Display-less computing was Re: TOP POSTING

Chuck Guzis cclist at sydex.com
Sun Dec 13 14:44:06 CST 2015

I'll add that very few (if any) high-speed card punches interpreted 
(i.e. printed the characters corresponding to the punches) their output. 
  Many punches could offset (displace slightly from the stack) 
individual cards, so it was customary to punch a "lace card" so offset 
between punch job output with the job ID clearly punched as a 
humanly-readable pattern.  A tremendous help to I/O clerks.

However, if you really wanted printing on the cards, you could use a 
keypunch with an interpreter feature to process a deck--slowly.

The alternative was to use a unit-record machine like an IBM 557 
interpreter (100 cpm) with the appropriate plugboard to do the job much 
faster.  However, there were some gotchas:

1.  There was space for only 60 printed columns across a card, so an 
80-column card usually was interpreted in two rows; columns 1-60 on the 
top row, with columns 61-80 on the second row.  Although there were 
printed cards made for this purpose, correlating printed columns with 
punched columns, they weren't the usual stuff found in the community 
blank card stocks.

2.  The 557 was an alphanumeric interpreter; it had letters, numbers and 
a few special characters (comma, period,etc.), and so substituted 
letters and/or numbers when it didn't have the appropriate character in 
its character set.  It made reading "interesting" in many cases.

3.  On the other hand, you place printed output pretty much anywhere on 
a card, in any order, with a little creative rewiring of the plugboard. 
  Great for practical jokes, since the average programmer generally was 
not wise to the ways of unit record gear.

That being said, if you're over a certain age, it's quite likely that 
you've run into the product of a 557 or 558.  Government checks, for 

I've heard from a couple of CEs that the loathing for the 557 was legend.

And while you were there with the UR gear; sorters, reproducing punches, 
interpreters, collators, you'd make a stop by the 407 accounting machine 
set up to do 80-80 listings so you'd have a printed version of your card 
deck to mark up with your blunders.


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