We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Tabulating Machine?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At EasyTechJunkie, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Tabulating machines made their first appearance in the United States as a valuable tool in helping to provide an accurate count for the national census. Introduced to help order and process data associated with the 1890 national census, the tabulating machine was developed by Herman Hollerith. The purpose of the tabulating machine was to speed up the process of assimilating census data into a usable form that would meet the needs of a country that was experiencing a significant growth in population from one decade to the next.

The need for an improved method of processing data related to the population of the country reached a peak after the 1880 census. Over seven years were required to organize the collected information and produce a relatively reliable report on the status of the country’s population. Estimates on the increase in population between 1880 and 1890 indicated that it would take roughly twice as long to produce results from the next census.

In response to this need for quicker tabulations, Hollerith created a punch card technology that allowed quick and easy coding for state of residence, age, gender, and other information considered to be important. The series of holes punched in the cards represented the collected data. In order to sort and count the data for each component, the cards were fed into the tabulating machine.

The tabulating machine effectively read the data, based on the configuration of the hole punches. The cards ran over a series of pools filled with mercury. Each pool corresponded to a hole in the punch card. Wires were pressed into the cards and followed through to the mercury. This completed a connection of electric current, which in turn would advance a counter for each bit of data.

When the process was complete, a bell would ring and another card could be inserted. Clerks would group the cards based on the information contained on the card, providing a permanent set of documentation for the census. With the assistance of the new tabulating machine, the 1890 census was completed and double-checked for accuracy within eighteen months.

Hollerith’s innovation was found to be helpful with other forms of accounting as well. In 1896, Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company. Within twenty years, this company merged with three others to form the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation. As the organization grew and diversified, another name change occurred in 1924, when the company became known as IBM.

The basic punch card developed for use with the original tabulating machine continued to be used well into the middle of the 20th century. Punch card technology continued to be a driving force until they were phased out in the early 1980’s and replaced with new computer related technological advances.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
Learn more
EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.