.” It had a keyboard with letters and numbers arranged in a four-line pattern (known as QWERTY from the first six letters in the top row), a wooden spacer bar, and a vulcanized india-rubber platen or roller. It only printed capital letters.

About 5000 of the Sholes & Glidden Type Writers were sold between 1874 and 1878, when Remington & Sons introduced the Remington 2,  the first typewriter to include both upper and lower case letters via a shift key.

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"Circular Notes", a Precursor of Traveler's Cheques, are Introduced 1874

Circular note, launched in 1874 by Thomas Cook. 

No higher resolution image available at this time.

Thomas Cook.

English travel agent Thomas Cook introduced "circular notes." This financial product became much better known through the American Express brand of traveler's cheques which were introduced in 1891.

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1875 – 1900

Baldwin & Odhner Invent Calculators Using a True Variable-Toothed Gear Circa 1875

Detail of image from Baldwin's Calculating Machine. See larger image and resize image for complete picture.

Frank Stephen Baldwin.

Odhner's arithmometer.

Willgodt Theophil Odhner.

About 1875 engineer Frank S. Baldwin of Philadelphia and Willgot Theophil Odhner, a Swedish engineer and entrepreneur working in St. Petersburg, Russia, independently invented calculators using a true variable-toothed gear. This was the first real advance in mechanical calculating technology since Gottfried Leibniz's stepped drum (1673). These calculators were called "pinwheel calculators."

The greater ease of use of this technology, its general reliability, and the compact size of the equipment incorporating it caused an explosion of sales in the calculator industry.

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Edison Invents the "Electric Pen": Forerunner of the Mimeograph 1875

Thomas Edison's electric pen.

Edison's duplicating outfit with electric pen.

In 1875 Thomas Edison of Menlo Park, now Edison, New Jersey, invented the Electric Pen, the forerunner of the mimeograph. Edison received US patent 180,857 for "Autographic Printing" on August 8, 1876. The patent covered the electric pen, used for making the stencil, and the flatbed duplicating press. In 1880 Edison obtained a further patent, US 224,665: "Method of Preparing Autographic Stencils for Printing", which covered the making of stencils using a file plate, a grooved metal plate on which the stencil was placed which perforated the stencil when written on with a blunt metal stylus.

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300 Clerks Reviewing 2,500,000 Insurance Policies with 24 Calculators 1877

In 1877 it took three hundred clerks working at The Prudential six months to review its 2,500,000 insurance policies, with the assistance of twenty-four Charles Xavier Thomas de Colmar arithmometers.

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Allowing the Typing of Both Upper and Lower Case Letters 1878

Remington Standard 2 typewriter.

In 1878 the Remington Model 2 typewriter, produced by the Remington Typewriter Co. of Ilion, New York, introduced a shift key, allowing the typing of both upper and lower case letters.

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The Cash Register is Patented 1882 – 1883

Ritty and Birch's "Incorruptible Cashier."

James Ritty.

On February 15, 1882 American inventors James Ritty and John Birch of Dayton, Ohio applied for a patent on a cash register. It had a large display to record money received and a locked drawer to hold cash receipts. U.S. patent 271,363 was granted to Ritty and Birch on January 30, 1883 for "Cash register and indicator."

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Hollerith's Electromechanical Punched Card Tabulating Machine, Ancestor of IBM 1882 – 1924

In 1882 physician John Shaw Billings, at the U.S. Census Bureau, suggested to statistician Herman Hollerith that there ought to be a machine for speeding up the process of tabulating population and similar statistics. Billings was founder and librarian of the Surgeon General's Library (now the National Library of Medicine).

Inspired by Billings, in 1889 Hollerith of Georgetown, Washington, D. C. was awarded three U.S. patents (395,781, 395,782, and 395,783) for an electromechanical machine for tabulating information stored on punched cards.  

