Herman Hollerith

What Does Herman Hollerith Mean?

Herman Hollerith is the creator of the Hollerith Electric Tabulating System, which is an ancestor of the computer. The Hollerith Electric Tabulating System gained reputation for its contribution to the 1890 United States census, but the first time it was used was actually in 1887 for calculating mortality statistics. The Hollerith Electric Tabulating System used punched cards to record and process data.


Techopedia Explains Herman Hollerith

Born in Buffalo, New York in 1860, Herman Hollerith studied engineering, and went on to teach mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is best known for his invention of a tabulating machine, known as the Hollerith Electric Tabulating System. He filed a patent for his machine in 1884, and it was granted in 1889.

The Hollerith Electric Tabulating Machine played an enormous role in the U.S. census of 1890. In previous years, census results had been tallied by hand. However, due to the rapidly growing population, it took eight years to complete the results for the 1880 census. Since the population of 1890 was even larger, this presented a daunting task. Hollerith was convinced that the process could be streamlined by using punched cards to input data into his machine, which would then calculate totals. As a result of using the Hollerith Electric Tabulating Machine, the 1890 census took only six years to process, despite the increase in number of records.

Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company in 1896, which in 1911 was consolidated with three other companies to form International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). Hollerith died in 1929.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…