Short Story by Thomas Smith

I contemplate my problem. I have an appointment with a businessman, which is of great importance to my company, the Tabulating Machine Company. He, however, is sick. He has invited me to come anyway, but I don't know if I will.

I remember Flora Fergusson. She was my fiancée, once. Dark and intelligent, she was as perfect as someone could be for me, not to insult my marvelous wife Lu.

I remember one of my last conversations with her. She had typhoid. We talked about the preservation of health. She told me to always avoid sickness like, well, the plague. Only a few days later, she died.

Soon after she died, a friend of hers sent me a package. Curious about what was inside, I opened it up. I am still not sure whether it was a good idea to open it. Beneath the wrapping was a bible. I recognized it as Flora's. On the inside of the cover was written:

I know how much you will prize the little Bible--Flora loved both you and it. Some day, it may be the means of reuniting you in that land where there is no parting and no tears.

It, along with my engagement ring and some other items which caused excruciatingly painful memories, ended up in a locked black metal box. That box is open in my mind now, and that's why tears are running down my cheeks. I remember her so well.

I am not going to the meeting.

(Austrian 38, 42)


This short story is to tell about Hollerith's time with Flora Fergusson. I wanted to show the scar which her death left. I feel that this story, although it is really quite short, conveys the scar well. Therefore, I feel that it is substance. If it needs to be fleshed out anyway, I can do this.

Herman Hollerith might be considered one of the fathers of statistical analysis as well as one of the founders of the computer age. The company(s) that he formed eventually became known as IBM.

So how did he do it?

Well, he was a mathematician who used the technology of punch cards to invent the first punch card sorting and tabulating machines. His work was preceded by Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace and George Boole, each of whom contribute in some way or another to the dynamics of the tabulating machine.

Hollerith's expanded on the principle of the Jacquard loom by adding electricity. The system he invented used holes in punched cards to indicate any desired grouping of facts. The cards passed under contact brushes which completed an electrical circuit when a hole was present. His system also included a card punching machine and a sorter which dropped the cards into bins according to the holes sensed by the electrical current.

Hollerith's machines were instrumental in the construction of the 1880 Census Bureau. It's estimated that his machines worked over a million times faster than what had been previously used. By use of his machines, the census was completed in about six weeks. He also supplied the equipment for the 1890 census. By 1900, the Census Bureau developed their own machines rather than pay Hollerith.

In 1896 Hollerith formed the Tabulating Machine Company. The machines that were produced were used to store time records, inventory and accounting data. After mergers with two other companies, it formed the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company under the leadership of Thomas J. Watson. In 1924, they changed their name to the giant of today International Business Machines Corporation, better known to you and I as IBM.

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