"These patents described both paper tape and rectangular cards as possible recording media. The card shown in U.S. Patent 395,781 of June 8 was preprinted with a template and had holes arranged close to the edges so they could be reached by a railroad conductor's ticket punch, with the center reserved for written descriptions. Hollerith was originally inspired by railroad tickets that let the conductor encode a rough description of the passenger:  

"I was traveling in the West and I had a ticket with what I think was called a punch photograph...the conductor...punched out a description of the individual, as light hair, dark eyes, large nose, etc. So you see, I only made a punch photograph of each person." 

"Use of the ticket punch proved tiring and error prone, so Hollerith invented a pantograph 'keyboard punch' that allowed the entire card area to be used. It also eliminated the need for a printed template on each card, instead a master template was used at the punch; a printed reading board could be placed under a card that was to be read manually. Hollerith envisioned a number of card sizes. In an article he wrote describing his proposed system for tabulating the 1890 U.S. Census, Hollerith suggested a card 3 inches by 5½ inches of Manila stock "would be sufficient to answer all ordinary purposes."  

"The cards used in the 1890 census had round holes, 12 rows and 24 columns. A reading board for these cards can be seen at the Columbia University Computing History site. At some point, 31⁄4 by 73⁄8 inches (82.550 by 187.325 mm) became the standard card size, a bit larger than the United States one-dollar bill of the time (the dollar was changed to its current size in 1929). The Columbia site says Hollerith took advantage of available boxes designed to transport paper currency. Hollerith's original system used an ad-hoc coding system for each application, with groups of holes assigned specific meanings, e.g. sex or marital status. Later designs standardized the coding, with twelve rows, where the lower ten rows coded digits 0 through 9. This allowed groups of holes to represent numbers that could be added, instead of simply counting units " Wikipedia article on Punched Cards, accessed 12-21-2011).

Hollerith's electric punched card tabulator was used in the 1890 United States census — the first major data-processing project to use electrical machinery. It reduced data-processing time by 80 percent over manual methods. 

In 1896 Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company, the world's first electric tabulating and accounting machine company. According to Alex Wright, Cataloguing the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age (2014) 42 in the spring of 1896, Hollerith and Melvil Dewey agreed on a three-year partnership under which Dewey's Library Bureau would supply cards and cabinets to commercial and government customers who used Hollerith's tabulating equipment. 

The next significant improvement that Hollerith made was the addition an automatic card feed to his electric punched card tabulating machine. This sped up processing of the 1900 census. 

In 1911 Hollerith sold the Tabulating Machine Company to Charles R. Flint, a noted trust organizer.  Flint merged Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company with the Computing Scale Company, the International Time Recording Company, and the Bundy Manufacturing Company to form the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR), producing and selling Hollerith tabulating equipment, time clocks, and other business machinery. The new company was based in Endicott, New Yorkand had 1300 employees. In 1924 CTR became International Business Machines (IBM).
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NCR is Founded 1884

In 1884 John H. Patterson of Dayton, Ohio, and his associates acquired the Ritty patents on the cash register, and established the National Cash Register Company (NCR).

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The Mimeograph: The First Widely Used Duplicating Machine 1884

Advertisement from 1889 for the Edison-Dick Mimeograph.

Edison-Dick Mimeograph.

Thomas Edison's US Patent (No. 224,665) for a method of preparing autographic stencils for printing.


Thomas Edison's US Patent (No. 180,857) for an autographic printing machine.

In 1885 Thomas Edison, who had invented the Electric Pen in 1876, agreed to sell his patents for this device to Albert Blake Dick, who had invented the mimeograph stencil. Edison also agreed to help Dick market the mimeograph under the name, Edison Mimeograph. Marketed by the AB Dick company of Chicago, the mimeograph became the first widely used duplicating machine.

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Dorr E. Felt Invents the Comptometer 1887

Early comptometer.

Dorr E. Felt.

In 1887 American inventor Dorr E. Felt introduced the Comptometer, a non-printing key-driven calculating machine whose chief advantages were speed, versatility, and ease of use.

