#eye #eye
The History of Punched Cards

#revisionist #counterfactual #imagined #histories
︎ Storytelling
︎ Laser Cutting


Project Concept


The history I choose to explore is the history of punched cards. I've already read about the story of computer punched cards and how it affects World War 2 so I was surprised that punched cards appeared unexpectedly in the history of weaving. While I was reviewing the history of the weaving machine, I found it interesting that the development of punched cards were used by different area in different art forms. During the time to unpack the history behind all of them, I tried to think one of the reasons that inspired Joseph Jacquard, Jules Carpentier, and Herman Hollerith to make textiles, music, and data into system via punched cards. In my understanding, there must be a connection between them but it hard for others to document the story subjectively.

What I am aiming to produce in this project is a narrative that tells not only the story that connected all the machinery functions but also help the readers to figure out the relationship between the objects. From most of the history timeline I read before, love story and relationships mostly will not be included in. This motivates me to give a romantic story a try. If the audience figures out the relationships in the story, they will understand that the girl did see the letter left by the boy. And the wooden punched cards that I made are the reply which stated: "I just need you and some sunsets". After producing this storytelling piece, I would love to see if punched cards could do more in other fields? What other objects that have been used could find new meanings in other areas of study?












Tomorrow is his wedding. The bride is not the love of his life. He sneaks out of his house to see the girl for the very last time.

“ Do you think you will regret it?” They rush into a store, both breathing heavily. He takes off his wet jacket and pretends not to hear the question. She pats her own shoulder to get rid of the rain on her body and asks again.

“Do you think you will regret it?” This time she stares at him with her light brown eyes, he trembles. “To leave me……” She grabs his arm and moves his body facing hers. He stares into her eyes this time.

After knowing her for 20 years, this is the first time her eyes retained a look of solemnity. He takes a deep breath, suddenly, he understands that he can never give her the answer she wants to hear. He clenches the letter with his right hand and hides his trembling left hand under his wet jacket. With a calm voice and determined look, he said, “No.”

He is a musician, he spent all of his life on music. Until this moment he still thinks that music is his whole world. The wind brows up all the wet leaves on the floor. She looks frightened. All of the sudden, he feels so cold, extremely freezing cold. He feels like the cold sneaking into his bone. Perhaps, it is because wind blows through his wet body. Or maybe it is because his spirts already left his body at the time he answered “no”. He understands it’s hard for her to accept his decision, his answer, or his unexpected action in this short amount of time. Even himself cannot find a reasonable explanation to his answer. As it may be the God wants him to shout out for himself to make the move without hesitating at this moment. However, it is just in time to scare her away.

After a silent moment, they both look out the window without any words until the rain stops. She lefts. She quickly gone from his sight. Without a wave, without a blessed, and without saying goodbye.

He didn’t give the letter to her. Actually, it wasn’t a letter, it’s his song for her. He knows that she doesn’t know how to read music notes, so he uses︎and O to represent when piano key is wheather pressed or not.

He has never saw her again. He is glad that they did not say farewell to each other. In that way, they will always remember this moment and thinking of that this might not be the end.

The store they were in was a weaving machine store. He left his letter on one of the machines. Wishing one day, the girl will see what he tries to deliver.

Joseph Marie Jacquard walked by an old weaving machine store. Once he tried on one of the machines, something stuck inside the weaving yarn.

In 1804 Joseph Marie Jacquard demonstrated a mechanism to automate loom operation. A number of punched cards were linked into a chain of any length. Each card held the instructions for shedding (raising and lowering the warp) and selecting the shuttle for a single pass. It is considered an important step in the history of computing hardware. [Wikipedia]

Jules Carpentier was in one of his friend’s party. While he is drunk, he found an old letter under a weaving machine.

In 1881 Jules Carpentier developed a method of recording and playing back performances on a harmonium using punched cards. The system was called the Mélographe Répétiteur and “writes down ordinary music played on the keyboard dans la langage de Jacquard”, that is as holes punched in a series of cards. [Wikipedia]

At the age of 10, Herman Hollerith was reading his great-grandmother’s diary. Four pieces of wood sitting silently inside the book but he doesn’t know what were the circle and hole for.

At the end of the 1800s, Herman Hollerith invented the recording of data on a medium that could then be read by a machine. After some initial trials with paper tape, he settled on punched cards, developing punched card data processing technology for the 1890 US census. [Wikipedia]

The Punched Card that he left in the weaving store.