This article was contributed by Bubbles Whiting in 2013.


An early introduction to unknown territory for me. I left school in 1947 and was employed at the prestigious swimwear design company known as Jantzen, a very modern factory on the Great West Road (now called the M4), Brentford, Middlesex. The Jantzen company arranged for me to train in London to become a Hollerith key punch operator. An American statistician called Herman Hollerith had invented this machine that could tabulate statistics from millions of pieces of data by using punched cards. Hollerithís company was one of those that were later to merge and become IBM. But I was not to know then how times would change; indeed, would any of us have envisaged such changes taking place?

I recall in those early days that changes were already happening and comings and goings were obvious. Our first big machine was installed: a "collatorĒ, which was the first big step towards IBM knowledge. A few weeks later, more strange modern large machines were installed around our Department Manager, Mr McLean. I picture him as I write this piece, a short, very dapper gentleman, very blonde, always smiling and wearing those modern, square rimless spectacles of the time. Now it was his turn to be taught how to use these new machines. I canít remember those machines being called "computersĒ and I didnít see him using a keyboard, but I recall Mr McLean carefully setting up a circuit board with holes for special pegs, which I think was instead of a keyboard for typing. (Maybe out there in this world of technology is another Hollerith key punch operator who could fill in a few gaps.)

I have always felt proud of my working life and I switched from the Hollerith key punching system to learning the rights and wrongs of a switchboard. This, too, was eventually connected to a computer system. I carried on with my switchboard reception duties, enjoying every day of my life. Many years have passed since 1947, marriage and children intervened, and I slowly lost touch with modern day-to-day happenings. However, I didnít quite become a recluse: I began giving talks with

slides of plants, flowers and gardens. Modern technology assisted in the form of a digital camera to record the images and I discovered I could have my own personal DVDs to view them.

So much has changed and every year sees yet another wonderful way of using computers. Phones become more sophisticated, computers get smaller and most people all over the world are in touch via the world wide web. But thatís life, who knows what will go around the world next, perhaps me on a broomstick!

Well I thought it was about time to catch up. Iím fast approaching 80 years of age and I have just taken possession of my own piece of computer wizardry Ė a laptop. Iím attending Downham Library on a course, learning how to use the internet information system properly via the computer. I will also be shown how to produce my own DVDs from my memory card from my camera. Thank you to Janet, our tutor, and helpers at Downham Library who are always ready with their knowledge.

As the pioneers of modern technology, us elderly key punch operators should feel proud. Where are you all? Iím sure there must be more tales to tell!

Bubbles Whiting
February 2013


The two pictures of Bubbles Whiting with the the Holleritch keypunch were taken at the Centre For Computing History's new museum in Cambridge. Details of the museum can be found 

Date : Unknown

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH32546. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Memories - From Hollerith to a Laptop by Bubbles Whiting

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