"Use. For each digit a push button from 1 to 9 is selected which rotates a Pascal-type wheel with the corresponding number of increments. Numbers are subtracted by adding the complement (shown in smaller numbers). The carrying of tens is accomplished by power generated by the action of the keys and stored in a helical spring, which is automatically released at the proper instant to perform the carry.  

"Through effective marketing and training of skilled operators versed in complement arithmetic at Comptometer Schools, these machines became the workhorse of the accounting profession in the first part of the [20th] century. They never successfully advanced into the electro-mechanical era, but remained purely mechanical, two-function adding and subtracting machines" (Gordon Bell's website, accessed 10-12-2011).

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First Use of the Term "Credit Card" 1887

In his utopian novel Looking Backward (1887), describing life in the year 2000, Edward Bellamy used the term credit card eleven times—the first description of the use of a card for purchases.

"The book tells the story of Julian West, a young American who, towards the end of the 19th century, falls into a deep, hypnosis-induced sleep and wakes up one hundred and thirteen years later. He finds himself in the same location (Boston, Massachusetts), but in a totally changed world: It is the year 2000 and, while he was sleeping, the United States has been transformed into a socialist utopia. The remainder of the book outlines Bellamy's thoughts about improving the future. The major themes are the dangers of the stock market, the use of credit cards, the benefits of a socialist legal system, music, and the use of an "industrial army" to make tasks run smoother.

"The young man readily finds a guide, Doctor Leete, who shows him around and explains all the advances of this new age; including drastically reduced working hours for people performing menial jobs and almost instantaneous, Internet-like delivery of goods. Everyone retires with full benefits at age 45, and may eat in any of the public kitchens. The productive capacity of America is nationally owned, and the goods of society are equally distributed to its citizens. A considerable portion of the book is dialogue between Leete and West wherein West expresses his confusion about how the future society works and Leete explains the answers using various methods, such as metaphors or direct comparisons with 19th-century society.

"Although Bellamy's novel did not discuss technology or the economy in detail, commentators frequently compare Looking Backward with actual economic and technological developments. For example, Julian West is taken to a store which (with its descriptions of cutting out the middleman to cut down on waste in a similar way to the consumers' cooperatives of his own day based on the Rochdale Principles of 1844) somewhat resembles a modern warehouse club like BJ's, Costco, or Sam's Club. He additionally introduces a concept of credit cards in chapters 9, 10, 11, 13, 25, and 26, but these bear no resemblance to the instruments of debt-finance. All citizens receive an equal amount of "credit." Those with more difficult, specialized, dangerous or unpleasant jobs work fewer hours. Bellamy also predicts both sermons and music being available in the home through cable "telephone". Bellamy labeled the philosophy behind the vision "nationalism", and his work inspired the formation of more than 160 Nationalist Clubs to propagate his ideas"(Wikipedia article on Looking Backward, accessed 02-07-2012)

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The Burroughs Dependable Key-Driven Printing Adding Machine 1892

In 1892 American inventor William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, founder of the American Arithmometer Company (1886; (Burroughs Adding Machine Company 1904) began commercial production of his dependable key-driven printing adding machine.

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The Millionaire Calculator 1893

Millionaire mechanical calculator.

In 1893 the "Millionaire" mechanical calculator, about the size of a small desk top, was introduced in Switzerland. The "Millionaire" was the first commercially successful calculator that could perform multiplication directly, rather than by repeated addition. It was designed by Otto Steiger, a Swiss engineer and was first patented in Germany in 1892. Patents were issued in France, Switzerland, Canada and the USA in 1893. Production by Hans W. Egli of Zurich started in 1893, and continued to 1935. Most models were driven by hand-crank but some were electrified.

Roughly 4000-5000 Millionaires were sold. 

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1900 – 1910

The Automatic Punched Card Feed 1900

To improve data processing of the 1900 census, American statistician and inventor Herman Hollerith added an automatic card feed to his electric punched card tabulating machine. 

