The 80-column punched card was widely used for data entry for over forty years, up to the 1980’s, when it was replaced by direct entry methods using displays and keyboards. The cards were mainly punched on mechanised punches with qwerty keyboards, but the hand punch would be used for low volume data entry, such as corrections or to replace damaged cards.
Programmers would write their program instructions onto sheets, formatted according to the language, such as assembler, COBOL, Fortran, etc. The sheets would then be sent to the “data prep” department to be punched onto the 80-column cards, which would then be passed to the computer operators for compilation and testing. Testing was typically just once a day, possibly overnight, more often if you were lucky and had additional machine time. So a hand punch was often found in the programming department, for making small corrections to the program, so you could catch the next test slot without delay.
Standard code sets evolved around the 80-column media, so generally the alphabetic and numeric characters had common punched hole combinations between different computer manufacturers, with some variations for the less used special characters. Even non-visual codes such as tab, backspace, etc could be punched with some code sets.
The waste product of these cards are the rectangular pieces punched out and known as “chad”. Chad would turn up in various places if there was a joker about, such as hats, lunch boxes, car exhaust pipes, etc, and also made quite good confetti!
Tagalot Cards is the result of a pilot project using images to carry metadata and the functionality may appear in a future release of Tagalot Contacts.