Great Opening Lines of Fiction on Old School IBM Punch Cards

Call me Ishmael 2Look­ing to kill some time dur­ing the dog days of sum­mer? Here’s one option that John Ptak came up with. On his intrigu­ing blog, The His­to­ry of Ideas, he writes: “Isn’t this great?  I bumped into a won­der­ful site called that pro­vides a free-to-all and unre­strict­ed use of their punch card emu­la­tor. It was found while look­ing for dat­ing ideas for an IBM 5081 card that I have that has pro­gram­ming infor­ma­tion for the BINAC com­put­er (ca. late 1940’s), and had info on the his­to­ry of IBM cards as well as the emulator–plus oth­er stuff. Com­plete­ly dis­tract­ed from the BINAC quest, I cre­at­ed some cards using some great first lines of lit­er­a­ture.  You can play too!”  I cre­at­ed two of my own, using The Amer­i­can Book Review’s list of 100 great open­ing lines.

I am an invisible man 2

What exact­ly is a punch card, our younger read­ers might right­ly ask? An IBM web site tells us:

Per­haps the ear­li­est icon of the Infor­ma­tion Age was a sim­ple punched card pro­duced by IBM, com­mon­ly known as the “IBM card.” Mea­sur­ing just 7- 3/8 inch­es by 3- 1/4 inch­es, the piece of smooth stock paper was unas­sum­ing, to be sure. But tak­en col­lec­tive­ly, the IBM card [like the flop­py disks that came lat­er] held near­ly all of the world’s known infor­ma­tion for just under half a century—an impres­sive feat even by today’s mea­sures. It rose to pop­u­lar­i­ty dur­ing the Great Depres­sion and quick­ly became a ubiq­ui­tous install­ment in the worlds of data pro­cess­ing and pop­u­lar cul­ture. What’s more, the punched card [see exam­ples from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty here] pro­vid­ed such a sig­nif­i­cant prof­it stream that it was instru­men­tal to IBM’s rapid growth in the mid-twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry.

Now punch away.…

via The Paris Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

“They Were There” — Errol Mor­ris Final­ly Directs a Film for IBM

The First Piz­za Ordered by Com­put­er, 1974

Great Moments in Com­put­er His­to­ry: Dou­glas Engel­bart Presents “The Moth­er of All Demos” (1968)

A Short His­to­ry of Roman­ian Com­put­ing: From 1961 to 1989

Free Online Com­put­er Sci­ence Cours­es

Down­load 55 Free Online Lit­er­a­ture Cours­es: From Dante and Mil­ton to Ker­ouac and Tolkien



by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (1)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.