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1910 – 1920

A Mechanical Punched-Card Tabulating System 1911

In 1911 Russian-born James Powers, an engineer hired by the U.S. Census Bureau in 1907 to help the government avoid what were perceived as excessive charges by Herman Hollerith's Tabulating Machine Company, managed to avoid patent infringement and created a faster, cheaper electric punched card tabulating machine that was compatible with Hollerith's punched card format. Powers then formed a corporation in Newark, New Jersey to manufacture and sell his device. Originally known as the Powers Tabulating Machine Company, the company changed its name to Powers Accounting Machine Company in order to target a wider market.  

In 1927 Powers' company was merged with the Remington Typewriter Company and Rand Kardex to form Remington Rand.

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Brunsviga Sells 20,000 Variable-Toothed Gear Calculators in One Year 1912

In 1912 Brunsviga of Braunschweig, Germany boasted that they sold twenty thousand calculators based on the variable-toothed gear technology.

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Thomas J. Watson President of CTR 1914

Thomas J. Watson became president of Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation, and focused the company on electric card-tabulating equipment for businesses.

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800,000 Burroughs Calculators Have Been Sold 1919

800,000 Burroughs calculating machines were sold worldwide by 1919.

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1920 – 1930

IBM is Founded 1924

In 1924 Thomas J. Watson, president of CTR (Computer Tabulating Recording Corporation), of Endicott, New York, changed the name of the company to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).

"Encouraged by George F. Johnson, who saw Endicott as the world's first industrial 'park' with a 'Square Deal' for everyone, IBM began building a factory complex in Endicott just to the east of the Endicott-Johnson factories. The original Bundy building (a Binghamton company) was erected on North Street as early as 1906 and stands to this day. Many of the IBM factory buildings, including Factory #1 and the IBM Schoolhouse, still stand to this day. Endicott was the original location of all IBM manufacturing, research, and development from the early 1920s through World War II" (Wikipedia article on Endicott, New York, accessed 02-18-2012).

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Formation of Remington Rand January 25, 1927

On January 25, 1927 American industrialist James Henry Rand, Jr. merged Rand-Kardex with Remington Typewriters and several other office supply companies to form Remington Rand.

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IBM Adopts the Eighty-Column Punched Card, Standard for the Next 50 Years 1928

In 1928 IBM adopted the eighty-column punched card, the standard for about the next fifty years, and one of IBM's most profitable products.

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Key Achievements of Leslie J. Comrie, Including Foundation of the First Independent Scientific Computing Service 1928 – 1937

In 1928 English astronomer and mechanical computation pioneer Leslie J. Comrie, working in London, discovered how to use a commercial accounting machine as a difference engine. With this technique Comrie reformed the production of the Nautical Almanac, greatly increasing the accuracy of the navigation tables. 

Comrie used electric punched-card tabulating machines to calculate the motions of the moon. This project, in which twenty million holes were punched into five hundred thousand cards, continued into 1929. It was the first use of punched cards in a purely scientific application.

In 1937 Comrie founded Scientific Computing Service in London. It was the first independent scientific computing service bureau in the world

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1930 – 1940

IBM Markets the First Commercially Successful Electric Typewriter 1933

In 1933 IBM marketed the first commercially successful electric typewriter, the Electromatic.

IBM produced electric typewriters until 1990.

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The Social Security Program Creates a Giant Data-Processing Challenge 1935 – 1936

The Social Security Act of 1935 required the U. S. government to keep continuous records on the employment of 26 million individuals.

The first  Social Security Numbers (SSNs) were issued by the Social Security Administration in November 1936 as part of the New Deal Social Security program.

"Within three months, 25 million numbers were issued.

"Before 1986, people often did not have a Social Security number until the age of about 14, since they were used for income tracking purposes, and those under that age seldom had substantial income. In 1986, American taxation law was altered so that individuals over 5 years old without Social Security numbers could not be successfully claimed as dependents on tax returns; by 1990 the threshold was lowered to 1 year old, and was later abolished altogether." (Wikipedia article on Social Security Number, accessed 01-17-2010).

