Computer Cards: magnetic,
punched tab (Hollerith tabulator),
and other

Vintage Card Formats

• An IBM system 3 card with 96 (or 128) 6 bit round holes
• a HP 5000-5884 calculator magnetic card (to show relative size)
• a Remington Rand P-11782 with 90: 6 bit round holes

Further information about the small HP magnetic card:
The Olivetti Underwood Programma 101 was a popular programmable calculator
that was launched at the 1964 NY World's Fair!
About the size of a typewriter, it used Delay Line Memory. (see wikipedia: Magnetostrictive delay lines)
Only half of the card's width was used at a time (like the HP calculator card)
so it flipped around for a 2nd program.
I used one briefly at Ryan Jr High School, preferring the "more modern" Compucorp 025 Educator.
Here's a site just about the 101.
Long long before Florida's hanging chad butterfly ballots, we used stylus punched cards for programmable calculators such as the Compucorp 025 Educator (or Monroe version).
I first learned programming on the Compucorp 025 Educator at Ryan Jr High School. I still have the teeny looseleaf binder of programs and notes such as card codes (not all functions had buttons on the keyboard, but it was possible to press 2 keys simultaneously to combine their binary code!)

How these cards worked
  • write the program on paper
  • hand-assemble it to the octal codes
  • punch the octal codes to the right 9 columns
  • visually verify the punches and punch out the leftmost "verify" column for it to be read
  • to edit a card, punch the 2nd column to UN-verify the row
How many punched cards fit in a flash drive?

Standard IBM Card Format

The Living Computers museum + labs commissioned their own run of tab cards!
(click here for 600 dpi scan)
Bell Telephone Laboratories General Applications Card
ITC 22305 Military Manufacturing Information Dept

Technion: Israel's Institute of Technology in Haifa
Francis Lewis High School never used mark-sense.
They were always keypunched for attendance and grades
and read by dialup RJE terminal (card reader, printer, modem).
Fortran statement, with the customary id sequence in columns 73-80
1) to sort the deck back to order if dropped
2) to identify revisions (before revision control systems were available)
A very pretty and polite OS/360 Job Control Statements card
with the system 360 compass rose
My dad's JCL: the card does something different but useful if used backwards
A PL/C IBM JCL job card for CCNY
(my high school dialed up to 3 mainframes: UAPC, MIDP, CCNY)
General Purpose, 20 field card with a strange PL/I statement
A plastic punched card from American Express, probably didn't really work.

Birthday & Holiday cards

My dad (ab)used the keypunch multipunch feature!

A popular IBM 1130 program punched messages across the card
with console switch settings for justification (center, left, right)
and other options (underline, overline, spacing)
Vintage Computer Festival East 2008 souvenir card, by Mike Loewen
punched cards for my dad's farewell party

Reference Cards

The standard keypunch characters

Full Translation Table of card punches for hex 00 to FF
from IBM system 370 card

The 12-11-0-7-8-9 multipunch for hex FF is The Zigamorph
Whereas the Unix/Linux/C environments use the NULL byte for delimiting character strings,
IBM uses 0xFF, which is compatible with the proposed Unicode non-character U+FFFF (1111111111111111):
a character code which is not assigned to any character, and so is usable as end-of-string.
Unicode is a 16-bit character code intended to cover all of the world's writing systems, real or imaginary.

I first learned of the Zigamorph when using WATFIV. It allows a comment on the same card as a statement.

A card code compression tip: there's only ONE punch in 1-7 at any time.
business-card sized EBCDIC code table
Notes for making my own program drum card
(programmed the keypunch for field-tabs, auto-shift, auto-skip, auto-duplicate)

IBM RPG Debugging Template
Most IBM reference cards were cardboard.
This one was laminated for repeated folding and handling.
RPG was originally punched on cards that were formatted by column,
so these templates were held against the card to translate them back to the specific statement.
Other useful things were along the sides: line spacing 6 or 8 lines per inch,
character spacing 10 or 15 to the inch
IBM 1130-1800 Binary Card Template
a clear plastic template held over the punched card to reveal the
54: 16 bit words in a packed format on the 12 row card.
See my other page for more details.
The IBM system 1130 Reference Summary card grew into a booklet
x26-3566-4 is online at

The IBM System/360 Reference Data "Green Card"
was essential not only for assembler programmers
but for all mainframe users with reference charts and data formats.

The IBM System/370 Reference Data
traditionally called the "Green Card" referring to the system 360's card
PL/I (F) Compiler Keywords
OS PL/I Checkout and Optimizing Compiler Keywords Reference Summary
"C" users may gloat how our list of keywords is so small
but that is because many PL/I keywords are not in the "C" language
but moved to the library and environment (such as I/O and formatting).

Paper Tapes

Block lettering along paper tape was fun for banners and tape identification.
I did the 7x7 "Welcome" in English and Hebrew on a PDP8/e via a BASIC program.

My name was recently punched on David Gesswein's PDP8
This is the unused remainer from a 66 line printer carriage control tape
(6 lines per inch x 11 inches).
It was glued into a loop and defined the 12 ANSI form-control-vertical tabs.
Channel 1 was always for top of form.

See also: