Punched Tape Editor, Telegraphy

Contributed by HAMSTELROAD

Punched Tape Editor, Telegraphy

PUNCHED TAPE EDITOR. This beautifully engineered precision tool is slightly larger than a matchbox. It was used in worldwide communication systems to repair and edit punched tape. In the 1960s, punched tape was iconic of modernity, it being used to enter information into early computers. The tool comprises of two pieces of hinged steel. On the 'working' surface are a series of holes corresponding to those on punched tape. Errors could be corrected by using a puncturing needle changed to the tool. Also attached is a hinged cutter. The tool was used in telegraph offices worldwide and played its small part in the repertoire of communications equipment between semaphore in Roman times and the e-mail of today. The 'five unit slip' that it was used to repair or edit was also known as 'Murraycode'. Both that and the tool illustrated are descendants of those used in the Victoria cotton and woollen mills where punched cards were used to create patterns in fabrics. The tape was also used by Dr. Alan Turing to enter information into the Colussus computer, part of the code-breaking equipment at Bletchley Park, instrumental in deciphering German codes. This small tool is a thing of beauty.

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  • 1 comment
  • 1. At 15:47 on 8 June 2010, HAMSTELROAD wrote:

    In the description of the tool I submitted, I omitted to mention that 'five unit punch tape' is also related to the spools of music used in pianolas, and the wooden hinged perforated boards that continue to be used in fairground organs. The same kind of technique was used in early music boxes. Punched cards were used in many applications prior to computers being fed information by magnetic tape on large reels. Even though obsolete, the image of these old computers and the use of punched cards and tapes in films such as 'Billion Dollar Brain' and some of the Bond films evokes a notion that the old technology of World War Two was being superceded by the exciting age of eventual digitalisation.

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c. 1970


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