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Charga-Plate Precursor of the Credit Card Circa 1935 – 1950

The Charga-Plate bookkeeping system, a precursor of the credit card issued by Charga-Plate Group, Inc. New York, was utilized from 1935 to 1950, and somewhat later.

"It was a 2 1/2" x 1 1/4" rectangle of sheet metal, similar to a military dog tag, that was embossed with the customer's name, city and state (no address). It held a small paper card for a signature. It was laid in the imprinter first, then a charge slip on top of it, onto which an inked ribbon was pressed. Charga-Plate was a trademark of Farrington Manufacturing Co. Charga-Plates were issued by large-scale merchants to their regular customers, much like department store credit cards of today. In some cases, the plates were kept in the issuing store rather than held by customers. When an authorized user made a purchase, a clerk retrieved the plate from the store's files and then processed the purchase. Charga-Plates speeded back-office bookkeeping that was done manually in paper ledgers in each store, before computers" (Wikipedia article on Credit card, accessed 12-26-2008).

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IBM's German Subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen, Introduces the First Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator September 1935

In September 1935 IBM’s German subsidiary, Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen (Dehomag) introduced the Dehomag D11 tabulator, the first automatic sequence-controlled calculator, incorporating internal instructions programmed with a plug board.

Kistermann, "The way to the first automatic sequence-controlled calculator: The 1935 DEHOMAG D 11 tabulator," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing XVII (1995): 33-49.

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Chester Carlson invents Xerography; It Becomes Successful About 20 Years Later 1938 – 1949

In 1938 American physicist, inventor, and patent attorney Chester F. Carlson of Astoria, Queens, New York invented xerography, Originally called electrophotography, xerography did not become a commercial success until the wide adoption of the xerographic copier during the late 1950s.

In 1949 the Haloid Company of Rochester, New York introduced the Model A, the first commercial xerographic copier. Manually operated, it was also known as the Ox Box. An improved version, Camera #1, was introduced in 1950. The company renamed itself Haloid Xerox in 1958, and shortened its name to Xerox Corporation in 1961.

(This entry was last revised on 01-17-2015.)

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1940 – 1950

IBM Introduces a Typewriter with Proportional Spacing 1941

In 1941 IBM announced the Electromatic Model 04 electric typewriter, featuring proportional spacing. By assigning varied rather than uniform spacing to different sized characters, the Type 4 recreated the appearance of a printed page, an effect that was enhanced by a typewriter ribbon innovation that produced clearer, sharper words on the page.

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1950 – 1960

"Diners Club", the First Credit Card February 1950

Early Diners' Club card.

Early advertisement for Diners' Club card.

In February 1950 the Diners Club issued the first "general purpose" credit card, invented by Diners Club founder Frank X. McNamara. The card allowed members to charge the cost of restaurant bills only.

"The first credit card charge was made on February 8, 1950, by Frank McNamara, Ralph Schneider and Matty Simmons at Major's Cabin Grill, a restaurant adjacent to their offices in the Empire State Building" (Wikipedia article on Diners Club International, accessed 02-28-2012).

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First Stored-Program Computer to Run Business Programs on a Routine Basis November 17, 1951

On November 17, 1951 LEO I (Lyons Electronic Office) ran a program to "evaluate costs, prices and margins of that week's baked output" at tea shop operator J. Lyons and Company in England. The LEO adaptation of the EDSAC was the first stored-program electronic computer to run business programs on a routine basis. “LEO’s early success owed less to its hardware than to its highly innovative systems-oriented approach to programming, devised and led by David Caminer.”

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The First Report on the Application of Electronic Computers to Business June 1953

In June 1953 Richard W. Appel and other students at Harvard Business school issued Electronic Business Mchines: A New Tool for Management.

This was the first report on the application of electronic computers to business. The report was issued before any electronic computer was delivered to an American corporation. (See Reading 10.4.)

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The Beginning of Computerization of Banking September 1955

Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California, began the computerization of the banking industry by demonstrating a prototype electronic accounting machine using its ERMA (Electronic Recording Method of Accounting) system.

