Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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June 8th
From Punch Cards to Microchips
On June 8, 1887, a former Census Bureau employee named Herman Hollerith filed a patent for a “novel sorting device” he had devised as part of an “apparatus for compiling statistics.” His name is not as famous as it used to be, but Hollerith was one in a string of American inventors who ushered in the computer age. His machine used punch cards – cards with rows of holes representing information – to quickly tabulate statistics for millions of pieces of data.

Before Hollerith’s time it took the Census Bureau eight years to sort through information collected in its once-a-decade census. Hollerith’s system allowed workers to tally the 1890 population in just six weeks and publish refined data in a mere two years. “The apparatus works as unerringly as the mills of the gods, but beats them hollow as to speed,” one expert marveled. Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company later merged with two other companies to form the corporation known today as International Business Machines – IBM.

In June 1951 the world’s first commercial computer was put into service at the Census Bureau. The UNIVAC I (Universal Automatic Computer I) was built by the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. The next year, another UNIVAC machine astounded TV viewers when it accurately predicted that Dwight D. Eisenhower would win the 1952 presidential election.

In June 1977, Apple Computer, Inc., began selling the Apple II, the first widely successful personal computer. Apple was the brainchild of Stephen Wozniak and his friend Steve Jobs, who sold his Volkswagen minibus to help fund the company started in his parents’ garage. By the early 1980s, microchips in the first generation of personal computers could perform close to 5 million operations per second, compared to the room-size UNIVAC’s 1,900.

American History Parade
In the House of Representatives, James Madison introduces proposed amendments to the Constitution that eventually become the Bill of Rights.

Tennessee secedes from the Union.

Herman Hollerith patents his punch-card calculator.

Texaco Star Theater, one of TV’s first hit shows, debuts with Milton Berle as host.

In the first address by a president to a joint session of the British Parliament, Ronald Reagan predicts that Communism will end up “on the ash heap of history.”
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb

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