Tabulator, heads (2), plastic cover and power supply cord, metal / Bakelite / plastic / electronic components, made by the British Tabulating Machine Company Ltd, United Kingdom, probably 1955
Invented by Herman Hollerith, the tabulating machine was developed to help process data for the 1890 U.S. Census. The 1880 census had taken seven years to tabulate, and by the time the figures were available, they were clearly obsolete. Due to rapid growth of the U.S. population from 1880 to 1890, primarily because of immigration, it was estimated that the 1890 census would take approximately thirteen years to complete. Clearly, a faster way had to be found. The tabulating machine, inspired in part by the holes punched in railway tickets, was the answer. Hollerith realised a card, as an input device, would act as an electrical insulator, except where the holes were punched.
The machines were successful, but Hollerith resisted the idea that they could be used for other applications, and eventually sold his company to concentrate full time on farming, and it became part of the Computer Tabulating Recording Company (CTR): one of America's first conglomerates -The International Time Recording Company, The Tabulating Machine Company and the Computing Scale Company had merged to form CTR. The new company (CTR) came under single management for the first time in 1914, and then in 1924 the name International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) was adopted.
The tabulator was made by the British Tabulating Machine Company in about 1955.
The British Tabulating Machine Company (BTM) was formed in 1902 (initially known as The Tabulator Limited) after the rights to sell the Hollerith punch card machines in the UK were obtained. The company had to pay 25% of revenue to the American company until 1948 when the contract was terminated. Spurred on by the difficulties in paying the 25% royalties, and by the desire to obtain government contracts that were going to US based companies, BTM developed its own Rolling-Total Tabulator in 1937. The company also contributed to developing machines to break the german Enigma cipher machine during WWII.
In 1959 BTM merged with rival company Powers-Samas to become International Computers and Tabulators Limited (ICT). ICT later became part of ICL (International Computers Limited).
This particular object, manufactured in 1955, is a later and improved version of BTM's Rolling-Total Tabulator developed initially in 1937.
The design and concepts inherent in this type of machine had been developed around 1890 by Herman Hollerith for accounting/census applications. His design came to recognition in a competition. This model is the last manufactured of its type. It was used for sorting and recording account information until the late 1970s. Systems of this type remained in production up until the late 1960s.
The Tabulator was acquired by the donor because his accountant was more familiar with that type of machine than computers. Its precursors were developed around 1890 and this type of machinery has only recently (Circa 1965) been superceded by computers. Hence this machine is the last of its type. It would have been used for accounting purposes but was not operated by the donor.
This model is the last manufactured of its type. It was used for sorting and recording account information until the late 1970s. Systems of this type remained in production up until the late 1960s.