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The First Demonstration of Magnetic Ink Character Reading July 1956

In July 1956 MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Reading) was demonstrated to the Bank Management Committee of the American Bankers’ Association.

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BankAmericard is Launched September 1958

BankAmerica card.

In September 1958 Bank of America, then headquartered in San Francisco, created the BankAmericard, the first credit card issued by a conventional bank. Together with its overseas affiliates, this product eventually evolved into the Visa system.

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The American Express Card October 1, 1958

On October 1, 1958 American Express launched the American Express card. Because American Express previously had an international network of offices in place, and their traveler's' cheques had been accepted throughout the world for decades, this was the first credit card accepted internationally. 

". . . public interest had become so significant that they issued 250,000 cards prior to the official launch date. The card was launched with an annual fee of $6, $1 higher than Diners Club, to be seen as a premium product. The first cards were paper, with the account number and cardmember's name typed. It was not until 1959 that American Express began issuing embossed ISO 7810 plastic cards, an industry first" (Wikipedia article on American Express, accessed 12-27-2008).

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ERMA and MICR 1959

Based on technology originally developed at the Stanford Research Institute, in 1959 General Electric delivered the first 32 ERMA (Electronic Recording Method of Accounting) computing systems to the Bank of America. The system used MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Reading.) ERMA served as the BofA's accounting computer and check handling system until 1970.

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The U.S. Banking Industry Adopts Magnetic Ink Character Recognition 1959 – 1960

Between 1959 and 1960 the United States banking industry adopted MICR, (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition), which allowed computers to read the data printed on checks.

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The Xerox 914 September 16, 1959

Xerox 914.

On September 16, 1959 Haloid Xerox, Rochester, New York, introduced the Xerox 914, the first successful commercial plain paper xerographic copier, roughly the size of a desk.

". . .  commercial models were not available until March 1960. The first machine, delivered to a Pennsylvania metal-fastener maker, weighed nearly 650 pounds. It needed a carpenter to uncrate it, an employee with 'key operator' training, and its own 20-amp circuit. In an episode of Mad Men, set in 1962, the arrival of the hulking 914 helps get Peggy Olson her own office, after she tells her boss, 'It’s hard to do business and be credible when I’m sharing with a Xerox machine' " (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-mother-of-all-invention/8123/, accessed 06-11-2010).

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1960 – 1970

The QUOTRON Computerized Stock-Quotation System Is Introduced 1961

In 1961 QUOTRON, a computerized stock-quotation system using a Control Data Corporation computer, was introduced.

Quotron became popular with stockbrokers, signaling the end of traditional ticker tape.

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Social Security Numbers as Identifiers 1964

In 1964 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began using social security numbers as tax ID numbers.

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IBM's Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter Begins "Word Processing" 1964

In 1964 IBM introduced the Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter (MT/ST).

"With this, for the first time, typed material could be edited without having to retype the whole text or chop up a coded copy. On the tape, information could be stored, replayed (that is, retyped automatically from the stored information), corrected, reprinted as many times as needed, and then erased and reused for other projects.

"This development marked the beginning of word processing as it is known today. It also introduced word processing as a definite idea and concept. The term was first used in IBM's marketing of the MT/ST as a 'word processing' machine. It was a translation of the German word textverabeitung, coined in the late 1950s by Ulrich Steinhilper, an IBM engineer. He used it as a more precise term for what was done by the act of typing. IBM redefined it 'to describe electronic ways of handling a standard set of office activities -- composing, revising, printing, and filing written documents.' "

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The NY Stock Exchange Completes Automation of Trading 1966

In 1966 The New York Stock Exchange completed automation of its basic trading functions.

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The IRS Completes Computerization of Income-Tax Processing 1966

In 1966 the IRS completed computerization of income-tax processing, with a central facility in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and satellite locations around the United States.

