Remington Rand punch card system
The information on these pages regarding Remington Rand,
drawings and the photo's were provided
by Mr. Oliver J. Jones, Garden City, NY, USA in order to preserve some computer
Remington Rand, which was a competitor to IBM, offered a punch card containing
90 columns with 2 rows of 45 columns. While offering greater capacity,
it made Remington's and IBM's systems incompatible. The code set can be
I joined Remington Rand in 1947 and with
the exception of the electronic sorter most of the equipment was
already documented and running. I am amazed how little is known
of Remingtons contribution to the computing field. Most of us were
hired after WW II and at that time Remington Tabulating division
had been in operation since the 1930's. They had an exhibit at the
1939 Worlds Fair. We trained in Ilion New York a village in the
Mohawk Valley and when a new piece of equipment came out, back we
went to Ilion for more training.
I will try to give here the a background of
Remington Rand and its contribution to the punch card tabulating business.
The photos below are all from a book given to all new employees joining
the service department at that time. We were a group of young men most
of us recently veterans of WW II. The training was a six month course
in Ilion, New York a small village in upstate New York Remington Rand concentrated.
All its manufacturing was in this area and the school was
located in the factory. Whenever a new machine was brought out you
went back to Ilion for update training. We lived in furnished rooms
and the winters in that area were severe salaries were very modest
but the training was excellent. Upon graduation you were assigned
to a regional office in the United States. I was assigned to New York.
In that area we had many important customers like Macys Dept Store, The Tax Board
Of NYC, Brooklyn Union Gas, US Navy Medical Dept etc.
The machines were mechanical marvels and all parts were made in
Ilion by engineers and machinists from the local area. Today it would be
hard to find people with the skills of these men today its all electronic.
Some of the machines had over 40,000 small
parts and tolerances were limited to .0005 + or -. You will not
find today machinists with the skills to turn out the complex parts
that were needed to make such mechanical marvels.
IBM became a real competitor in the late 1950s and featured a 80 column
card with square holes and electronic tabulator. You may ask what
happened that made IBM the leader in the field. I have a theory:
"Remington waited to long to convert to electronic small equipment".
James Rand was a self made man and a tough boss which led to many
labor disputes. IBM had a more aggressive sales force and publicity
team. Unfortunately we waited to long to join
the electronic wave. We purchased Univac to try to catch up and
used some electronic systems from France ( BULL SYSTEMS ) but it
was to late. The 80 column card became the norm and IBM won the business market.
Today only Univac large systems survive.
Those mechanical systems I am sad to say
all wound up as scrap. I doubt if
one example survives today.
I left Remington Rand after twenty years in 1967. I joined
a medical instrument company eventually becoming service manager
of the seven northeastern states and the Caribbean. I credit my
success to the training and perseverance learned in those early
days. What a shame not one of those early systems exist today. I
retired in 1988 after 40 years in the customer service field.
Oliver J. Jones
The following pages show a book on tabulating machines, the machines
that processed punchcards as source of information. Futhermore, scans
of the 90-column punch cards are provided.
Detailed technical graphs showing part numbers of a Collating
Reproducing Punch and an Electronic Sorter
(Remington Rand types 420) are provided.