IBM punch card

IBM punch card. 20th century.

Dating back to late 18th-century textile loom technologies, punch cards have long been used as a medium of mechanical information processing.  In the 1880s and 1890s, American statistician Herman Hollerith developed a tabulator that could process statistics from millions of pieces of data through the use of punch cards, an early predecessor of IBM’s product line.  Through the 20th century, punch cards were used to input, process, and store information in a variety of machines, including early digital computers.  The patented “IBM card” introduced rectangular holes, which allowed more data to be stored on each card.  Today, the punch card has become an icon of early computer technology.

Link: Punch Cards: A brief illustrated technical history