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Jack Kilby and Texas Instruments Invent the First Hand-Held Electronic Calculator 1967 – June 25, 1974

In 1967 Texas Instruments filed the patent for the first hand-held electronic calculator, invented by Jack S. Kilby, Jerry Merryman, and Jim Van Tassel. The patent (Number 3,819,921) was awarded on June 25, 1974. This miniature calculator employed a large-scale integrated semiconductor array containing the equivalent of thousands of discrete semiconductor devices.

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Helmut Gröttrup & Jürgen Dethloff Invent the "Smart Card" 1968 – 1984

In 1968 German electrical engineers Helmut Gröttrup of Stuttgart and Jürgen Dethloff, of Hamburg, invented the smart card (chip card, or integrated circuit card [ICC]) and applied for the patent. The patent for the smart card was finally granted to both inventors in 1982. The first wide use of the cards was for payment in French pay phones—France Telecom Télécarte—starting in 1983-84.

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The First ATM is Installed at Chemical Bank in New York Circa 1969 – 1970

In 1969 or 1970 the first automatic teller machine (ATM) was installed. Dates conflict as to whether this was in 1969 or slightly later. The first machine installed at Chemical Bank in New York may have been only a cash dispenser.

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Gary Starkweather at Xerox Invents the Laser Printer 1969 – 1971

In 1969-1971 American engineer Gary Starkweather, working at a Xerox research facility in Webster, New York, and later at Xerox PARC, invented the laser printer by combining a laser, a xerographic copier, and a Research Character Generator (RGG) that converted digital information to a form readable by a laser. By 1971 or 1973, (sources vary on this point)  the first perfected version of Starkweather's invention could print two pages per second at a resolution of 300 dpi. However Xerox did not market a laser printer until 1977 when they offered the Xerox 9700, the first commercially available stand-alone laser printer. Prior to this in 1976 IBM produced the IBM 3800 as a peripheral to computer systems.

Reilly, Milestones in Computer Science and Information Technology, p. 152.

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1970 – 1980

IBM Performs the First Test of Magnetic Stripe Transaction Card Technology January 1970 – May 1973

The first test of magnetic stripe transaction card technology developed by IBM occurred in January 1970 at the American Airlines terminal at Chicago's O'Hare Airport with the Automatic Ticket Vendor.

Reference: Computer History Museum, Jerome Svigals donation, "Automatic Ticket Vendor Press Kit", October 30, 1969. X3951.2007.

Though the test at O'Hare Airport was successful, the airline did not implement the technology because of a recession. IBM patented the technology, but did not announce its availability until 1973.

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George Laurer of IBM Develops the Universal Product Code 1971

The Universal Product Code (UPC)—the familiar barcode—was accepted by a grocer’s trade association. It was developed by George J. Laurer of IBM.

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The Lexis Online Information Service is Introduced 1973

In 1973 Mead Data Central of Miamisburg, Ohio, introduced the Lexis and NAARS services.

"LEXIS provides the full text of Ohio and New York codes and cases, the U.S. code, and some federal case law. NAARS is the National Automated Accounting Research Service, a tax database from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants."

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The Antitrust Case, U.S. v. IBM, is Tried and Eventually Withdrawn May 19, 1975 – January 8, 1982

On May 19, 1975 the Federal Government’s antitrust suit against IBM went to trial. The complaint for the case U.S. v. IBM had been filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York on January 17, 1969 by the Justice Department. The suit alleged that IBM violated the Section 2 of the Sherman Act by monopolizing or attempting to monopolize the general purpose electronic digital computer system market, specifically computers designed primarily for business.

After thousands of hours of testimony (testimony of over 950 witnesses, 87 in court, the remainder by deposition), and the submission of tens of thousands of exhibits, on January 8, 1982 the anti-trust case U.S. v. IBM was withdrawn on the grounds that the case was "without merit."

30,000,000 pages of documents were generated in the course of this anti-trust case.

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Wang Inaugurates the Concept of Office Automation 1977

In 1977 Wang Laboratories, Lowell, Massachusetts, introduced its VS minicomputer system, which became, for a time, one of the most popular office systems, "inaugurating the concept of office automation."

