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Comments, Queries, and Debate: Hollerith Machines Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129875D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 2 page(s) / 15K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Geoffrey D. Austrian: AUTHOR [+2]


30 Groveland Street Auburndale, MA 02166

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Copyright ©; 1995 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Comments, Queries, and Debate: Hollerith Machines

Geoffrey D. Austrian

30 Groveland Street Auburndale, MA 02166

As the biographer of Herman Hollerith, I am somewhat distressed at references to "Hollerith machines" and "Hollerith technology" in the article "Locating the Victim: An Overview of Census- Taking, Tabulation Technology, and Persecution in Nazi Germany" (Annals, Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 25-39). While the term "Hollerith" may have been applied to the machines in question the way "Xerox" is often used to refer to all copying, and the machines were admittedly made by the German Hollerith Company (part of IBM), they were nevertheless quite far removed from the technology for which the US inventor Herman Hollerith (1860-1929) was directly responsible.

Hollerith sold his business in 1911 to the company (CT-R) that renamed itself IBM in 1924. Following his retirement, the machines in question went through hundreds of incremental changes during the '20s and '30s In other words, the machines to which the authors refer were essentially IBM machines, except to the extent that the German company added its own improvements

Another factor that may be relevant is the singularly independent heritage of the German company. Unlike most of IBM's other early overseas operations, which were mainly sales agencies, "Deutsche Hollerith Maschinen Gesellschaft," widely known as Dehomag, started life in 1910, a year before IBM (C-T-R), as a German-financed, German-owned, and completely independent company. IBM bought 90 percent ownership in 1922, with the rest being kept by founder Willy Heidinger. So it certainly must be considered part of IBM during World War II.

[Editor's note: Friedrich W. Kistermann discusses Hollerith machines and the Dehomag Company in this issue of the Annals, pp. 33-49.]

Although successful from the start, Dehomag had been unable to keep up with...