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The First Spreadsheet Program 1979

In 1979 Dan Bricklin, a student at Harvard Business School, and Bob Frankston wrote Visicalc, the first spreadsheet program, for the Apple II. It helped dispel the notion that the Apple II was only a toy for hobbyists. The PC version of Visicalc was called "the first killer app" for the PC.

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1980 – 1990

Lotus Development Corporation is Founded 1982

In 1982 Mitchell Kapor, previously head of development at Visicorp, and Jonathan Sachs, with backing from Ben Rosen, founded Lotus Development Corporation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kapor, who had been a teacher of Transcendental Meditation, named the company after 'The Lotus Position' or "Padmasana.''

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The First "Killer App" for the PC January 1983

In January 1983 Mitch Kapor's Lotus Development Corporation of Cambridge, Massachusetts released Lotus 1-2-3. An integrated spreadsheet, graphics package, and database manager, it became the first "killer app" for the PC. In 1983 sales of 1-2-3 reached $54,000,000, making Lotus the largest independent software vendor in the world.

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Electronic Tax Filing Begins 1986

In 1986 the IRS began electronic tax filing (IRS e-file) to lower operating costs and paper usage, using the processing system developed in 1969 by the IRS.

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2000 – 2005

Customer Account Data Engine 2003

IRS logo

In 2003 the United States Internal Revenue Service began programming and development of CADE (Customer Account Data Engine), first discussed in the IRS Modernization Plan of 2000.

"The original operational date was set at Nov 1st 2006. Programming and development began in 2003 but actual processing on the system was delayed until 2005. The system initially processed only 1040EZ tax returns, the simplest type of electronic tax returns. In 2006 the capacity was increased for the system to begin processing a limited number of more complex 1040 forms and other support forms. In 2007 the system began to process Schedule C forms and other more complex tax forms.

"Because the system is still unable to handle the full load of IRS tax returns, a hybrid approach is used by the IRS with the overwhelming majority of tax returns still being processed with the old system. Current processing loads and returns done by CADE are used for testing purposes to determine the systems functionality.

"The system, although beset by regular set backs due to funding, is expected to be fully operational by 2012" (Wikipedia article on Customer Account Data Engine, accessed 12-27-2008).

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2005 – 2010

The First Intelligible Word from an Extinct South American Civilization? August 12, 2005

Gary Urton with some khipu

Carrie Brezine studying khipu

An example of khipu

On August 12, 2005 anthropologists Gary Urton and Carrie Brezine published "Khipu Accounting in Ancient Peru," Science 309(2005)1065 - 1067.

"Khipu [quipu] are knotted-string devices that were used for bureaucratic recording and communication in the Inka [Inca] Empire. We recently undertook a computer analysis of 21 khipu from the Inka administrative center of Puruchuco, on the central coast of Peru. Results indicate that this khipu archive exemplifies the way in which census and tribute data were synthesized, manipulated, and transferred between different accounting levels in the Inka administrative system" (Science).

"Researchers in the US believe they have come closer to solving a centuries-old mystery - by deciphering knotted string used by the ancient Incas.

"Experts say one bunch of knots appears to identify a city, marking the first intelligible word from the extinct South American civilisation.

"The coloured, knotted pieces of string,known as khipu, are believed to have been used for accounting information.

"The researchers say the finding could unlock the meaning of other khipu.

"Harvard University researchers Gary Urton and Carrie Brezine used computers to analyse 21 khipu.

"They found a three-knot pattern in some of the strings which they believe identifies the bunch as coming from the city of Puruchuco, the site of an Inca palace.

" 'We hypothesize that the arrangement of three figure-eight knots at the start of these khipu represented the place identifier, or toponym, Puruchuco,' they wrote in their report, published in the journal Science.

" 'We suggest that any khipu moving within the state administrative system bearing an initial arrangement of three figure-eight knots would have been immediately recognisable to Inca administrators as an account pertaining to the palace of Puruchuco.' (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4143968.stm, accessed 04-28-2009).

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